Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Do not abandon hope, ye who enter here…

I just read an article about Maurice Sendak. It’s been a long time since he wrote Where the Wild Things Are – I was surprised to learn that he’s now 82 – and, not surprisingly, he’s thinking about his own mortality these days. One quote from the article stood out –when Mr. Sendak said:
“When I kick the bucket, which can’t be too long from now, I think I’m getting out just in time. Watching the news, everything seems to be in disorder. I wonder why people have children.”
Reading those words reminded me of a few weeks ago, when a friend said something similar to me, “I’m glad you had Violet, but if any of my kids told me they wanted to have children, I’d ask them why they’d want to bring anyone into this world.”

I didn’t have a response at the time. It’s likely that I just changed the subject, but I wish I hadn’t. Statements like that are just so frustrating in their fatalistic attitude. That mindset is one step away from the folks who are marking the Rapture on their calendars – “bad things happen, so let’s give up!” I keep hearing about what a horrible state our country and the world is in, that we need to get back to “how things used to be.” Now, I’ll admit that not every aspect of our modern world is a boon to mankind. The fact that I know who Snooki is – through absolutely no effort on my part - is a testament to that, but the reality is crime rates today are no worse than they were 40 years ago (some crime rates are lower, depending on who’s reading the data). My grandparents lived through a World War, the polio scare, the assassination of a sitting President, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Korea, Vietnam, and so much more, yet people think we’re worse off today? If I had been alive during the Bubonic Plague, maybe I’d be a little more open to the idea of the “End Times”.

But back to the article about Maurice Sendak; the rest of his quote was the most telling part. The article explained that after he made the statement about wondering why people still have children, he stopped himself, and said, “This is how old people rationalize their death. You get a little crotchety with the world.” It makes sense. As kids, we hopefully grow up sheltered from the realities of the world, but eventually, the scary stuff starts seeping through, and every day we hear and see more and more, and with the saturation of media, it’s so easy to be bombarded by it, to think that crimes and calamities are happening on every street corner. But they’re not. Parents drive their kids to school instead of letting them wait for the bus by themselves, even though the drive is statistically way more dangerous.

Of course, it’s easy for me to think these thoughts now, when Violet’s ability to wander is limited to one roll to the right or to the left. As her wandering radius grows with her, I could see myself giving in to certain fears. I have a vivid imagination. But if I can maintain some measure of perspective and keep myself from “getting crotchety with the world”, then maybe I can get Violet through her young years without driving us both crazy – me with worry and her with annoyance.

A link on crime stats:
A conversation with the author of Free Range Kids:

199 days old

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