We’re nowhere near it yet, but M and I have always known we wanted to have kids. I think we’ll be pretty good parents; we love each other, we’re active, we like to take on new challenges. I don’t spend much time thinking about being a mother, really. I just sort of assume that it will happen at some point, and we’ll figure it out as we go along. Once in a while, though, I come across something that makes me nervous about whether I’ll be able to shape my child’s behavior enough.
That sounds really creepy, but I don’t mean it in a “Mommy Dearest” way. I don’t care if my child rejects ballet class or the piano, or even if they refuse to eat sushi. (That one would sting, but I’d get over it). But I just get so stressed about the idea of having a kid where . . . and I’m not sure this will make sense . . . there’s no there there.
I see a lot of vacancy in people. I’m not going to go into a whole “The Greatest Generation” rant, partially because Tom Hanks already drove that one home, but mostly because I don’t think it’s true. I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with our generation. We probably have an equal number of saints and ne’er-do-wells as every group who came before. But I really do think there’s a phenomenon (especially among men) of . . . lack of sense of self. A lot of people just seem to be missing the capacity for internal propulsion, the ability to extend themselves, to make themselves vulnerable in any way.
I’m terrified of raising a kid like that. Some of it’s manners, like teaching your son to open doors or your daughter to say “Thank you” when someone opens hers. But what about the stuff that isn’t behavior modification? How do you make sure your child is brave enough to smack-talk a bully or take the CPA exam? How do you ensure that your kid doesn’t always take the easy way out of things?
And I’m not talking about only wanting to raise children who run before dawn, get straight A’s, and head straight to med school. Be an artist, future kid! But be so into your art that you want to study the movement’s forefathers and spend your waitressing paycheck on canvases. Be a clown, for all I care, but do something that contributes even the smallest spark of utility to another human being.
I’m not even close to figuring my life out. But I do feel like I was raised with a line in the sand, one that signified my parents’ expectations about how hard I would try (to be a good person, to push myself). Somewhere along the way, that line was assimilated, and now it’s part of my DNA. How does that happen? I don’t want to fail at that crucial step.