You are so small. You are so little. And even though one of those online growth calculators assured me you will be six feet and six inches tall when you are grown, you will always be small, because the world is so big.
There is a lot that you might learn to be afraid of. When I was little, we were warned about helping strangers find lost puppies in the woods, about razor blades in our Halloween candy, and acid rain. We were told to stay together, to have a buddy and to look both ways.
There have always been scary things and it seems like things are getting scarier than they ever were. I was in the tenth grade when those two boys brought their guns to Columbine High School and shot so many of their peers. I skipped a full day of classes because I couldn’t move away from the television the day those two planes were flown into the Twin Towers and we started a war that’s still going on. There is sickness and terror in the world. People die. Babies die.
Every person is someone’s baby.
We do not always have the systems in place to stop violence, or to help the people who need it, or to repair the damage we have done in the world. There are people who believe that we don’t need gun control. There are people who believe mental illness is a sign of weakness, and so they do not seek help or they do not give – or they deny – access to help to the people who need it. There are people who hurt other people, and the scale of this ranges to devastating extremes.
You live in violent times. Every time we think it cannot get much worse, it does. You might question humanity. People die. Babies die. We live in a time where our media prioritizes the stupidity of pop stars over the plight of prisoners held a decade without charges, and where the horrors of the day come seemingly out of nowhere. Your heart will break, sometimes every day.
Babies die. You are my baby.
There has always been something to be afraid of, an enemy at the gates, someone we’ve “othered” and turned against. But here is the thing: You need not live in fear.
While I might not be able to always keep you safe, I will protect you to the full extent of my powers even if doing so would require me to do something illegal. If anyone threatens you, or physically harms you, or hurts your feelings I will stab them. (Figuratively stab them, I mean. Probably. We cannot predict how menopause will go.)
Find solace in community. You will find your community – a like-minded group of awesome, supportive people who love you for being yourself, whether you turn out to be cool like your mom or a vegan or a board game geek or a Juggalo. Larger than that, take part in the community where you live. Leave your car at home. Look people in the eye, and say hello. Buy your vegetables from the people who grow them. Learn the names of your barista, your bartender, and your butcher, and the man who delivers your pizza when you’re too drunk to walk to the corner to pick it up yourself. Tip generously. Go to concerts and events in your neighbourhood. Find causes you believe in and support them. Fall in love with the place where you live and be a person who other people recognize. Hear both sides of the story before making up your mind. Don’t let anyone feel lonely.
Be nice. Be nice. Be nice.
There is strength in community. A community is a microcosm, a tiny little world where you belong. If something terrible happens in your community, help make it better, even in a small way if that’s all you can do. Give money. Give blood. Give shelter. Give comfort, even if that means being silent, or holding still. Be helpful.
You were born into privilege, even if it doesn’t seem that way because your mother and father are broke most of the time. By some great stroke of cosmic luck, you were born into a time and place where you have limitless opportunities for joy. It’s likely that you will always be fairly secure (and you can always come home if you aren’t). You are healthy, and you are loved.
Be brave. There is more good in the world than bad. The loudest, craziest voices will always drown out the sanest, sweetest ones.
You can be brave. Because if you aren’t, the fear will break you.
Only your mother is allowed to do that.