The last few weeks have been really tough as a parent. The news and social media are filled with so many sad stories. Stories of loss, hate, injustice, prejudice, fear, you name a negative thing and it’s there. From the complete miscarriage of justice in the Stanford rape trial; to the vitriol spouted by a major party’s presidential candidate; to the everyday occurrences of gun violence – most notably Orlando – including tensions of racism, homophobia, sexism, intolerance; and anonymous internet strangers feeling it is acceptable to sit and judge a parent for the tragic loss of a child because such a thing would never happen to their kid.
It’s all overwhelming. I would be lying if I didn’t admit that seeing these stories over and over and over again sometime makes me wonder if I’m just a selfish human being. A selfish human being who decided to bring an innocent child into this world because I wanted to, not stopping to consider whether this is the type of world that deserved a new, fresh, life. That said, I would never go back in time and change my mind. My little girl is my everything, the only mistake in the equation of bringing her to life is the world we have allowed to happen around her and around ourselves.
I try to continue to have hope for her future. We’re lucky, we’re middle class, well educated, and we’re white. Right now, she only falls into one classification fighting for fairness and equality – she is female. But who knows what the future of her development holds. It’s too early to know how she will define her sexuality, or if she will have a different gender identity than her physical features show, and she may fall in love with someone of a different race/ethnicity/religion than herself and have children of mixed heritage. And so, when I see oppression and hatred towards others for their sexuality, gender identity, race/ethnicity/religion, I know that I have to care just as much as I care about the hatred and sexism towards women I see. I was going to write this focusing solely on my concerns about her future as a woman in a world/country where being a woman makes her less in the eyes of far too many – but the truth is, the rights for women and our equality are tied together with the rights and fights for equality for everyone.
The future I want for my daughter is one where I can send her to school and not have to explain to her why they have “active shooter” drills, where I don’t worry and wonder if watching her step onto the bus is possibly the last time I’ll see her. I want a world where if someone does walk into a place with a weapon, she immediately knows to protect herself; not one where she has to wonder if this is someone legally openly carrying or not – that split second of thinking could be life and death.
I want a future where she can love, marry, and start a family with whoever she wants. I don’t want her to have to fear for the safety of herself, her partner, or potential children simply because someone else believes her choice is wrong and immoral.
I want a world where she can be free and safe to be whoever she decides she is. One of my favorite things right now is when her father or I ask her something like “are you having fun?” and her response is “No, I’m Mona!” I don’t ever want her to lose that sense and pride of being nothing other than who she is.
I want a world where she can be valued for her brain, her talents, and her accomplishments instead of her looks. I want her to know that if she does the work, she will receive the reward, the same reward anyone else would receive for the same work.
I want a world where she can safely and legally access medical services she needs. Yes, by this I mean abortion. I want a world that trusts that she is capable of making that decision without state imposed, morally based, hoops to jump through. I want a world that trusts that she and her medical professional know what’s right for her body. I trust her reasons if she ever has to make this choice, and I want her to be able to freely make this choice any place she is living and honestly for any reason at any time – because you see, I trust her.
I want a world where she is not shamed for being a person with sexuality. She should be free to enjoy sex and have it when she wants with who she wants, but also be free to say no and stop. She should be free to wear what she wants, if it makes you uncomfortable that’s your problem not hers, and she should be free from ever being told she “asked for it” if she is ever victimized. And, heaven forbid, this ever does happen to her, she should trust that the justice system will appropriately punish the perpetrator.
I want a world that is a community. That comes together to protect and console each other in our darkest hours. We saw some beautiful scenes of community and love after Orlando, but then when two parents lost their child (the same age my girl is now) in a truly freak accident at the happiest place on earth, the internet filled with people blaming them saying they were negligent. These are parents who have to pack up their hotel room, pack their toddler’s belongings, and fly home from a family vacation minus one of their children! Seriously, how can people be so full of self righteousness and indignation. And for the mother of the little boy who fell into gorilla cage, it was worse! Why? Because they were black – no sugar coating it, there was no other reason for the vile hatred I saw towards that poor woman.
I’ll be honest, some days it’s all I can do to let her go out the door to daycare in the morning. I am full of constant fear of what she will encounter out there. And in those dark moments I remind myself of this quote from one of the most humble, loving, subtle men the world ever knew, and I find hope:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
– Mr. Rogers
So I will continue to look for the helpers in the world, and I will do my best to teach her to be a helper.