I was watching Baby L play with one of those toys where you match the colored shape with the correct cut-out in a bucket. She took the triangle and relentlessly attempted to get in into the square hole. She finally got the point of the triangle down so the base was nearly flush with the top of the hole. Realizing it wouldn’t go it, she took the diamond shape and started hammering on it, hard. When that didn’t work, she took both the diamond and the triangle, flipped over the bucket and put them both in the bottom of the bucket. She started clapping for herself.
A part of me felt like I was failing as a parent. I’m definitely not the kind of mom who sits and goes through shapes and colors and letters with my little one. I pretend at least that my philosophy is to promote autonomous learning. The other part of me felt proud of her for being resourceful but then slightly fearful if this was an omen of things to come. Will my little girl skirt around what is expected, perhaps even right, and find her own way? Will she balk at convention? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
Then half way through writing this post, I received word of the terrorist attacks in Nice, France. Eighty-four people are dead just because they went to watch fireworks on Bastille Day. This came after listening live to the memorial service for the police officers killed in Dallas just days before, the Orlando night club shooting just weeks before, the Brussels airport attack months before, the Paris terrorist attacks less than a year before and countless other tragic occurrences like the Charleston Church massacre, the Boston bombing, the Aurora movie theater shooting, and possibly one of the most horrific, the Sandyhook school shooting. All of the sudden my everyday mommy woes – will my daughter follow the rules, get good grades, will she enjoy sports and eating right? – turn into none of that will matter in a world where she is scared to live her life. How can I worry about minutia when her reality may be looking over her should when she is eating al fresco on a Friday night with friends? Or in a reality where good and bad is not defined by the lines of cops and robbers.
I used to have this very real sense of being worried for my own safety, worried about not having the chance to live a long, happy life. Now, I’m okay with whatever happens to me. But what is this world that I am – that we are – leaving for my daughter? And my daughter’s children? Will she get the chance to grow old and live a long, happy life? Will there be chaos in the streets, an environment left for ruin and no clear sense of who is meant to protect the rights of rightful people?
When you become a parent, all those external threats that seemed so far away now feel as though they are camping right in your backyard. And given recent events, they very well may be. So what does failing as a parent truly mean? My sight line has gone from straight A’s and athletic scholarships to wondering how can I leave this planet a better place for my daughter to live in when I’m gone.