I look at all of these parents and I wonder, what kind of mother would I be? What would I pass on to my hypothetical children? In what unique and unstoppable ways would I fuck them up? What do I have to give? Given the opportunity, could I handle this?
Here’s what I would like to give them, if they ever arrive:
Love. Just love. Unconditional and unlimited. The best expression I’ve ever read of this kind of love is from Siddhartha (yeah, I know). Siddhartha’s father says this, after he realizes that Siddhartha is determined to go out into the world to seek enlightenment (which his father doesn’t want him to do):
“You will go into the forest,” he said, “and become a Samana. If you find bliss in the forest, come back and teach it to me. If you find disillusionment, come back and we shall again offer sacrifices to the gods together.”
If you find bliss, come back. If you find disillusionment, come back. Go out into the world and do what you need to do. I will be here when you get back, and I will be here no matter what happens to you out there. That is unconditional love.
If my children ever get here, I will love them fiercely. I think about them a lot, and I wonder who they will be. I hope that I will be able to see them as people, whole people with their own needs and desires, and not as extensions of myself.
I hope that I will be able to teach them compassion and love.
The rest is just trappings: I think about specific things I will teach them, like how to make pancakes, or how to find Cassiopeia, or what Mahler sounds like, and I realize that the specifics don’t actually matter that much. Those things will make up the fabric of our family from day to day, along with mundane stuff like bedtime and shoes that match, and I hope that our children will enjoy them, but if my kids never love music that’s still OK–as long as they know that I love them anyway.