You’re two today and you’re napping. If you’re dreaming, they’re probably happy dreams. You’re almost always happy awake. Whatever your worst dreams are, they’re probably not worse than what I fear may become of this world and your future in it. You’ve spent your first two years and the nine months before that in a loving family in a beautiful town in a very wealthy country that has shared a little of that wealth with us, though not with everyone.
But you’ve been born a future citizen of a nation that practices aggressive war and genocide, the leading producer of weapons, the leading producer of global warming, the greatest enforcer of inequities and poverty, the greatest proponent of lawlessness and hostility on the planet today. Like a doomed descendant of apple-picking Adam you will share in the responsibility for these crimes as soon as you’re old enough for people to plausibly blame you for them, as soon as you’re old enough to lend a hand in stopping them.
Ours, Wesley, is a nation with a democratic tradition deeply rooted but deeply poisoned. The next 10 months, Wes, represent a significant portion of your life thus far. If you keep to the current pace, you’ll be five inches taller at the end of these next 10 months. And yet almost all of our fellow citizens have accepted a story in which these 10 months do not exist. Those who support the dangerous path our government is on are happy to kick back and let it go for these next 10 months. Those who oppose what’s happening have decided not to bother pressuring the government to change. Instead they are all going to pretend that a new president will solve everything for us and that the new president will take office tomorrow — they’ll pretend that each day for 10 months until it’s finally true, unless events of such horror to achieve it break the spell. But that is something I, too, am reluctant to contemplate.
I’m not as fearless as you are, Wesley. I know too much or I’ve forgotten too much. We’re trained from as young as you are not to think about truly horrific things, Wesley. As soon as we discover death, we’re told it isn’t real. As soon as we discover tragedy, we’re told it’s part of a mysterious plan. And, even if we don’t believe the stories we’re told, we still have to put horror out of our minds in order to function. Right now tens of thousands of people are returning to this country from Iraq unable to put horror out of their minds, and unable to function. They’re leaving behind them millions in the same traumatized state, a lot of them children like you.
I am able to avert my gaze, and I do so, and so I am hopeful and optimistic. I’m not as optimistic as the crowds who have put all their eggs in the basket of a new president, Wes. I’m not as optimistic as all the self-professed pessimists who will wisely inform you that there’s no way mere humans can influence our government, while blissfully assuming that we’ll somehow survive the dangers of war and warming and election fraud.
I’m MORE optimistic than any of them. And do you know why? Rightly or wrongly, Wesley, what gives me the most hope for our future is you. I don’t mean that you alone will rescue us from our destructive tendencies. I mean that you amaze and inspire me and give me confidence in future human society, especially when you reject my guidance and do things in a different way using skills I didn’t realize you had.
Perhaps you get your stubborn independence from your Mommy, Wes. That’s sarcasm, by the way, which your Mommy says you don’t understand, but I’m convinced you sometimes do because I’ve seen you laugh at it.
You’re the laughingest, happiest, most joyful person I’ve ever known, Wesley. And you laugh for good reasons now, at books, at games, at hanging upside down, at surprises.
You’re the most helpful person I’ve ever met, too, Wes. On every rare occasion when I do something useful around the house, you help me. You used to pretend to help me. Now you often really help me. Yesterday we put new license plates on the car. Real screwdrivers are so much more fun than the pretend kind.
You’re one of the two kindest people I’ve ever met in my life, Wesley. I married the other one. When you see another child or an animal or a character in a book who is sad you try to comfort them. You are a loving friend to your dolls and animals. You are constantly looking out for me and Mommy, when we are supposed to be looking out for you.
You are the most resilient person I’ve ever seen or heard of. You’re almost never sad, and when you are, you sometimes recover with lightning speed and switch to full-on happiness in less than a minute.
You are the fastest learner I’ve seen, as well. During the past two years you’ve gone from lying in a basinet eating and sleeping, to your current state of telling us what you want to do, doing it, telling us what you did, and not sitting still or ceasing to observe and absorb the entire time.
Two years, Wesley. Less time than it takes a congressional committee to schedule a hearing, and in that time you’ve become able to talk, form sentences, sing, shout, dance, run, climb, swim, hug, kiss, pretend, anticipate, wait, share, converse, paint, sculpt, count to 10, stack blocks, kick a ball, swing a bat, shoot a basket, and recognize letters and words. I cannot even imagine who you will be at three. And, by the way, you’re already telling us you ARE three, which you think is very funny.
I don’t know exactly what you were born with, Wesley, and what you’ve taken from the full-time care and teaching you’ve received from your Mommy (with help from me, grandparents, friends, etc.). But I have no doubt the world will be better off in hands like yours than in those that are passing it off to you.
Your favorite thing to do is “Go outside,” which you sometimes exclaim even before saying “breakfast!” You love playgrounds and slides and places to explore. You love swings and trees and the hammock and the garage. You love riding your tricycle, playing with a water table, helping to water the plants, playing hide and seek, and simply running around.
Sometimes I’ll sit down at my desk, Wesley, and you’ll come over and say “Pick you up!” which means “pick me up.” And of course I always do and always will. I hope you never stop saying it, but I know that’s not possible.