Monday, January 7, 2013

Parents: Bringing Hope to the World

A couple of days ago while on Twitter, I passed along a link to a post by Robert Duffer ( @RobertDuffer ) over at The Good Men Project titled 'What They Don't Know: The Dad Movement Has Never Been Stronger'.  The post seeks to call attention to the fact that despite the perception in the mainstream media that this is a down year for dads, there is much evidence to the contrary.  This includes pointing out the positive presence that Dad's have on the internet, including the work of many very involved Dad Bloggers.

Kudos to Duffer for pointing this out, and I suggest you read the article and visit many of the multitude of links he provides referencing the involvement of today's fathers.  

But that article is not actually the focus of this post.  It's the response I received on Twitter after passing the link along.  Here it is:

I was a little surprised by this tweet.  I'm not really sure I understand your perspective @PivotalDude -  Whether you have kids or not, or if you are just trying to look for reasons someone would want to be a parent in today's society.  That you mention you are not being snide indicates that this was a serious question. Well, the more I thought about it the more I wanted to respond in more than 140 characters.  I'll try here. 

To the first part of the question, what motivates me to bring kids into the world,  I actually posted -or possibly tweeted - about this in the past.  I didn't become a parent until I was nearly 40 and before then, honestly, I was ambivalent about kids.  I had no burning desire to be a parent, although I knew once it happened that I would be good at it and love my kids.  Like a lot of people I also asked myself those existential questions 'Why am I here?'  and 'What IS the purpose of all this?'.  

Amazingly though, once Lukas was born 5 years ago, those questions became crystal clear to me.  THIS is why I am here.  To raise kids and to carry on, in my own minuscule way, our species. It may sound like a platitude, but it's not.  I really feel this way.  Plus, as parents Mrs. LIAYF and I are not solely motivated to bring kids into the world.  We know there are so many kids out there already in need of a loving home. As my regular readers already know, after having our biological child my lovely wife  and I recently also adopted our daughter. 

As for the part about this being a  horrible world, I don't agree. Obviously, there are many horrible things going on in the world, and much suffering.   Unfortunately, there always has been and although we should continue to strive to eliminate as much suffering as possible, there always will be.  While many deliberate acts make me question the humanity of the parties involved, I still see most people as inherently good.

From my perspective, and if your were to ask my kids - although one can't talk and you would have to time it just right so that you ask the other when he is pausing to take a breath - they would probably tell you the same thing.  We are a family who is blessed to live in the age we do, with the technology, medical advancements, and access to healthy food, and warm shelter from the harshness of the outside world. I know how lucky we are compared to so many others but as citizens of the 'first world' we have seen so much suffering of the past eliminated. 

I could give a million examples of the advancements and also comforts we have today as opposed to the past, but of course I don't need to.  I will, however, say that our daughter spent 6 weeks in the hospital after her birth.  A hundred years ago, or even 50 she probably would not have had the opportunity to do so.   Personally, I think the world is far from horrible.

Finally, the idea that the world is 'hopeless' doesn't register with me either.  As a father I see an abundance of hope in it each and every day.  I see hope when I witness the smiles Lukas nearly always brings to those he interacts with.  I see hope when I watch as he runs over to another child who is alone and crying to ask if they are hurt or lost, all the while patting them on the back and telling them "It will be okay".  I see hope when my 2 month old daughter Annabelle looks into my eyes and grips my finger with her tiny little hand before letting out a smile.  I see hope when my son designs complex and interesting spaceships from spare Lego parts and talks of being the fist person on Mars.

Of course I'm not the only parent who sees this kind of hope in their children.  In fact, I would expect that most parents look at their children and see an abundance of hope.  Parents the world over.  That being the case, the world is far from hopeless.  Conversely, I would say it is filled with hope.  The hope that our kids will leave the world a better place than they found it.

Before I had kids I pondered those same sorts of questions.  Is it fair to bring kids into a world filled with so much grief? But today those kinds of questions seem laughable to me.  Our children deserve the chance, just like we had, to make their mark on the world.  To make it a little, or a lot, less hopeless and horrible.

And as parents we get to enjoy watching it happen.   These are the things, @PivotalDude,which motivate me to raise kids in today's complex world.


