Why you are here
Letter to a new member of the human species
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On Tuesday, June 15th, Cooper Green deWilde was born. I wrote this letter to help him understand why.
Welcome to the world.
I imagine that these past few days have been disorienting. Trust me when I say, the feeling is mutual!
Since you’re new here, I wanted to give you a sense of what you’ve gotten yourself into by being born.
First, I should introduce myself. I’m your dad. Although I didn’t give birth to you, I did play an important role in your journey. Your mom likes to say that in the group project that is having a baby, I brought the markers. Meanwhile, she bought the rest of the supplies, designed the poster, and presented it to the class. But, as I like to remind her, it would have been tough to get an A+ without the markers I brought!
Anyway, you probably have lots of questions, but I’m going to use this letter to answer just one: Why are you here?
This may seem trivial, but it’s a question that some people spend their whole lives trying to answer. Luckily for you, we are going to take care of it right away.
The short answer is your mom and I wanted you here.
Of course, when I say we wanted you here, we had no idea who you would be. And while we now know a bit more than when we made the decision, you are still largely a mystery to us.
Will you be silly or serious? Gregarious or introverted? Athletic or artsy? Will you want a pet? How hard will you work in school? Will you like sushi? What type of person will you fall in love with?
When I gaze at your tiny body, these are the questions that fill my head. What’s strange is that every answer will be shaped, at least in part, by the choices that your mom and I make in how we raise you. While we have preferences about some of these things (mostly that you eat sushi), we feel perfectly fine leaving many up to chance. That’s because we aren’t trying to shape you into a certain type of person– we simply wanted you.
Maybe you’re wondering why your mom and I wanted you so badly if we knew nothing about you.
To answer that question, it may help to understand all the things that had to go right for your mom and me to even be able to consider whether or not we wanted a child.
First, your grandparents had to keep your mom and me alive long enough to meet. That may sound simple, but I assure you it isn’t.
To stay alive, we humans, particularly the small ones, need food, shelter, and protection from the elements. That doesn’t come cheap. All four of your grandparents devoted a majority of their waking hours to caring for kids or working to earn enough money to ensure our survival.
Sounds pretty selfless, doesn’t it? Fortunately, your grandparents had good role models. That’s because their parents made similar sacrifices. You see, raising kids is something of a tradition– not just in our family, but in our species.
While raising kids is certainly challenging, it’s nowhere near as hard as it used to be. A long time ago, almost half of the kids who were born on this planet didn’t make it to their 15th birthday. Thankfully, through the tireless work of scientists, inventors, and entrepreneurs your mom and I were born into an era with much better odds of survival. Today the global child mortality rate is only 4.6%. Of course, these statistics are cold comfort to a parent who’s lost a child, but they should also serve as a reminder of the awesome power of the species you are joining.
The second thing that had to go right was that your mom and I had to fall in love.
For that to happen, your mom had to be brave enough to move to San Francisco without a job. Your dad, meanwhile, needed the confidence to move in for a kiss the night they met on a rooftop in Russian Hill.
And of course, not all encounters lead to love. But, luckily your Mom and I have always been great at making each other laugh. It started on the day we met and has sustained our relationship ever since.
Finally, we needed a shared belief that we wanted kids.
While this used to be a common desire, birth rates across nearly every country have been declining.
Many adults feel a sense of financial insecurity, that makes them hesitant to raise kids. They worry not only about being able to afford necessities but also about giving their kids an advantage in an increasingly competitive economy.
Meanwhile, modern life can seem idyllic for those who aren’t responsible for raising kids. Weekend trips with friends, dinners at hip restaurants, and vacations to exotic places make for a pretty enticing lifestyle. Especially when you compare it to breastfeeding and changing dirty diapers.
Others believe that humanity’s future is simply too uncertain. They look at all the existential risks from nuclear war to climate change and worry about bringing new life into a world that could end in calamity.
For what it’s worth, I sympathize with all these perspectives.
But, then I think about our parents, and their parents, and their parents’ parents, and all the sacrifices they made just to allow me and your mom to experience the wonder of being alive. I remember that no matter how safe the world is, each of us only gets so much time here. While the happiness we get to feel is salted with heartbreak, on the whole, this world is worth experiencing.
And perhaps I hope that, like so many of your ancestors, you too will find ways to leave this place better than you found it, by planting trees in whose shade you know you shall never sit.
But to the original question of why you are here, I leave you with this, Cooper:
You are a gift to this world and this world a gift to you.
We’re so happy you’ve joined us.
If you want to welcome Cooper to the world…
He’s got an email address (that his dad is managing for the moment).
Let him know what he’s got to look forward to as a new member of our species.
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Until next time,