Current Issue #488

Modern Times: Letters to an unborn child

Modern Times: Letters to an unborn child

I sit, a few weeks prior to your arrival, in quiet contemplation of the world to which you will soon belong.

There may be nothing unique in becoming a parent — I am hardly the first to have this privilege that feels so special — the anticipation of your arrival has bought an indescribable magic to our life. Knowing you exist, your heart beats, that you dance in your mother’s belly, scatters specks of gold over the black monotone of my mind. So, I close my eyes and think of all the things I want for you.

I pray above all for your health and happiness. Eyes shut, I see you as a baby smiling, as a child smiling, and smiling as a young man. And I pray for you to enjoy good health, as well as the character to deal with any ill-health that comes your way. I hope your mind will roam freely and that you will travel, and enjoy an education not confined to the four walls of the many classrooms in which you will sit. Curiosity will be your best teacher and the world your most valued textbook.

For the short period of time that your mum and I will be your world, you will be emotionally surrounded by love but physically surrounded by books – when you are not outside in the rain and sunshine which you will be encouraged to enjoy in equal measure. Life is full of clouds. They teach you to appreciate rays of sunshine. And as you grow from vulnerable child to man, please don’t hesitate to express your empathy for all vulnerable creatures.

Such humanity would make your parents unspeakably proud. And speaking of your family: please, please be more like your mother than your father.

As you may also one day come to realise, to become a parent for the first time is to see the world from a different perspective. A great distance separates my dreams for your world and the world with which my generation appears content. I scoff at the petty, often frivolous things we seem to value. Surely adults close their eyes, as I do, and imagine the world their children will inherit.

By the time you are able to read this, I hope that we are no longer unsure of the right way in which we treat those fleeing persecution. You will be surprised that there was once a time in which people attracted to the same sex were not allowed to marry, as I was once surprised that Aboriginal Australians were only allowed to vote a few years before I was born.

Perhaps, before you are too old, our public debate will reflect our collective desire to ensure that all people have the same opportunity to be healthy and happy, to indulge their curiosity, and are encouraged to develop empathy and understanding.

I hope you value what you have, understand you belong to a privileged community in a lucky country. But also know that our community will also remained privileged as long as we share and protect it, and when our country’s luck runs out, my generation will look to yours to help realise its potential. We have – thus far – failed to do so. But there remains time. The depth of feeling a parent has for their child cannot, I expect, be conferred on others. But I increasingly find myself asking myself and others: would you believe in marriage equality if your child was gay? Would you tolerate Manus if your child was there? Would you be equally reticent to ‘waste’ your taxes on social security if your child was unable to find work?

And if it were you, my love would be as strong, my pride as great, my support as unconditional. I only hope I can make your world better. And that you are as happy, kind and generous, like your mum.

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