Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Wish for My Daughter

Sometimes I look at little R and think how pure she is, how perfect and unspoiled, like a white dress fresh from the store. And it makes me sad, because she is going to have to go into the world, which is full of beauty and wonder and excitement, but also pain and suffering and ugliness.

Someday she will go to school, and there will be children there with personality disorders or bad parents, and they will be cruel to her. Teachers will be unfair and capricious. She will begin to learn about the tyranny of the majority, and that she must either be a social pariah, or tolerate acts that seem unjust and mean spirited.

As she gets older, as a female she will encounter lots of creepy sexual predators. If she is lucky, she will just experience gross comments, brief flashing of genitalia, or groping. (If she is not lucky, I can only hope that she is not too scarred by the experience.) She will also learn that as a female, her worth to many people is based almost solely on her appearance, and that the value judgments made on this basis will affect her every day at school, at work, and even in relationships.

She will learn about the unfairness and injustice of human society, where small children starve to death or die for lack of clean drinking water, while others have gold plated toilet brushes. And she will learn that most people love only the strong and the beautiful, because there is no surer way to have people attack you than to admit weakness. (And if she is handicapped, developmentally delayed or otherwise vulnerable, she will learn this the hard way.)

She will also learn about the fundamental unfairness of life, where we all start out as darling and soft, and end up wracked by painful diseases, often with dementia, and a burden to those we love. The world is a place where at any time, we could suffer catastrophic brain damage or a painful death, and while one can lessen the danger of these events, ultimately no one has control over fate.

I wish that I could protect her from all pain and suffering, but the truth is as Buddha said, "Life is suffering". She is going to have to knock through the world, getting bruises and scars and scuffs, hopefully getting stronger through this process (although getting weaker is just as likely), and gaining wisdom as everyone must, through painful experience.

All I can do is 1. protect her as best as I can, until she has more strength and resources to handle the ugly truth; and 2. enjoy her fully in her still-unblemished state. I wish the world was a kinder, gentler place, since my daughter has to live in it; but since it is not, I wish her the internal fortitude to accept that fact, the strength to live in it, and the bravery to try to make it better.

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