My new year's resolution is this: choose and let go.
It started with two conversations. One about sun screen choices and whether a sun screen exists that is chemical-free enough for our little angels. The second on whether dying your hair while pregnant is tantamount to criminal battery of a fetus.
I love a good discussion on any topic. What drives us, interests us, and influences our choices is fascinating and we live at a time when our access to other people’s thoughts and opinions is unprecedented. There is no shortage of debate or scrutiny in the media age of parenting.
Depending on personalities, upbringing, and philosophies, these decisions can seem like the most pressing issues in the world. I say that with no irony. I stressed over formula and whether to circumcise and how or if to set a sleep schedule. Inside my head, though, these conversations bothered me. We are splitting hairs on the asses of atoms and fighting over which way tiny pieces of neutrons spin. Meanwhile, the elephant carrying the dust mote on which we sit plummets over the side of the abyss to certain death.
Some choices change us. They send ripples through the still glass surface of our souls. In the last seven years, I have decided whether to relinquish my parental rights to a child who was hurting the other children in my home. I have decided whether to terminate a doomed pregnancy or see it through to its stillbirth end. Standing on this side, I can laugh at myself. I can call back over the agitated waters to the woman I was: “Don’t sweat the sunscreen, honey. Or the formula. Or the sleep schedule. If Trisomy 13 ever enters your life, it won’t have anything to do with whether you dyed your hair or what you ate or whether you slept on your left side with one arm above your head. Nothing at all.”
So choose the most chemical-free sunscreen of all. Or don’t. Just choose and let it go. Skin cancer is going to affect a certain percentage of people no matter what I choose. And chemical-free sunscreen probably reduces that percentage as much as chemical-ful sun screen in the long run. What do I fear? The loss of an IQ point? Not being the best mommy possible?
That’s not about the sun screen and it’s not about the hair dye.
A lot of people think it’s about god. It must be. If our choices, our free will, can’t make a difference, then surely there is a grander plan.
I read a few blogs by incredible women of faith. Tara, Kristen and Jennie inspire me with their grace. I love how faith underlies their lives rather than directing them. I love how their faith teaches them understanding and not judgment.
But my mind screams at me when I contemplate faith as the answer: “god’s” answer to childhood skin cancer is genetic selection. In nature’s plan, children too delicate to survive the rays of the sun do not live long enough to breed and pass their weak genetics on to future generations.
It’s not cruel or kind. Good or evil. It just is. There is a certain beauty in the cruelty without malice of strictly ordered systems. Stars explode. Suns burn life away. Water sustains and drowns. Weak creatures adapt or die.
Is that the answer? Do we bow our heads to survival of the fittest? Hell no. It is the saving grace of humanity—it encompasses ALL that is good about us and our puny struggles—that since the beginning of time we have looked into the eyes of nature’s plan and said FUCK NO. Uh uh. We won’t lie down and let children die of skin cancer on our watch. We spit in the teeth of your natural order. Of your beautifully cruel rules. We’re gonna invent us some hats. And some sun screen. And if that’s not enough, we’ll invent chemotherapy and surgery and radiation treatment. TAKE THAT, Gods.
We are stunning in our refusal to accept malice-less injustice.
But we forget. It’s still a choice. Here in our pretty first world we give to childhood cancer research. And we must accept that we have failed to choose starvation in Haiti. Give to starvation? You ignore child slavery in Bangladesh. Give to all three? What about Malaria in Africa? Childbirth mortality in Nepal? Foster children? The homeless?
The danger is not in choosing. The danger is in failing to acknowledge that it’s a choice because that is when I start to imagine that there is only one way through this maze of choices called life and that I have the right of it. Is any one of us so perfect as to truly believe that “I” and “I alone” have found the right path through? There a trillion paths and they all make it to the other side, whatever that is. Am I so sure?
Choose, god yes, choose. It’s all we have—to choose and be happy with our choices, remembering that for most choices in this world there is an equal and opposite choice. Choose a vegan, organic diet for your children, but know that some child raised on Doritos, Oreos and Coke will live longer and be healthier than your child. Choose attachment parenting, but know that your securely attached child could end up in therapy just as easily any other child. Choose a media-free existence and know that somewhere out there the next Bill Gates is playing video games eight hours a day and learning to program. And my god, that child is going to have a happy, happy life. Choose public school or Montessori or Catholic school or homeschooling or un-schooling or military schooling and never lose sight of the fact that there is a kid in rural China practicing math in the dirt right at this moment who will win the Nobel Prize. Choose breastfeeding over formula or vice verse, holding tight to the knowledge that some children have no choice but slow death by dehydration.
I just don’t want to choose judgment over understanding. Because the minute we mark our choices as right by marking other choices as wrong, we lose the power of choice.
My challenge to myself and to all debating, writing, amazing parents of the first social media generation: Choose. Choose passionately. Choose carefully. Tell us about it from your heart. It’s a precious, precious gift. But for the love of everything, let’s not throw it away worrying ourselves to nubs. And most of all, let’s not waste it spending time justifying our choices and denigrating someone else’s.
Choose and let go.
Stacey is one of our longest-running writers. Read more of her stuff here!