Have you ever seen a child sabotage a game of cornhole?
It was a Friday evening last month, and I had just joined my friend Nicole for a post-work meetup at the Kulshan Trackside Beer Garden. It was a sensory experience that I felt I haven’t had in a long time — catchy, live music coming from the stage, classic Bellingham locals adorned in their Cotopaxi down vests walking around with their IPAs, bikers doing tricks on the pump track and many, many kids.
One young girl was over at the outdoor games area with her parents. She was running around in a teal jacket with a huge smile on her face, and, while her parents were trying to play a game of cornhole, the real entertainment was this kid — hopping in and out of the cornhole box, sliding down the surface of the board’s little slope headfirst and laughing her ass off.
She was running around that way that kids do, arms flailing, no intentional destination. The ability to move with joy – that is enough of a reason. Her parents looked on, allowing her to explore, laugh and fall.
I watched this kid living with joy, and I grew sad.
The joy that I glean from being around kids is different from most forms of happiness I’ve experienced. The ability to forget what's happening in adult life for just a moment is so special. It’s an avenue to experience curiosity and wonder alongside someone who is learning about and seeing things for the very first time. The opportunity to help a child grow into a person with agency and goodwill feels incredibly meaningful. To nourish and care for children is something I hear many people say is one of the most rewarding things to do in life.
I know I would be a great mom. I know many of my friends would be amazing parents. Yet, I find myself having an increased desire to not have a kid.
That’s where the sadness sets in.
Four days before I was sitting in that beer garden, the UN released yet another climate report that announced what many of us are already very aware of: “the world is on a ‘fast track’ to disaster.” António Guterres, the secretary-general of the UN, cited “a litany of broken climate promises” in a video message on April 4.
I’ve been seeing reports and announcements and speeches and news stories about this since I first started reading the news, and each time, I think about the future of people my age. Then, I think about the future of people like that little girl at the trackside, and fear sets in.
No one can see exactly what the future will be like for any of us. The thought of bringing another young person into the world, however, and facing them with the existential realization that your home is burning, can bring fear and resentment into many of us. It’s not fair for anyone to have to make that choice, a choice between kid-like joy and existential sorrow.
I was having a conversation with a classmate about having kids while on a field trip last week. I remember her saying, “Honestly… I will just get sterilized.”
I started writing this on May 2, about an hour before the news broke of a leak of the Supreme Court’s draft decision for overturning Roe v. Wade. Part of me wants to scrap this whole thing and write about the countless number of people — largely low income, largely people of color — who will suffer if that decision is made, and the resources that people with uteruses still have, even if some court says we don’t have that right.
Or maybe, the striking contrast between the Met Gala’s ‘Gilded Glamour’ theme being covered as the fate of a person’s right to choose hangs in the balance. But, I think we’ve already seen everything we could of that discourse on our Twitter feeds, around our living room tables and in protest at our local courts. Honestly, I don’t think I have much more to add to the conversation.
So instead, I’ll just leave this here. I started writing this about sadness and the feeling that my chances at joyful motherhood have been stripped from me, and, to be clear — by me, albeit for reasons greatly out of my control.
Now, the choice could be stripped from all of us.
Liz McLaneis a second-year journalism student at WWU. Her work for The Front focuses on city life and the Bellingham food scene. You can contact her at email@example.com.