It’s interesting all the advice you get when you have a child. It’s as if suddenly the filters of what people really think come off and they start giving you all the meaningless but well-intentioned ideas they have ever had. It’s interesting how the very people that are so democratic and libertarian in their stated views suddenly all become socialists, telling you how to raise your child for their good and the good of the community.
Much of this seems to have to do with our fear of risk. It’s odd when you consider how proud Americans in general tend to be about the risks their ancestors took with uprooting their families and moving to a great unknown – how now we believe that mitigating and minimizing the very instinct that was responsible for our existence in the first place.
Many parents find the idea of ever leaving the US distasteful. “What about the children” is a common question. It was one thing when I took off as a single woman and moved to China by myself (though there was still the insinuation that I was crazy quite often) it was another when we moved to Japan as a newly married couple (this was slightly less insane than the first crazy move, because we as Americans also have issues with being alone but that is another post) now we have a baby boy. According to everyone it is time to stop wandering around the planet and come back and be normal.
But that leads me to another question – what is normal anyway? For thousands of years human civilization has consisted of two groups – those that stayed and built the cities into the amazing places we have today for generation after generation and those who were nomadic. Tensions have always flared between the two groups as each considered the other abnormal.
Yet both are needed. There is no way to understate the value of travel and interaction nor the broad depth that it brings. We speak of creativity as if it were innate but the truth is experience usually factors into it. Steve Jobs for example drew on his admiration for the precise elegance of Japan in creating the Apple look that it is so well known for. Creativity is a learned practice.
So back to children – everyone is different. We did in fact buy our son an airplane ticket before he was born. We forwent the wipe warmer in favor of infant luggage. We took him to Tokyo tower at 10 days old. Yes I know I am crazy.
But at six weeks he’s already looking around with that same curiosity that drove his parents and grandparents and great-grandparents and likely further back into history to wander the planet. There is no settling down. How can I deny him that instinct?
So for those that lived in one place all their lives – more power to you. We need people to settle and build. But there is also a need for people to wander and learn and slip in and out of worlds to represent each to the other in a different way. I believe that is who we are, and though it may look different than expected it is also needed.