Two of my closest friends recently had children and as I fall in love with them (and open myself to the idea of one day having children myself), I can’t help but think about the world into which they have been born. Specifically, I worry how the mistakes we continue to make will affect who they become.
What happens to the children whose parents don’t know how/can’t/don’t want to give their children diverse and plentiful opportunities? I don’t just mean opportunities to learn. I mean opportunities to meet their potential. To take a dance class, play a sport, leave the state, leave the country, meet people who don’t look like you, see animals in their natural habitat, figure out where fruits are before they reach your neighborhood grocery store. Opportunities that shape how you perceive the world and what your place will be in it.
I think back to my own life and I am forever indebted to my parents who made the wise and timely decision to relocate our family from Washington D.C. to North Carolina. As a 9 year old I hated the idea of leaving behind my friends, but as an adult I know that had I grown up in North East D.C. I would not be the person I am today.
I may not have been a lesser person, but I certainly would’ve been a different person. In truth, the core of my being has been constant my whole life. When I watch videos of myself dancing to Michael Jackson at age 3, I see the same person I see when I look in the mirror every morning. My energy, my approach to life, my attitude has never changed. I have been who I am (I imagine) since birth. But what I’ve chosen to do with my life I think would’ve been very different.
But I can’t be certain. None of us can. We can only make the best decisions possible with the information we have. I just worry that the majority of this country does not have access to quality information. In fact, I am certain even those who consider themselves ‘informed’ and ‘highly educated’ make the mistake of confounding the two. Knowledge without understanding is useless. And that’s why so many college degrees hold little value. We as a people have no understanding of how blessed we are in some instances and how disadvantaged we are in others. We do not acknowledge the opportunities we’ve been given, and even worse, we take for granted those who sacrificed to afford us such opportunities.
I look at pictures of my friends’ babies and I am overwhelmed with admiration for their parents. It takes so much courage to bring a life in this world and know you are responsible for someone else. Your actions determine their opportunities. Your words influence how they manage those opportunities. Your feelings for them contribute to their feelings about themselves.
When I turn on Skype and watch my friends burp their babies all I can think is: You are literally carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders.
We have to make better choices for our children so they can make better choices for us.