Juli said...

I wanted kids... I was ready. Now that they are almost 11 and 12, I think my purpose is to raise them into people that can change this terrible horrible world.

If we do nothing but accept that the world is horrible and do nothing to change it, then what really is the point of any of us being here?

James Zahn aka The Rock Father said...

I've questioned the same thing many times, and that was probably a large part of the reason my wife and I waited until we'd been married for 10 years before having our first daughter (we have two now). It's one of those things that you can go round and round about forever, but I think the answer is that "the world is not horrible, but people are." I hope my daughters can make a positive impact and become leaders in a world that I feel is filled with some pretty bad people.

The world itself can still be a magical place, and one with a lot to enjoy, discover, and find hope in. Teaching my daughters how to work the garden is a prime example of sharing in that.

James (SeattleDad) said...

@Juli - That is the hope, that they can change the world for the better. So many people have, why not our kids too. And I don't buy that the world is inherently horrible, just that there are horrible people doing horrible things.

@Rock Father - Absolutely. The world is not horrible, but 'some' people are. And, I agree that individually we all experience examples of a the world at it's best.

Adam said...

The world has always had it's issues, but you take the good with the bad... just like children. You bring children in to the world to brighten it, to give it hope and to keep it going so one day we can all achieve the peace Bill and Ted were talking about.

Mitchell said...

While I think there is some validity to the question tweeted to you, I see that as a horrible underestimation of what "we" are and what the world is. The beauty, love and magic inherent in both are boundless - and that's coming from a dude who doesn't see himself as anywhere near an optimist. To paint it as horrible with such a wide brush is missing so much. I get what he's saying, but such a perspective makes me kind of sad that that is the world he sees. Perspective is a choice and I choose differently.

Mike said...

The world looks pretty good from where I'm sitting.

I believe that making a positive impact on the world I touch will have a positive impact on the whole. Put more value in than you extract.

If TV and mainstream media bring you down. Stop watching. No one ever said you have to take your lead from what you see on TV for how to think, feel or even be a dad.

We are just animals on a rock. Speck on a speck on a speck on a speck. We're gonna go down in flames in more ways than one. You can either focus on the tragedy in eternity or the beauty.


Keeta~Kat said...

I want to thank you for your response to the tweet. As mentioned above, I'm not the most optimistic person on the planet. That being said, I would ALSO venture to guess that guy DOESN'T have children of his own. Because in my opinion (& no, I don't claim to be any sort of expert), all it takes is stopping for just ONE moment to view this crazy, messed up world thru the eyes of your child(ren) to KNOW, in the very depths if your soul, that CHOOSING to have children, having the ABILITY to even choose, is truly a gift. And it's up to US as parents to help mold & shape them, guide them along life's path in such a way that, as you mentioned above, helps them become the type of people to leave this world better than they found it. I'm not saying either of my boys are going to become the president of the United States or the next Bill Gates, but they WILL be REMARKABLE...they WILL do their part, however big or small, to help make the world a better place. And WHEN, not IF, they DO, the credit will in no way, shape or form be ALL mine to take (I am, after all, only their "guide", so to speak)...but I WILL have the distinct pleasure of doing MY part to help make it happen. And I will look into their beautiful eyes & tell them how profoundly proud I am...& how much I love them. (As Mitchell mentioned above, it really IS all about perspective!
I. Choose. Hope.

Jack said...

Pivot's writing is painful for me to read.

The world is no more horrible now than it has ever been and there are more than a few reasons to believe it is better.

Sure there are problems but if you are a glass is half full person you probably aren't going to see how far we have come and why there are multiple reasons to believe we can go farther.

Daddy Files said...

I'm glad you specified that you don't think the world is all horrible and that people are inherently good. Despite my pessimism, I believe the same thing.

And I had kids because, for me, my life wouldn't have been complete until I could be a dad and love someone so completely it hurts.

Vincent | @CuteMonsterDad said...

