I exist with a lot of guilt about the world and I have ever since I slid out of my mamma’s lady garden. I had empathy for rocks, I talked with trees, and I obsessed over animals like no other kid, ever. The older I got, the more I read about our environment, pollution, the endangered species list, and my guilt grew exponentially. I started a children’s environmental group at nine years old and have been involved in one form of activism or another ever since. Because of my guilt, whether or not to have a baby wasn’t a very easy decision for me.
I spent many months contemplating whether or not I felt okay about bringing children into the world. On one hand, we have limited resources. It’s a fact. Our planet cannot sustain our growing population. On the other hand, if the world is going to get any better, we need children who are raised with compassion and stewardship in mind to take over one day. I wrestled with the decision for years, going back and forth between, “I will raise children who will hopefully change the future,” and, “what if my kids don’t have food because we run out of resources?” And “OMG what if I have a kid and they rebel by getting a job as a Big Oil lobbyist and start sacrificing puppies to their demon God?!”
Eventually, I decided to try to be more positive about life and our collective future. I would have children, but no more than two for zero population growth, and I would do my best to raise my kids to love deeply, believe in change, and make the world a better place. So, no pressure baby, the future is on you. Obviously, the most important thing is that our baby is healthy and happy. After that, I hope they’re well-adjusted and stable. But after that, I pray to the universe that they’ll do their best to make the future a little bit brighter and better.
Sometimes when my baby is kicking, which is more and more these days because the kid thinks it’s a soccer superstar or a ballet dancer, I’ll try to have a pep talk. I’ll say to my belly like a psycho, “Listen, baby, I’m bringing you into a questionable world where there’s tons of beauty but also a lot of fixing to do. I’m sorry but you and your friends are going to have to make things better. But I’ll give you the tools. I hope. And please don’t become an oil lobbyist.” Bringing another person into the world is scary, not just because you worry about their health, well-being, and future, but because you worry about the global impact, too. At least I do. I’m terrified of raising some shithead who will like punch kittens in the face and walk around like some entitled douche canoe wreaking havoc on the people around them.
Now, I know on one end it’s ridiculous to worry about this of all things. Many of you are thinking, “All that matters is they’re healthy!” or “You can’t raise your kid with that kind of burden.” And I agree that health comes first and burdening any child with guilt or THE FEAR OF OUR IMPENDING DOOM would be bad. I have no intentions of terrifying my child with the grim realities of the world because I’m not a total asshole. But, I do want them to grow up to understand that the world is theirs. It’s theirs and they have the power and responsibility to change it, to make it a happier, cleaner, more compassionate, less insane, scary, rapey, polluted place. I’m hoping by taking them to wild places they’ll learn to appreciate nature and the creatures within it. I’d like to shatter the idea that humans are superstars of their galaxy, instead, I’d like my kids to believe that just like every other animal we are all part of the same ecosystem and we’re not entitled to have it all at the expense of everyone else. Basically, I’ll be fighting a battle of entitlement because as a species we have a real goddamn problem with it. It’s important to me that my kids are kind and respect others and themselves. It’s important that they’re both empathetic and can think critically. And it’s important that they take responsibility for what happens to people and the world around them. I feel like we are less and less a part of our communities, less involved in what’s happening around us, and more self-involved than ever (says M.E. the memoir writer and blogger. Yes, I get the irony).
But then again, maybe that’s not true. Maybe it’s not that we’re less involved in the world it’s just that we’re involved differently. After all, I read an article a while back that said Millenials are the first generation to base their purchasing decisions on a company’s ethics. And in terms of the state of the world, it’s honestly better than it’s ever been even if it doesn’t feel like it because we still have a lot to do (just 70 years ago, women could be institutionalized for being “too emotional” for example, Gay people were terrified of being out and proud, and people of color couldn’t vote). So it’s entirely possible that every generation is evolving just enough to make the changes palatable for the masses while inching us in the right direction. Most likely, our kids will make the world better just based on trends from the past one-hundred years. In no time, they’ll be teaching us about a better way to live while we sit back and feel stupid for thinking we knew anything at all but also relieved. Something tells me that the future has got this with or without our guidance, although a little nudge in the right direction never hurt anyone, either.