Bringing life into this world is not a right; it is a privilege. One that many of us take for granted. With a child comes an onslaught of responsibilities, important ones, that supersede all your wants and often your needs. Relaxation, socializing, sleep, hunger, bodily functions; all of these must take a backseat to this new breathing, sleeping, eating, crying thing thrust to the forefront of our lives. There is no timeout for us to collect ourselves. There is no do over. Everything unfolds and how you handle it comes with dire consequences for the life you now guide 24/7 for quite some time – not just when they are first born. It’s not forever. It’s not for the rest of their lives. Just the rest of yours.
You see the change in the world we want to see doesn’t start with them.
It starts with you. With me. With us.
I am not advocating spoilage, doing anything or buying everything the child wants or desires. That is not the answer nor my charge to my fellow parents everywhere. On the contrary, it is teaching them how to do everything they want and need. It is giving them the tools so that they can build a stable, comprehensive life around them and achieve their life’s dreams.
And how do we do that?
Being there. Not by proxy. It is true it takes a village to raise a child but it takes a selfless parent to raise a good one. Be involved. Not a helicopter parent, hovering and needling in. Just… there. Really there.
And if you cannot fully listen to your child’s bad day with captivated ears because you have a text to reply to? Wait… To have a child. I am not a neurosurgeon or a five star general but I have never received a text message more important than the human being I created from my flesh and my blood. We are the one safe constant in their lives, one that they trust implicitly.
Our children are born viewing us as their superhero. We are infallible. We are all powerful in their eyes. Think of starting a job and your employer already pays you as though you have solved every last one of the company’s problems before you set foot on the premises. That’s where we start. It is tempting to fall back on our laurels and know that no matter what we do we are still going to get a glowing review. They see you that way regardless of your true parenting capacity. See yourself through their eyes. Not to find complacency but to drive you to be that help they see you as.
Honestly and perhaps a little too polarizing notion, I suggest individuals who want to have a child must attend a government provided free course and pass a test. Or that child cannot be claimed on any tax return or be included in calculating any state aid. If that doesn’t spur prospective parents to do the right thing, fines and consequences for those who don’t adhere must be put in place. We fine drivers for driving above the speed limit. We give jail time for breaking and entering but cannot act proactively to avoid a child being raised by people who simply are not ready?
Extreme for sure. So is not being responsible enough to adequately prepare for the most important and complex job there is. Could it be viewed as brash and cold? Yes.
But. Is some small piece of what I suggest a step in the right direction? If anything it should give pause to anyone wanting to have a child. It is your physical right to create a living, breathing human being who will interact with others in this world. I would never endorse taking that ability away. By the same token it is that child’s right to have a set of parents ready and willing to prepare a foundation for them to face the world with confidence, care and optimism. Those things start from the first moment a newborn cradles in your arms and locks eyes with you. You are officially the coauthor of their story.
They are ready to learn, to follow.
Are you ready to teach, to lead?