My son and his girlfriend say they’re going to have a pig instead of a child. They mean that literally—they’ve fallen in love with the idea of small pet pigs—and they’ve thought long and hard about the issue of whether or not to bring a child into this world. Both confess to strong maternal/paternal inclinations, and there’s no doubt in my mind that they would make wonderful parents.
But unlike most people, they are hyper-aware of the troubled times humanity is moving into, as we sail along on our spaceship Earth.
“There’s no future for a child today,” my son says with resignation, and goes back to talking about the virtues of pet pigs, leaving me to sadly ponder the prospect of a piglet for a granddaughter.
When I was their age, in my early twenties, I reached for motherhood as a flower reaches toward the sun. It was only a question of finding the right partner to make a baby with, and I put quite a bit of energy and focus into that search. I married at 26 and had my first child at 30, the second at 36. My role as a mother has determined my life choices ever since.
If I had been thinking as rationally as my son and his girlfriend, well, he might never have been born. By 1992, his birth year, things were already looking grim, though we were all much less aware of the dark trends at work because the feel-good American media filtered out so much.
Now, social media does an incredible job of keeping us constantly informed about everything that’s going on in our world.
A granddaughter is born and Facebook lights up with pictures and congratulations. Canada starts its seal hunt, and photos of bloody baby seals flood the web, with boos and hisses and calls for change.
When schoolgirls are abducted in Nigeria, or a boatload of teenagers drown in a sinking ferry, or thousands of people die in a landslide, we hear about it instantly, and as instinctively empathetic humans, we sense another portion of our emotional landscape darkening with grief.
It’s true that there is a lot of sadness, fear, pain and darkness in our world today. It’s true that the future of human civilization as we know it is highly uncertain. It’s true that we live in transition times.
But as I look around me on this sunny Mother’s Day morning and hear the birds singing and working busily on their nests in the trees around my house, I know it is far too soon to give up on our future.
Every living being in the ecological web of this planet reaches instinctively for the sun and dedicates itself to providing the ground for the next generation to stand on.
I understand that my son is acting out of an altruistic heroism when he thinks about renouncing fatherhood. He has always wanted to be a father, and known he’d be a good one: he has been a wonderful older brother, and as a teenager quickly became a beloved camp counselor and mentor to younger kids. He has an easy, charismatic way with children, and as a father he’d raise just the kind of bright, secure, grounded children that will be needed to lead humanity through the transitions ahead.
OK, so in part I just would much rather have a baby than a piglet for a grandchild. But I also believe that we must resist the tendency to get so caught up in all the negative news that we forget to simply look around and remember that the sun is still shining, the leaves are unfurling, the birds are singing and a new day is here, full of untapped potential.
Maybe the question we need to be asking ourselves is not only “what will we do with our own precious lives,” but “what will we do for the lives of those precious children—of all species—to come?” How can we spend our days wisely working to help our ever-loving Mother Earth continue providing the nurturing support she has always offered freely to all of her children?