Why will every single one of us have to someday face (if you haven’t already) the feeling of being ‘smaller’ than another person? When you’re just in the line at the store with your child, why will people give you a dirty look because your kid chose this specific moment to become a raging monster about a candy bar? Or when you’re at your desk at work and your co worker has decided to tell you exactly why their work is better than yours. Or perhaps you’re a childless woman, middle twenties, and suddenly every mother you know is looking down on you because you can’t possibly know this world, after all you are childless. It has always bothered me that I’ve been looked down on as being ‘not as good’ or ‘ignorant’ simply because of this or that. Today? It is a video I have posted to facebook. It talks about vaccines and children. It explains that autism is not caused by vaccines. Now, I want to make this clear, this blog post is not being written so that we can argue about weather or not vaccines cause autism. The important point is what happened after I posted the video. I had a mother comment on my post about how I couldn’t possibly know unless I have had kids and that I shouldn’t be hurling insults at the people who have not vaccinated their kids. (I need to add right here that the video did not throw any insults at anyone, and I didn’t write any words to go with it, so I didn’t hurl any insults at anyone.) That’s where I have a problem.
I’m 24 years old. I don’t have kids. This is not the first time I have been told that I couldn’t possibly know because I’ve never had kids. Yet I can assure you that I do know. I know because when I was 16 I was pregnant. I began doing all of the reading like any woman would, trying to learn this and that about kids and what’s best for them. A month and a half into my pregnancy, my body terminated it. This led to three years of depression and an insane amount of hurt. I couldn’t even see kids without wanting to cry (and in a lot of cases, actually crying.) But I don’t know what it’s like to be so afraid to lose a child simply because I don’t have one. Only thing is, I’ve actually lost a child. And this isn’t even the worst of it. A few years later two people move into my apartment building and they have a six month old and a four year old. The six month old had a peanut allergy. I was forced to get over my sadness of losing my own child because my boyfriend and I became (very good) friends with these two people and their kids. I became a big part of their lives, and they became a big part of mine. Things were going well, but there were two times that the six month old might have died (he wasn’t six months at these times though). Peanuts had found their way into his mouth and he had to be taken to the doctors. Fear. Right there. All day, every day. Even after they moved away I was afraid for the child that I had come to know so well, and a few years after that, he died. Car crash. I’ve lost another child. That one still haunts me. It’s been two years and I’ll cry each and every time I think of it. He was a beautiful boy and he took a part of my heart with him. But that wasn’t the only child I’ve had.
There was a third. He’s not a child though, he’s actually now a young man. I met this boy when we first moved into our apartment and I couldn’t stand him. He was a hoodlum. Causing trouble with his friends, but my boyfriend wanted to hang out with him. We were young, I had graduated high school and he still had a few months left. That’s how he met this kid. Over time I learned to ease up on him, his life wasn’t terribly great at home. His dad was sometimes physically abusive, his mom actually divorced his dad and moved to another town. He never really got to see her much after that, and his home life got worse. His dad wasn’t even providing food for him half the time and nobody really taught him how to cook. He spent most of his money on fast food, but even then he was still skin and bones. I had already accepted him as my ‘son’ by this point. When he wanted to drink, he had to do it at my house (so I could make sure he didn’t get into trouble). When he was out all night, he had to let me know he was okay. When he needed support, he came to me. He even called me mom, jokingly at first, but then it became real. He’s my kid. I love that boy, and I want the absolute best for him. When I made the big move to another state, it felt as if I was actually leaving my kid.
To those who have a child of their own, this might sound extreme, I’ve taken affinity for two other peoples children. But they are the only children I might ever have. I have PCOS, and for those who don’t know, it is the leading cause of infertility among women of child bearing age. I’ll save the details for another post, but that knowledge is essential for this part of the post. I know what it is like to have a child of my own and lose it, and I know what it is like to go to a funeral for a child that was so small that he hadn’t even been to his first day of school. I know what it is like to provide support for a child. And to top it all off, I have done the research that any mother would do. I’m not saying that I’m a mother, and I’m not saying that I surely must know all because I have been through these things and read a few books. There are things I cannot know, like holding my child for the first time or seeing it graduate or get married. I can’t know those things. But I can know other things, and what this person was saying in reply to the video is that I can’t because I don’t have a child. We are living in a world where if you do not have children, you are not a part of the elite. You are missing something, your opinion doesn’t matter.
I’ve seen similar things go down in other situations. I’ve been told that I’m wrong for thinking that the US shouldn’t ban Syrian refugees because they might be terrorists. I was told I was wrong because I can’t know the fear that terrorists create because I don’t have a child to worry about. (As if I’m not terrified for my own life.) I’ve been told that I’m actually leading a pointless life because I have no children, and don’t plan to have any. I’ve been harassed by my boyfriend’s mother to have children, as if I’m not worthy of her son unless I can give her a grandchild. But it’s not just mothers that are doing this, and it’s also not children that qualify you to be ‘worthy’.
I also can’t possibly know because I’m too young. I can’t know because I’m a woman. I can’t know because I’m white. Because I’m fat. Because I’m a liberal. Because I’ve never been to war. Because I’ve never been to college. Because I’ve never owned a house or driven a car. Because I’ve never had a desk job or published a book. Because I still believe in my dreams. I’m incapable of knowing just because I am not you. Why? Why?
When will we stop looking at others as being unable to know just because, and start listening to what they do know? I do know! I have a brain, I have the ability to educate myself. But even so, if I don’t know, that doesn’t mean you cast me off into a group of discarded souls. You can teach me. You let me know through you. Tell me why without accusing me, without becoming angry.
If we all stopped becoming instantly offended and actually would sit down and discuss and teach, perhaps we all might know. And we all might learn. You have children, I do not. You can teach me all day about children, but I can teach you about the world. I don’t have a child to dedicate my time to, but I am dedicating my time to this world. Together, we can fill in each-others gaps.
Just remember this. No single person knows everything. And there is no way you can possibly know everything about a person just by looking at them or what they have (or don’t have) in their lives. We are all walking a different path, even if we have the same things in our lives (say children), each path will be different than the next. When we start telling someone that they don’t know because ____, you are telling them that their experiences don’t matter. That they aren’t good enough. My own mother doesn’t know half the crap she should about children and she had a child of her own. If I didn’t have other people in my life at very crucial times, I wouldn’t be here, and I wouldn’t be as okay as I am now. There is nothing that qualifies you to know, or not know. And it is possible to learn, regardless of what you have or do not have. The point is to teach those who do not know, to enlighten them. To understand that we are all human and make mistakes and that we are all worthy. Regardless of what we have or don’t have.
We are all worthy.