The lake is quiet now that all the cottagers have gone home after the summer. The morning air is warm and heavy, as if the grey clouds that cover the sky above are pushing down and closing in. Blue jays calls echo across the water. They are busy preparing for the long winter ahead. Their activity is contagious and they make me feel as if I should be preparing more for this tiny baby growing inside me. With less than five weeks until he is due, I’m beginning to wonder if I’m ready for this huge change to come.
I wonder how we will teach him to be strong and good, to care about the world around him, to live every moment to the fullest? Will he pick it up from the way my husband and I behave in the world? Lately, I’m more thoughtful about the way I interact with other people, of how I am in the world and about the way I behave toward those who are close to me. I want to become more patient and less critical of others. I want to be a better person so that this boy will have a good role model. I hope he learns to see my strengths and my weaknesses and eventually grow beyond them. When I look at his father, I hope that our son inherits his patience and strength, his determination to learn and do whatever he sets his mind to, and his kindness. Perhaps that is what parenting is all about – the hope that our best parts will live on in our children.
Here, at the cottage, I try not to think of the renovations underway at our house in the city. But the wasps are buzzing around their nest under the eaves, their last flourish of activity before they die. They are hard-wired to build despite the coming winter and their most certain demise. We discovered that the male wasps die off every year, while the young fertilized females hibernate under the earth over the winter to come out in the spring with a fresh batch of young to carry on. The nest, built over the summer, is left empty and abandoned – if it survives the winter, it exists only as a monument to the work done and the lives that built it.
I want to teach our son to understand the value of good workmanship, to distinguish between things built to last and things patched together to be consumed. I’m going to try to surround him with things that are built well, but is it possible? I inherited a highchair that was my father’s when he was a boy. It is small and wooden and made to be pulled right up to the table. It doesn’t have a plush cushioned seat, or a safety harness, and I wonder if my father fell from it very many times. Even so, I want to use it. I’m pulled to the idea that what worked for my father should work for my son, that the things we surround ourselves with will have a direct impact on the way we live and the attitudes we have towards the world.
I also want to teach our son the importance of love. Of giving yourself to another person and caring for them more at times than you care about yourself. I know he may get hurt, but I also know that hurt builds strength and that without sharing himself fully with another person he won’t get the opportunity of seeing the world through her eyes. And with love he will need to learn the value of hope – I want him to face the world armed with it. I don’t know what sort of things life will throw in his path but I do know that if he has hope, the challenges he faces can be overcome. As Gabriel Garcia Marquez wrote, “It is life, not death, that has no limits…”
What sort of a world are we bringing our son into? It hasn’t changed much over the past century. It is a world that is, in many ways, very much like the world of his grandfather. There are still wars tearing countries apart, invaders wanting to bring enlightenment to the backward and the deprived, rich countries overpowering poorer ones. There is still greed, hunger and misery while others live in opulence. Although history seems to repeat itself, I have hope that one day we will get it right. Morality and decency, the fundamentals that keep us civilised, seem to survive despite opulence and greed. Our son will need to learn the same skills his grandfather needed to survive and I think the most important ones will be love, hope and kindness.
I’d like to welcome a great woman who has joined our team at The Women’s Post. Laurie Simmonds has come on as our new associate publisher. She brings a lot of knowledge, experience and many new ideas to this newspaper, which readers will see implemented over the coming months. I do believe that strong women are changing the world – and she is one of them.