Some babies are planned. Some are not. Some have two married parents, some have adoptive parents, and some have just a mom or just a dad. Some have two moms and some have two dads. Some children are raised by their grandparents or aunts and uncles. Some have biological parents and step parents raising them. There is no right way for a child to be raised. I have worked with children who were raised in a nuclear family and who have a multitude of behavioral and developmental problems. The two parents in the home are not a guarantee of a healthy happy child. I have worked with just as many children who are from single parent families who are top of their class, star athletes, and have no apparent social struggles.
I think we worry too much about how a child is going to do before we even give that child the chance to do just fine. My child has a mother who did not expect her or plan her and who is still in disbelief every time I look at my belly and see her growing there. Still, she has a mother who believes she is here for a reason and is willing to give up anything and anyone just to have her. She has a father who has decided not to be involved in her life. I have worried. I have cried. Her father and I have both made assumptions about how this will affect her and she isn’t even here yet.
I have worked with children in Kenya, Guatemala, Nicaragua, India, Puerto Rico, and all over the United States. Some of these children have experienced trauma that you and I will never even begin to understand or experience. The one thing I have learned from them, however, is that children are resilient. They can be faced with the most horrific circumstances and yet they smile and laugh and dance in the rain. Then they go on to succeed despite the fact that the adults and/or systems in their lives have done nothing but create hurdles for them. So why is it that we don’t give these children a chance to show us what they are made of? Why do we write out their future before they are even out of the womb? Does a child in the suburbs living in a big house with a picket fence really have it any better than a child growing up in the projects? Maybe. Maybe not.
This morning I went into the school where I have been working with a program that combines art and education. We have kids who have been abused, torn from their native countries and brought to the US as refugees, who have gone from foster home to foster home, and who have lived in violent communities in the city. As I watched them dance across the stage in perfect form laughing and smiling, my worry went away. I was raised by two parents who were married and loved each other and that is the only reason I worried for my daughter. I had two parents who were both involved in my life and both of them loved me very much. I got good grades, went to good schools, never got into any serious trouble; I traveled the world, and went on to get a Masters Degree. It is what worked for me. My daughter has one parent and I have no idea what kind of school she will go to or what challenges she will have, but she will figure out what works for her and she will be just fine. In fact, she will probably be more than fine. As for my students here and in Kenya; they are going to be just fine too. I think they are all going to blow our minds someday and ignore the labels they’ve been given and leap out of the boxes society put them in.
So next time you see a pregnant woman who you think is not in the ideal situation, stop right there. At least let that kid get out of the womb before you start writing his future. And for goodness sake, congratulate that mother, give her flowers, throw her a party. She is creating a life inside her and for all we know, that little human will cure cancer someday.