I often get the question, “do you have kids,” to which my normal response is, “yes, two furry ones,” referring to the Girls, my attempt of making a light joke out of a conversation that can often feel awkward to me. Sometimes an acknowledgement that we only have dogs as children is enough to satisfy the question but other times there is a long pause, a curiosity the creeps up on the faces of those whose asked as if not having children is the oddest thing they have ever heard. “There must be a really good reason”, you can see in their eyes, “perhaps they can’t have children.” Although we have taken no tests to determine if we can or can’t, the decision was merely a choice and one that we have rarely waivered against. There have been times when the idea of having a person to pass down the knowledge, stories, truths and love feels a bit challenging without children. The idea of growing old with no one following in our footsteps can sometimes leave me curious about our decision but in the end, we have worked so hard, and continue to work hard, in different ways to leave behind our mark that we feel comfortable moving forward with our family defined as it is.
My husband has chosen to share his knowledge and life lessons through his work as a college professor, and his support and confidence for our next generation is so apparent in his passionate demeanor and the enthusiastic response from his students. He has challenged his kids and the academic world to embrace experiential education, living and feeling your life, as the foundation for knowledge as opposed to just reading and writing. His students have been given ideal opportunities to learn and work, often writing Sean to tell him how thankful they are for the experiences that he has made available to them. My friend Jen recently shared with me a beautiful and powerful speech she delivered at a high school graduation in which she gave her students the permission to “not live up to their potential” and encouraged them to embrace every moment of their life, not just “shoot for the stars” and constantly want more, need more, always striving to be better. It gives me such hope for our future generations to know that these two, and many others, have chosen not to have children of their own but are holding the space, in a loving, compassionate way, every day for our kids to empower themselves, to be authentic, kind, and true.
I could tell countless stories of our many friends who are parenting from a foundation of love, understanding and respect. Parents who have taught their children the importance of knowing where their food comes from, how to grow their own food and care for the land and animals. Parents who share activities and adventures with their children, teaching them to ski, hike, camp, explore in all kinds of weather, situations and seasons. Parents who encourage their kids to take classes and training on whatever interests them, even if that means delving into non-traditional studies. Parents who share their yoga practice and meditations with their children, before and after they come into this world. Powerful, courageous single parents that share their undeniable love and wisdom with their children, teaching them that parenting does not have to look like what society dictates – as John Lennon once wrote “All You Need is Love.”
I have such admiration for these parents and teachers who give me great hope for our future, knowing that the generations to come have been guided by them, loved by them, respected by them. Today I am very grateful for my friends, the parents who have chosen to not just give life to our planet but to give hope for a more compassionate and fulfilling future, and to their children for making this world a more enjoyable place.
(Picture: Hoping my dear friend Martha does not mind that I borrowed this picture of her with her children, Bridget and Timmy, a beautiful example of the type of parenting I am referring to. LOVE)