Love is the Tie that Binds Us
There are 7.5 billion humans on this earth. 2.2 billion of those humans are children, which means at least another 2.2 billion are parents.
That’s a whole lot of parents.
I can’t possibly think of a more diverse group of people. Different countries, languages, religions, cultures, childhood histories, sexual orientations, family structures, and beliefs and lifestyles in general so diverse they can’t even be quantified, all directly influencing the way we raise our babies.
That’s a whole lot of different.
Or is it?
One of my favorite experiences about traveling is learning how other people live, learning what they believe, what they value, and what they love. I’m a people-watcher by nature and my eyes always wander to the families, first to the kids and then to the parents. I watch as parents keep their babies safe and cared for, like a instinctual reflex that guides every action. I watch as parents shield their babies when crossing the street, feed them always before themselves, and put the needs of their babies first to give them the best. Every time. I watch how parents care, how they protect, how they love.
I watch how this happens all over the world.
Long before I became a mama myself, I stood in front of the Eiffel Tower next to another mama and her young son. He was probably three or four years old. I didn’t understand the language they were speaking but I understood that mama’s eyes. I watched as even in front of the sparkling Eiffel Tower itself, she stared at her son and not at the landmark. She watched his expressions, his smile, his reactions, his eyes light up. And she lit up too. She was there for him.
Man, I thought to myself. That mama sure does love her baby.
“I watch how parents care, how they protect, how they love. I watch how this happens all over the world.”
I actually saw the same love throughout the rest of that long trip overseas. I saw it everywhere I looked. I saw it in airports, museums, bathrooms, restaurants, train stations, and hotels. Back home, I saw it from my own family. I saw it at all my familiar spots. I saw it at work, at school, in the grocery store, at the doctor’s office.
Man, I thought to myself. Parents sure do love their babies.
Years later, I was the mama at the children’s museum playing with my toddler, consumed by the responsibility of making sure she didn’t destroy the place. Once I became a mama I didn’t people-watch as much anymore. I had other things to watch now. I watched my daughter with encouragement and excitement, squealing with pride and delight when her wobbly little hands managed to stack the blocks on her own for the first time. As my daughter tried again, my eyes met the mama sitting across from me who was speaking Chinese to her daughter. That mama was watching her own daughter with encouragement and excitement, squealing with pride and delight when her wobbly little hands managed to stack the blocks on her own for the first time.
In that moment I realized something that will stick with me for the rest of my life. That mama and I, we were the same. I knew absolutely nothing about her except that I was her and she was me. No matter our differences, our love was the same. We loved our babies. Everybody just loves their babies.
Our differences always seem to overshadow the commonalities of the human heart.
It’s no secret that on some level, maybe even on a subconscious one, most humans are uncomfortable with the unfamiliar and the unknown. We’re just not sure about things (and people) who are different. We don’t know where we fit in. We don’t know what to say. We don’t know what to ask. Sometimes things seems so different that they’re kind of scary, so we build walls around each other. We assume and we think we know. We compare, and sometimes we even judge. The bridge between discomfort and fear is short and quick and unless we do the work of stepping outside of our comfort zones, we cross the bridge every time.
And we learn to fear each other.
We fear that we’ll no longer belong, that our babies will no longer belong. We fear the loss of our own self-bestowed superiority and validation. We fear that the convictions, beliefs, and parenting practices of others will somehow invalidate what’s going on in our own households. We fear so much that we learn to hate inside the walls we’ve built, and let me tell you, hatred breeds ugliness in a New York minute. It has since the beginning of time. All you have to do is pick up a history book to see the never-ending cycle of how uncertainty led to fear, how fear led to hatred, how hatred led to dehumanization, and how dehumanization led to events so dark and ugly they’re almost beyond my human comprehension.
As I step back and look at what’s going on around us, I can’t help but feel like we’re repeating the cycle again. I don’t want that for my baby, and I don’t want it for yours either. We must do better.
