Like all of us, I’ve had some challenges to deal with in life,but the biggest one yet may now be right in front of me. Our first child, Claire Elizabeth, was born on a Wednesday afternoon in late April.
Our new daughter arrived a couple of weeks early, which was just as well even though we weren’t as prepared as we had intended to be. One thing we had heard over and over, though, is certainly true – there’s nothing like becoming a parent for the first time to change your perspective on just about everything.
Take some of the biggest issues of the day, for example.
Even the most serious subjects imaginable seem a little remote at times, as if they were happening someplace else far away. For a brand new parent, however, controversies like global warming and nuclear proliferation hit home in a newly visceral and surprisingly personal way. That, in turn, causes me to work up a full head of steam about any of our politicians whom I believe, in my admittedly highly subjective view, aren’t doing what I consider to be the right thing on each issue. As if all that’s not enough to drive me to distraction, my wife Patti and I are now faced with the awesome responsibility of trying to equip this totally dependent baby girl for real life as a child, an adolescent and then an adult. That includes not just everyday stuff like feeding and clothing, but more difficult-to-measure tasks like trying to endow her with empathy, compassion, self-confidence, persistence and optimism.
Of course, some of these issues are the same for boys and for girls and some are different. Fortunately, there are a lot of smart, strong women in my life so Claire will have some great female role models, but fostering a high level of self-esteem and self-worth in a child has to be a big challenge for any parent.
To a large extend, this happens with every generation in 1964, my parents thought John Lennon and Paul McCartney had goofy haircuts, and I’m sure their parents thought that Benny Goodman and the young Frank Sinatra were riot-inciting rabble-rousers.
What’s disturbing to the new father of a daughter is how much of the youth culture in music and on television still sends the retrograde message to girls, despite all the progress we like to think that women have made, that the way to define yourself is through bared midriffs and suggestive music and dancing, rather than through self-confidence, intelligence and community spirit.
Of course, I’m at least as concerned about Claire’s potential future boyfriends who may buy into all this, considering a lot of the sexist and violent imagery in music and on TV right now. I can hardly wait for the 2016 equivalent of an Eminem and Insane Clown Posse fan in baggy pants and a backward baseball cap to shop up at my front door some fine Saturday night. Even as a baby boomer with pretty tolerant and progressive attitudes shaped in the late ’60s and early ’70s, the task of raising a young woman with healthy self-esteem and strong values in this environment seems like a daunting one. Of course, if I’m worried about all of this now, imagine what I’ll be doing in about 14 years.
Our friends were right – having a kid does change everything. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some more fretting to do.
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