Over the weekend, I was holding a high school friend's second baby, aged 11 months. At one point, when her older brother was instructed to "grab a grown up's hand" (meaning us), I said jokingly, "Do you know what mistakes I made last night?" A significant part of myself is thrilled that whilst I have changed, I still feel connected to my childhood self. That is some good continuity.
But this baby- I was holding her. My best friend Martha said, "Babies look good on you, David." She meant it as more than an accessory. Every time I engage with a young child, I sense that my root-self, a gentle person, is allowed practice.
I'm a single, 26-years-old gay man. Therefore, single and childless, there are elements of myself which are currently impossible to practice. It's a certain tenderness that I can't quite have with just my best friends (though we are very close, thank goodness). Instead, it can be practiced in only small, but meaningful doses. Holding my Grammy's hand, snuggling with a family dog, holding my best friends in my arms. Even being very actively present with whomever I am on a date with.
But my desire to raise a child should be larger and more important than simply, "I want a reflection of myself," or, "to feel good." Over the past year as I have healed, I have considered some simultaneous aspects child rearing addresses. These aren't comprehensive; they are essentially sketches.
- Raising a child is a humanitarian perpetuation from within the self. Our troubled world is rotted fruit, not bad seeds, as Charlotte Perkins Gillman once put it. For any baby, we believe they deserve respect, love, intimacy, opportunity, and enlightenment. By actively doing such, the hope is that the child will be instilled, later going forth into the world perpetuating it toward society.
- Starting from there, I theorize I should recognize my child as a human being, autonomous from me, just at that initial stage vulnerable and impressionable. My duty to our entire social organism is to assist this human being in becoming as cared for, enlightened, and respectful as common sense would hope.
- The challenge of parenthood is the self-drive to, along with one's partner, draw out our intrinsic humanity, especially in a society that denies that exact concept. I will have to navigate myself as a humanitarian toward my child and also my eventual partner (our actions will also result in teaching the sponge-minded child). This will require a constant practice of listening, letting go, reflection, and transparency.
Indeed, this will be tricky. Balancing intrinsic goodness with societal distractions and past adversity is a courageous task. It means that I must live my pre-parent life setting myself and eventual child for success. That means choosing potential partners thoughtfully, and coming to love them, exercising habitually, and feeding my mind and experiences years beyond formal schooling. Clearly, I can not teach my eventual child to be an enlightened, loving human if I myself don't work toward being just that. I cannot allow myself to disillusion and believe that a child will imbue purpose onto myself, their parent. I have been faced with that burden in life; it is rocky, relentless, and unhelpful. Instead, my purpose comes beforehand. My self-care and partner relationship will teach just as much (if not more so) than my parental care.