Revolutionary Road And The Art Of Selfish Parenting
One of the aspects of fiction I love, and one of the reasons I began to prefer fiction to nonfiction, is the emotional intelligence I gain by watching the lives of these characters and relating them to my own life.
After all, these characters and stories were written by authors who have experienced life, dealt with their own issues, and have more than likely put pen to paper to help cope and understand.
As a new parent, I’m always interested in reading about parental roles in the novels. With the exception of Atticus Finch, some of the parents in the first 25 books have been pretty below average in the old parenting skills department. Think about the Lamberts from The Corrections or the Angstroms in Rabbit, Run.
The newest crappy parents are Frank and April Wheeler in Revolutionary Road. These two are, perhaps, the most selfish individuals in the history of fiction.
The Wheelers hate life in their middle-class, suburbanite town. To escape, they develop a plan for Frank to quit his job, pull the kids out of school, and move to Paris.
What are they going to do in Paris? They really have no idea. No plan. No job. No housing. Nothing. For a moment, Frank pauses to reflect on common sense:
I don’t know. It’s just this does seem a pretty inconsiderate thing to be doing, when you think about it, from the kids’ point of view. I mean, let’s face it: it’s going to be pretty rough on them.
Not to be outdone by common sense and compassionate parenting, April responds:
They’ll get over it.
I won’t tell you much more about the plot, except that April Wheeler’s selfishness continues to grow, and The Wheelers life together doesn’t appear to have a happy ending.
The moral of this story, in my belief, is about the consequences of poor decisions. If you’re not ready for kids, don’t have kids. That’s not selfish; that’s smart.
But, the moment you have kids, life changes. Your responsibilities, priorities, and future changes. When that happens, it’s time to put on the big boy and big girl pants and take care of your kids, no matter what.
After 15 months of parenting, I know about one-tenth of 1% of what I’ll know 30 years from now. But one thing I do know is that my wife and will never put our own comfort and convenience in front of what’s best for our kids.
The two kids in Revolutionary Road are almost non-existent. They hardly appear in the story. Frank and April Wheeler are totally consumed with themselves, at the cost of their kids’ well-being.
The book was written 50 years ago, but some things never change. I’m sure the Wheelers are, sadly, carbon copies of some parents out there today.
Anyway, hopefully I’m not being too preachy today. Sorry ’bout that.
But I’m curious: What’s one thing that a novel might have taught you about yourself?