Given the 24/7 barrage of information spewed froth by a myriad of media outlets in dozens of formats, I'm not surprised that some people lament about the state of the world. Yet I'd tell these people that you're only being fed stories that will sell. Much like sex, bad news is a surefire ratings bonanza. Positive news simply can't hold a candle to it so that side of the story is left to us to provide others and for that matter, out own children. As others have commented, people are inherently good. Gazing upon the blissful sleep of your child can melt all of your troubles away. The wonder of the world is alive and well. Children remind us of our humanity and why at our core, love matters above all. I'd ask @PivotDude who inspired this post from James, when's the last time you had a genuine hug?

Chris Gould said...

Well done and well said!

Designer Daddy said...

I took a look at Pivot's tweets, and in the right mood, I could laugh — and mostly agree — with many of his opinions. Being a good liberal and all. :) But being the dad of a 3 year-old, I can't take in too much cynicism or it'll spill out onto him. And he's challenging enough as it is, without me being a grumpy-butt.

To answer his question, though — I didn't bring my child into the world, someone else did. She and my son's birthfather were young, broke, and already had another son taken by CPS. So they did the smartest thing they'd ever done and chose me and my husband to be this child's parents.

So while I didn't make a conscious decision to procreate, I did make the decision to become a dad. It was certainly one of the hardest decisions of my life (also being a 40+ new father) but has produced the most wonderful, complex, stressful, rewarding, life-affirming relationship I've ever had. And now it's my and his Papa's job to be his fathers.

I'm sure there are some who told my son's birthparents that they shouldn't have had children, but I'm sure glad they did. And so is my son.

James (SeattleDad) said...

@Adam - Excellent! I think that is the prevailing view. At least among our circle. Having that hope is what makes it all worth it.

@Mitchell - I choose to as well. There are so many daily moments here that are sublime rather than horrible. I focus on those.

@Mike - We did stop watching before Lukas was born. We don't get that daily dose of negativity. Maybe that is part of the answer.

@Keeta - Thanks for that. No I don't think he does. Especially since he used the term 'you people' which would indicate he is not one of us in that regard. Honestly, he is missing out on the best thing about this world.

@Jack - I agree. Who thinks the world was so much better hundreds of years ago? Truth is, with all it's faults, it is better now because people came along, people who were once kids, and made a difference.

@Daddy Files - Amen to that.

@Vincent - Agreed. It is easy to think all that you are seeing or reading about in the media is what is mostly happening out there, but for every bad story, there are thousands of acts of kindness that don't get reported.

@Chris - Thanks man.

@Designer Daddy - Whether we bring them in or not, as parents we get the awesome responsibility of raising them to be productive members of society who can be a positive influence on the world.

christopher (@twistedxtian) said...

Some days I find myself asking the same question that @PivotalDude asked. Some days, when you are constantly bombarded my negativity and cynicism, when all you see on the news is death and destruction, I wonder why I chose to have kids.

But then I remember that things won't get better on their own, that we have to bring people into the world to counteract the bad. And really, it's not as bad as it seems. But it sure is easy getting stuck in a downward spiral thinking about it.

Portland Dad said...

Wow even Daddy Files thinks the world is a good place, you have touched on a great thing here. I agree, i would like to write something more but I agree sums it up for me. Well put

the other amy m said...

Wow, thanks for the post - it was probably a challenge & took time to think all that through, but thanks for putting it so succinctly and helping all your readers to a good dose of optimism.
This from another "late bloomer" parent; my husband & I were married 12 years before we took the plunge but it was the best decision ever - I'm truly honored every day to be a mom.

James (SeattleDad) said...

@Christopher - Probably easier if you don't have kids. Kids do have a nice way of knocking you out of that kind of thinking.

@Portland Dad - We have that in writing here if we ever need proof.

@Amy - Me too, to be a dad that is. And I didn't spend too long on this post really. It just came spilling out which proves it was a topic that was important to me to write about.

Diplo_Daddy said...

We were married nine years before deciding to have a child. I'm happy we brought Christopher into this world, all be it not a perfect world by any stretch of the imagination. But you make the best of what you have. And you show your children all that's on offer to them, and tell them to reach for the stars and that nothing's impossible, if you put your mind to it.

James (SeattleDad) said...

@Diplo_Daddy Absolutley. If everyone shared @PivotalDude's view, we would die out as a species. It's not perfect, but it can be pretty close if we make the right choices.