Our children are growing up in a complicated world. I often don’t recognize the scenery around me as the same place from my childhood. Between the COVID-19 pandemic and a diminished sense of safety, the world that shelters our children is a far cry from the place we once knew. Two years of their childhoods have been consumed by a virus that has taken lives, reduced time in the classroom and limited in-person interactions with friends.

Our children practice intruder drills at school after hearing of other children dying in their classrooms on a normal school day. They learn of mass shootings at food stores and concerts and malls. I wish I could take my children to the world I remember from when I was a little girl. But I don’t remember how to get there.  

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The world we yearn for is buried deep under the pandemic and the shootings and the inequalities.

Despite a world so torn, I believe we can raise children who are strong, resilient, successful and happy. In spite of all they have endured, this is who I hope my children become:

1. Accepters.

I will do everything in my power to ensure that my children accept each person for who they are. I hope they look at differences as the reason our world is lively and bright. I pray my children save judgment for inanimate objects and never for human beings. Accepters see the different colors of our world as necessary pieces to our beautiful puzzle. What a wonderful lens to view the world through.    

2. Helpers.

Mr. Rogers’ plea to look for the helpers regained popularity as violence spread across our country. I hope my children never think twice about being a helper. I hope they find the strength to make eye contact with those who are struggling when it would be far easier to look away. I pray they, too, find themselves among helpers in their times of need.

3. Speakers.

I will teach them to use their voices when inequalities exist. When they see discrimination, I hope they’ll be quick to speak up. I want them to remember that their voice is one of their most precious instruments and that there is no better deed than standing up for those who are vulnerable. I hope they remember that they have the power to make our world a better place. 

4. Achievers.

It’s easy to become fearful in a world that produces so much unease, so to expect our children to be fearless is unrealistic. My hope is that my children can let their fears settle and find the ability to move beyond them. I hope they never underestimate their ability to find their way towards their own perfection.  

5. Believers.

I want my children to wake up each morning with the power to face their insecurities and our world’s imperfections. I pray they learn to see the green pastures thriving in front of them rather than searching out the fields miles away. I hope they see the magic of our world despite the truths existing in our midst. I know that they can believe in our world if we let them.

6. Learners.

When my children’s curiosity is sparked, I hope they continue to learn. I hope they never stop reading, visiting museums, exploring and engaging in conversation with those around them. I pray they learn everything they want to during this lifetime. 

7. Smilers.

Being happy rises above all else. I remind my kids often that they should do what makes them happy, so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else in the process. There will be no expectations when it comes to choosing a career or a life partner aside from the insistence that they choose what and who they love. I want them to choose a life that makes them smile each morning at the thought of a new day. If my children grow to be adults who can’t help but smile, I’ll have met my goal as a mother. 

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This world is not the place I wanted my children to grow up in. It’s not the world I envisioned for them when I became pregnant almost twelve years ago. The world we yearn for is buried deeply under the pandemic and the shootings and the inequalities. Each day, I see glimmers of that world. I see helpers running to lend a hand to those in need. I see teachers giving their every ounce of energy to ensure our children feel safe at school. I see little humans giggling as they run around the playground, just as children should.

Despite the world being different from what we’re used to, I can almost find my way back to the place I remember from my youth. So while I hope my children grow to be accepting, helping, speaking, achieving, believing, learning and smiling adults, I hope this journey leads them back to the place I looked out on—in awe—with my little-girl eyes. Because it’s out there. And it’s waiting for us to find it.