I hate to say it, folks, but your kids are going to be OK.
I know, I know. You want to freak out about how they’ll never live in the world you had as a kid. Your parents and their parents and their parents and on and on all felt the same thing. “Look at these kids nowadays, with their high-cut loincloths and fire and wheels and such. I never had to use an atlatl to kill a saber-toothed tiger. We had spears.”
Do you even remember the ’80s?! Not a day went by when adults weren’t freaking out about nuclear holocaust or killer bees or how we were all going to get AIDS.
Were it possible to promise you that they will never get sick, or get into an accident, or be accosted by some random maniac, I’d tell you. But we both know that’s impossible. That said, they’re going to be OK.
I know this for two reasons: 1) They’re kids, and 2) They’re your kids.
Do you understand the infinitely impossible series of random occurrences that brought you to this point in time? Can you grasp the supernovas and volcanic eruptions and fly farts that kicked out the atoms that eventually became you? You’re amazing!
I mean, look at you. You could be doing anything in the world right now, and you’re reading some pointless pap written by a man who spent three years working on a novel that as of this moment has only sold 17 copies. (No, I just checked: 16. 16 copies.) Do you have any idea how terribly interesting that makes you as an individual?
I was browsing my Facebook friends list the other day in preparation for another project, and realized that I know hundreds of incredibly mundane yet painfully fascinating individuals. In the past couple days, several of those individuals have posted their longing for the old days when they were safe and there was a world their kids could live safely in.
That world never existed. The only difference was we were kids and we got over it.
Do you even remember the ’80s?! Not a day went by when adults weren’t freaking out about nuclear holocaust or killer bees or how we were all going to get AIDS. And yet, here we are.
Maybe as children we had the ability to recognize how panicky and dimwitted adults all were. Or maybe as kids we still had the power to say to ourselves, “Well, that certainly sucks, but my God, we’re having pizza for dinner.”
As kids we still had the power to say to ourselves, “Well, that certainly sucks, but my God, we’re having pizza for dinner.”
I don’t want to dismiss tragedy, and I’m not trying to; however, I also don’t want to lend credence to all those people on the social networks freaking the hell out as though the world is coming to an end. It most certainly IS NOT.
My point is, you were a kid during some pretty nasty events, and I’m not even going into the things you personally had to survive that no one else knows about firsthand, but you’re here and you’re doing alright. I know that because you’re reading this on some electronic device that is prohibitively expensive and that you wouldn’t have access to without a job or spouse or parent who cares enough about you to let you use it.
You being OK brings me to reason #1 that your kids are going to be alright: They’re kids.
Terribly malleable things, children. Not that I have them, but maybe that’s why I don’t see them as these fragile little porcelain psyches that’ll never be able to deal with what the world of the future will throw at them.
I’m an uncle all the way to my bone marrow, always have been. Since I was 5 years old, I’ve always been the person in the room thinking, “Man, somebody should really call an adult about this before things get out of hand. Well, let’s give it just a minute.”
That’s uncle thinking. An adult (i.e., parent) would do the appropriate thing and step in.
As irresponsible as it sometimes seems, uncle thinking afforded me the opportunity to see kids dealing with life on their own, because kids can spot a phony a mile away (learned that from Fred Rogers and it has always been true). They know when they’re being lied to and when they are in the presence of an adult who’ll be straight with them.
Parents will lie to children because they have their best interest at heart; uncles don’t care. “No, you can’t OD on weed. In fact, couple it with Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz and you’ve got a pretty awesome evening ahead of you.”
Parents will lie to children because they have their best interest at heart; uncles don’t care. “No, you can’t OD on weed.”
I worked at an unnamed zoo for a year as an educational curator, which means I got to live my dream job. Every day, I went to work and got to talk to kids about animals, often while holding said animals in my hands. It was every bit as fantastic as you can imagine it, mainly because it was a job where it really paid to have uncle thinking.
When you don’t censor yourself about animal facts, kids get really interested in animals. I’m not saying I had frank discussions about reproduction or anything, but when you walk a group of fifth-graders past an open acre of land in which two giraffes are going at it, and they ask what’s going on, you have no qualms about saying, “They’re mating; ask your parents. Up next, the rhinoceros. Did you know their horns are made out of the same thing as your fingernails?”
And do you know what happened? We went and saw the rhinos. The kids didn’t pick at me about it, because I was honest. They didn’t collapse at the reality, either.
One morning, I was standing in front of a cage of rhinoceros hornbills, which are massive birds with beaks the length of your arm. They are also fond of fruit, rodents, and other birds, a fact brought to the attention of the 25 six-year-olds standing there with me when a cardinal darted through the cage and was snatched out of the air by one of the hornbills and loudly eaten in front of them.
They looked to me in horror. “It happens” was all I said. And we went to see the rhinos.
I know, I know. I’m not a parent. “It’s different when it’s YOUR KID. You’ll see if you ever have any of your own.” I get it.
But get ME for a second: Your kids are going to be OK. I know this because I know you, and you’re doing pretty good yourself. As a parent, it’s your curse to freak out at every waking moment about your child’s future. But I’m not worried about your kid’s future any more than I’m worried about mine.
It’s not as la-de-da as it sounds, either. I am hardly the grasshopper laughing at the ants. But when I look at all the amazing people who question me as to why I’m not having kids, all I have to say is, “I don’t have to” – I trust yours.