And when I saw we, I include myself. We are all in this together. I’m not here to debate whether or not hatred is still alive and well in this world because unless you’re turning the other cheek, you see the ugliness happening around us that thrives off of our steadfast refusal to acknowledge it and deal with it head on. It’s deeper than culture. It’s deeper than religion. It’s deeper than politics.
Mamas, it starts with us.
Our babies learn to see the world through us. They learn from every move we make, every word we speak, every eye roll, every comment under our breath, every conversation on the phone, every interaction at the grocery store, and every text message we send. By digging in our heels and drawing the curtains around our own lives, we miss out on all the good stuff about each other…which means our babies miss out too. And they always will until the cycle is broken, or at least disrupted.
This can be scary work.
It’s safe and comfortable to do what we’ve always known and change, even good change, can be scary. How we’ve been raised, what we’ve been taught, what we’ve believed all this time, that’s what makes us US. And that’s okay. Somehow though, we’ve got to find a way to get comfortable with being uncomfortable so that we can grow and learn about others instead of fearing them.
I don’t pretend to have all of the answers but what I do know is that change starts in our own hearts and around our own tables because whether we want the responsibility or not, our homes are either part of the problem or part of the solution.
We don’t need to see the full staircase to take the first step. We don’t need to know exactly what to do, or how, or when. We just need to try.
Let’s try to listen each other more, and I mean really listen to each others’ stories and feelings and experiences and let the journeys of others sink deep into our souls.
Let’s try to understand each other more. Let’s try to walk in each others’ shoes and think of how others’ circumstances and experiences must have felt. That little thing is called empathy and we’re living in a world of hurt right now because so many have seemingly lost the ability to walk the walk of another fellow human on this earth.
Let’s try to wrap our arms around each other more. Let’s root each other on and build each other up to fight the good fight, all for the same team. All for the love of our babies.
Let’s step out with the vulnerable willingness to take off our glasses colored with the religious beliefs, political arguments, and cultural assumptions that trick us into thinking others aren’t deserving of the same grace, forgiveness, and empathy we want for ourselves and our own families.
If you are a human, you are deserving. Period.
Let’s show our babies what we want them to learn. It’s not enough to talk to them about the importance of kindness and empathy especially for those who are different when our babies know no different. Let’s actually show them different, what it looks like, what it sounds like, what it smells like, what it feels like. Let’s show them different skin colors, languages, cultures, family structures, even different foods.
Let’s surround our babies with the differences of the world so they learn to become comfortable with different. So they don’t fear. So they don’t hate. So they don’t dehumanize. So they see we’re all actually so much more alike than we are different. So they see we all bleed the same and love the same and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.
Let’s aim for kindest over smartest and empathy over popularity. Our kids will learn their numbers and ABC’s. They’ll learn to add and subtract and they’ll learn to create their own real, meaningful friendships on their own terms. But they won’t learn kindness unless we show them. They won’t learn respect unless we teach them. And they won’t learn to love the world around them until we love the world around them first.
Let’s have those awkward and uncomfortable conversations. Whatever we believe to be right or wrong about this world will always be in this world, so we cannot shy away from that dialogue. We must talk to our babies about what’s going on around them with open minds and open hearts. Words can be difficult when we’re reconciling our own beliefs and values and all we’ve ever known, but the stakes are high. This will be their world when we’re gone.
We don’t have to travel the world. There are books, there are movies, there are simple conversations in everyday life and things in our own homes and communities we can use to teach our babies that it really doesn’t matter if we agree or disagree. It doesn’t matter if we believe different things. It’s doesn’t matter if we would have chosen differently. What matters is that we listen and understand.
Only then will our babies learn how they’re so unbelievably special, but not more special than everyone else. How they may be the center of our world, but not THE world. How the world is full of billions of people that don’t look like them, live like them, work like them, or eat like them, but full of billions of people who love like them.
How the world is full of boys and girls who are light, dark, and everywhere in between, who all love their mommies and daddies. How the world is full of mommies and daddies who are light, dark, and everywhere in between, who all love their babies.
How we all belong to each other.
Understanding each other is our only hope, and love is our only way out. No matter who we are or where we are, the love we have for our babies transcends everything we do.
It’s the tie that binds us all.