Children Who Exist and Children Who Don’t

4 Jun

A friend and I were talking recently about fatherhood. He mentioned that, before he had children, he’d always had a feeling that there was a part of himself that would be incomplete if he missed out on it. He knew it had to be part of his life, part of his journey.

I told him I couldn’t relate to that at all.

In fact, my pre-children mindset was just the opposite. I felt a profound burden to not have children, to not bring more people into this. I felt that the Earth has been asking us for the last several generations to slow down, chill out, give her a break with all the kids. We need to catch our breath with the destruction of the environment. We need to get a handle on racism and poverty. We’ve had our foot on the gas so long that we’ve failed to realize the engine isn’t working anymore and we’re flooding it. 

MORE KIDS MORE KIDS MORE KIDS.

My friend, like me, is a foster parent. He has biological children of his own, but also made the decision with his wife to foster-to-adopt. “I feel you,” he said. “It makes sense. Children in the system, that’s where the need is. Loving and taking care of who’s already here.”

“That’s my thing,” I said. “I want to contribute to the healing and the building. I had three children that were biologically mine and they died the day they were born. They existed and I loved them and I still love them. But they were a surprise. And I couldn’t help it, I wondered if they would wind up hurting the world more than helping.”

Then he dropped the bomb: “I love [adopted child] as much as [biological children]. I didn’t think that was possible, but it is. If I’d known that, I wonder if I’d have made the choice to have biological children at all.”

I’m writing this in 2020, on the ninth birthday of Rudyard, Desmond and Oscar Bear. These annual entries have become letters to the future, a check-in to be rediscovered later.  Here’s what’s happening as of this moment, Star Wars opening crawl-style:

Turmoil! The COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged, terrorized, quarantined and suffocated the global community.

In America, George Floyd, an unarmed African American man, was killed at the hands of panicked and angry police officers, sparking protests, riots and unrest, further polarizing a nation at war with itself.

All of this is presided over by a corrupt President who, most recently, teargassed peaceful protesters to clear a path for a photo op of him holding a bible in front of a church….

Maybe these are the ashes, the fertilizer that will one day accommodate the seeds of new life and new hope. Maybe this is a ramping-up to ultimate destruction. Too soon to tell.

But before any children of my own existed, this is the world I didn’t want to bring them into. I didn’t want to burden them with it, or it with them. Back when my children were a possibility, a concept that I could say “no” to, saying “no” made the most sense to me.

But sometimes there are surprises. And sometimes those surprises turn out to be spontaneous triplet boys. And when the switch happens, when children transition from ideas to flesh and blood, the whole thing changes. “Should they exist?” Asked and answered. 

Yes, they should.

I still believe in Heaven for Beginners, which means I believe that the Bear Boys are looking at all of this with perfect clarity and understanding and love. Love for me and my wife and our three foster children. Love for George Floyd. And Derek Chauvin. And Donald Trump. And everyone everywhere for all time always.

And maybe they’ve been spared all of this. Maybe it’s a mercy. Maybe there’s some sort of cosmic right-ness to birthday candles on our mantle rather than birthday candles on three cakes today. Fuck that, but maybe.

But we’re having the conversations in our home that we would’ve had with our boys, had they made it. And not to get too creepy, but I sometimes sort of feel my boys guiding us through it. Look, I know, go ahead and eye-roll, but no kidding around: I want their perfect perspective on Coronavirus and privilege and BLM and the environment and every so often I wonder if they’re helping to give me a glimpse of what’s good and true. Maybe, in my better moments, I get to be their voice.

I’m glad they existed. I’m glad they weren’t an idea I said No to. I’m glad they made the jump from conceptual to literal and are teaching my wife and I how to best love the three flesh-and-blood children in our home, right here and now.

But more than any of that, today, right now, I wish they’d lived.

2 Responses to “Children Who Exist and Children Who Don’t”

  1. Jon June 4, 2020 at 1:36 pm #

    Beautifully said, Jer. Love you guys.

  2. Holly June 4, 2020 at 8:30 pm #

    Me too. They are missed and loved.

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