Oh My Lovely Faizan,
I am holding you in my arm as I type with one hand. It is April 28th, 2017, and tomorrow is the People’s Climate March. I hope Dearly that Tomorrow something clicks, and we have an impact for you. I’ve been using the many hats I wear to help try and make a difference. Did it?
In 2050 you’re just slightly older than I am now, but as I write this you are seven weeks old. You are asleep, in the crook of my arm, which you prefer to your basinette. I wonder how we finally got you to sleep on your own?
In the past seven weeks I have been gone some–not solely taking care of you, my newborn son, as you experience the world for the first time–but holding up a commitment to changing that world so your experience is one I’m not ashamed of.
I agreed to help organize the local sister march of the PCM in Kansas City shortly before you were born, and intermittently since I have held you as I do now: typing out partnership contacts, updating websites, recruiting people and organizations, and arguing with teammates. I’m a pro at swipe-typing (Google it, if that still exists), and I set the phone down when you wake up; I finish my half typed thoughts brushing my teeth or before laying down for 20 minutes naps at 3am.
Why? These past seven weeks have been the most important of my life: you are finally here. You are the best thing to ever happen to me–I always wanted to be a dad, and her you are, real and learning to smile at me. I took off work to be with you, and being your dad is the best and most important thing I’ve ever done, or ever will. Why let my attention be pulled away from you for one second? Why was I downstairs designing logos instead of seeing you learn you have feet? Why was I in meetings or on calls saying the word “partners” over and over instead of smelling your head? In the time with you that we will never get back, how could I fathom doing anything else, let alone something as dry as being part of a “steering committee”?
You just sighed at me in your sleep. Thank you for getting me off that train of thought.
Nonetheless, that guilt is heavy, and it comes down to rest in my heart beside all the other guilts I feel in this moment of life and history, balancing each other like the mobile I planned to make before you got here. Climate change is real, it’s us, and it’s bad. I studied it more than I planned, and I know all the charts and timelines. I read the IPCC assessment reports, I know the projections. So, I go on the radio and hold meetings and type articles and plan marches. In truth, I’m an encyclopedia of the crisis we face for anyone who will listen, and at least aware enough to recognize my own cognitive dissonance–
–but still your mother and I brought you into this world.
That’s the worst guilt of all–or a guilt about feeling that guilt. I knew from the moment I saw you that you are pure, you are innocent, you are light, a gift to the world. While I will never regret having you, I am scared to death what you will face–what you must have faced by now–and I can’t shake that little voice that whispers “did you do the right thing?” when I try to reconcile my love for you with my knowledge of what lies ahead. Many of my friends, colleagues, and acquaintances have actively chosen not to have kids, and their response when I announce we were expecting was the most subdued of anyone.
Am I doing the right thing? That’s the question I’m trying to answer in every direction simultaneously, and in each I come up short. I haven’t given enough of myself to stopping climate change–we could all do more–, I haven’t educated everyone, risked all my relationships as a doomsdayer. I still power this phone with the coal-fired electricity coming from the wall, I still drive my fossil-fueled car to your pediatrician’s appointments. It comes down to this:
I haven’t been there enough for you, and I haven’t been here enough for you.
That’s the moment in which we live: reconciling what we must do with what we have to do, the day-to-day against the end-of-days. Late-stage capitalism is so easy, so convenient, it’s easier to see the apocalypse than it is the alternative, and for all my social media posts and afterwork meetings, I still come home to a life that we haven’t figured out–or haven’t remembered–how to live in balance with the continuation of life itself. And to your mother, Sobia, if you are reading this, I am sorry to you, too. You just said to me you didn’t realize how much work the March tomorrow would take, and “I can’t even be mad at you, because it’s climate stuff.” It takes a village to raise a child, and a world to keep our children safe. I love you, and I swear I’m almost done typing.
So, tomorrow we march. I hope it helps. I want you to know that while I don’t know if I did enough, and in truth it never feels like I can, I tried. We tried.
Well, what good timing–I’d better get your bottle ready! I love you my son. You are waking up now. Hopefully tomorrow, more of us will, too.