I was so glad my earbuds worked in the gym yesterday; I was able to listen to The Ezra Klein Show (a podcast) instead of watching the beautifully “got up” women and men on CNN debate whether or not Joe Biden’s youthful 70s-something looks can beat out Donald Trump’s 70s-something tanned face. Ezra Klein and his guest, Alison Gopnik, discussed the important and fascinating issue of love, specifically with regard to children. Gopnik is intelligent, and despite the letters after her name comes across as sincere and accessible; she offered reflective, hopeful insight as the conversation ensued.
She said many profound things – about what’s it like to be a child, about child-rearing, about the way we love each other, about how good it is for a child to be a part of a community. She said things like, “We don’t care for them because we love them; we love them because we care for them.” Just imagine if that’s true, and if it’s potentially true for all of our close relationships. That would mean that ‘we choose to love.’ And while that may not resonate with the romantics in the crowd (of which I used to be one), from my perspective it makes sense to hang your hat on a thought like that.
Alison also explains that “what it means to be a good gardener is to work hard to produce an ecosystem that will have enough diversity, enough possibilities, so it’s robust and . . . resilient, and . . . can change when the seasons change. And that kind of robust, unexpected, variable, messy system – thats’ what you want to create when you’re having children, too” (AZ Qotes). Amen.
Just this past week I sat in a circle of women of varying ages. A few of us older women were sharing menopause stories. Eventually we started wondering why women and not men were singled out for the whole birthing thing. This ‘light’ conversation continued, and in time we asked the inevitable question: why do we even bring babies into the world when there are far too many children who go to bed hungry, when even the babies who are born into developed countries don’t get all the lovin’ they deserve, and when we hear that our planet may not support all of us for much longer? (Did I mention that among this group was a young woman, six months’ pregnant?)
I say: find a baby to love. (It doesn’t have to be your niece or your grandson; it can be a neighbour’s baby or a friend’s baby.) We may not cure all of our world’s ills: we may not convince the corrupt Yemeni powers-that-be to allow in much-needed aid; we may continue to have night sweats; we may not even be able to stop the next tsunami from occurring. But love a baby and you will ooh and aah at the bird-sounds coming from way up in the oak tree, at the neon numbers changing as the microwave warms your coffee, at the way a sand castle disappears in an instant. You will find yourself saying things like “nana” (ba-nana, a metonym for all food, really) and singing songs you thought your brain had forgotten years ago. You will watch the gears turn inside his head as he figures out how to put a lid onto a sour cream container. Best of all, you will become a gardener instead of a carpenter – watching children be messy and creative instead of following rules for the sake of following rules (Gopnik’s metaphors), reveling in the moment and knowing that there’s Master Card for everything else.
That’s where hope lies. Thank you, Alison, for the timely reminder.