My new pandemic hobby is scrolling Reddit and reading about how selfish I was to breed during a time when the Earth is heating to unsustainable temperatures, millions are dying from a virus that scientists can’t seem to get under control and half the country thinks gun control is a joke.
And I get it. In fact, I actually agree.
But there’s a problem: My son, he’s already here. I screwed up! I brought innocent life into this world that is anything but. My son, with his curly hair and dirty sneakers and popsicle-stained lips, is perfect. I love him more than anything. But lately, like many parents, I feel absolutely paralyzed by the evil and hardship in the world. The lack of societal support for families and young people. The increasing wage gap and normalization of poverty. The formula shortage. And, especially right now, the gun violence.
I cried at my desk as news unfolded across my computer screen that two — and then 14, and now 19 — children, along with two adults, were shot and killed at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. An elementary school. Children. Murdered. I haven’t stopped crying.
I thought I would have a second child. That was the plan. Then the pandemic happened. Then the U.S. pulled out of the Paris climate agreement (if only temporarily). Then the shootings ticked up. Then Russia started a war. Then, in a bizarre act of self-punishment, I began scrolling message boards devoted to childfree living late at night, reading about how my choice to procreate was yet another problem in our world, searching for just a sliver of optimism or permission in a place where I was unlikely to find any of that.
I’m wrestling with cognitive dissonance here — my heart wants so badly to soak up the goodness and love that, for me, comes with children and having a family, and my head tells me to stop while I’m ahead. How could I have another child? In moments like this, it doesn't feel like I can. Not when babies are dying at school, a supposed sanctuary.
So what do I do? What do we, as parents, do with the children we already have? We can vote and raise awareness and talk to them about school shootings and gun violence and the numerous other inequalities and injustices our country faces, although we all know that none of that feels like enough anymore. How do I send my child to school every day when I see other children being gunned down at theirs? I do it with a lump in my throat, tenderly, with an extra kiss at the door.
I find myself searching for solutions that are not solutions. I could move to another country. I could buy land, somewhere beautiful and remote, and learn to grow my own food and build furniture and sew clothes and insulate my family from the rest of the world, and maybe we would be safe. I could leave my media job and find work that doesn’t require me to digest the heavy headlines, day after day. I could disconnect, unplug. Of course, none of those are real solutions. They’re patches, not cures.
When I see the faces of the children who were murdered at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, I am gutted. I feel sick, just as millions of people across the world do, watching our country in awe. In disgust. I hold my own child tighter, just as every other parent does. I feel the same pit in my stomach that everyone else feels. I stare in disbelief at the television, my horrified face a mirror of so many others.
Realistically, I know the big-picture answer is policy change, a shifting of priorities at a governmental level. But when I search for answers on a personal level, I come up short. During a recent doomscrolling spiral, a close friend texted me a reminder: “We deserve the beautiful parts of life, too.” So instead of answers, I search for beauty. I will do what I can do create goodness, if only in my small corner of the world.
It is hardly enough, but for now, it has to be.