Wednesday, April 10, 2013

"my" child or "ours"?

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I believe we as members of a society have certain responsibilities to each other. I believe everyone should have access to the basics: nourishment, shelter, education, medical care.

I also believe everyone has an obligation to contribute to our society to make these basics available. Some of us bear more financial obligation than others – “to whom much is entrusted, much is required” – but everyone has a responsibility.

Our contributions aren’t just financial.  We all contribute to our society, either for good or for ill, through pretty much everything we do. This includes our chosen field of work, our attitude and level of courtesy in public, whether we pick up after our pets or flip the driver who cut us off, whether we engage in criminal activity, how we raise our kids….

Excuse me, did I say “our” kids?

There is a big kerfuffle online because of recent comments made on MSNBC by Melissa V. Harris-Perry, a professor of political science at Tulane University:
“… we’ve always had a private notion of children, your kid is yours and totally your responsibility. We haven’t had a very collective notion of these are our children. So part of it is we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families and recognize that kids belong to whole communities.”

Call me na├»ve, but I don’t believe Ms. Harris-Perry is actually advocating a Peoples Republic of America where everything and everyone is part of the collective. While her comments were specifically about education and our society’s responsibility to our children, I can understand how her comments could be interpreted as rather socialist.  

Then again, what do I know? There are real socialists around. I am friends with some. I think maybe our President is one, deep down. Maybe Ms. Harris-Perry is too but was asked to “back the truck up” by the powers that be to quell the controversy. (Read her explanation)  

Either way, let me go on record now by saying: My child is not yours.

However, let me also confess the following: My child is not mine, either.

She belongs only to herself and to God.

But you and I both need her.

This became very clear to me on 9/11.

I was six months pregnant on September 11, 2001.  Five days later I had to fly to Seattle to work on a Navy transmitter refit. At that point there was speculation about possible terrorist attacks on West coast airports.

I was terrified to take this flight.

And, where once I was jubilant, I was terrified to be pregnant.

It had taken us seven years and a lot of intervention to get pregnant. Before 9/11 I was the happiest woman in the world. But post-9/11, all I could think was, “How can I bring a child into THIS world?!?”

Before I got on the plane to Seattle, I came across a story shared by Martha Sears. She and husband Dr. William Sears had seven biological and adopted children when she became pregnant with the eighth rather unexpectedly.

While she was pregnant, some idiot asked Martha how she could justify bringing yet another child into this screwed up, overpopulated world.

With calm conviction, she replied: “Because this world needs my child.”

Suddenly I wasn’t terrified anymore.

My child didn’t have to be just a victim of this screwed-up world. In her own unique, individual way, she could be part of the solution.

My husband and I received her as a gift, just as we did our other three children. We believe our job is to raise not just a child, but a future adult, with a sense of her current responsibilities and obligations.

We aren’t perfect parents. We make mistakes every day. We do not need “the collective” to raise her. But we do expect our family, friends, and community to be a positive influence in her life.

And we expect her to pay that forward.

Hopefully that’s what Ms. Harris-Perry meant. If not, I’ll be happy to set her straight. 

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