Friday, September 04, 2009

Parenthood: Life's great do-over

I was thinking today how Parenthood represents life's greatest "do-over."

Life has a lot of second chances, but not where we most need them: childhood. A kid really only gets one chance to be introduced to something for the first time, and if that one thing is one of those critical life lessons that ends up shaping his or her character permanently; well a parent should hope to God that the introduction is a good one.

But parenthood? It's an amazing self-perpetuating, mankind improving do-over. I suppose it's not a true do-over in the literal sense. The person who needs the do-over doesn't get it themselves. But I would submit that a do-over which is learned over generations through centuries has a most permanent lasting power.

Think of it! Does it feel to you, as it does to me, that the darkest pages of mankind are behind us? That, though we live in a world of extremities and contrasting moral values, aren't the world's ethics rising? And aren't ethics morals too?

I think the largest indicator of an improvement in ethics is in the way that people treat one another. I realize there is still a fair amount of sexism, racism, and even slavery or indentured servitude in the world today, but it is becoming less and less, and at least people are starting to recognize that it's not really cool to be sexist, or racist. People are starting to recognize the value in others that centuries earlier was invisible to most.

So when I look at that kind of progress, it occurs to me that it is a result of parenting. Directly for some, indirectly for others. The culmination of mankind's progress is a result of each generation looking at the world and the way they felt as a child, the way they feel as a parent, the way they saw their parents, the way they want their children to see them, and with that data they try to improve just a little more for their children.

When grandparents looks at their grandchild, they aren't just seeing someone that was raised by their son or daughter. They are seeing the result of their own parenting. Their child is now raising a child in a way that is in reaction to the data they collected from their own childhood experience.

So, as we focus on the goodness and progress of mankind, can't all parents smile down on the world, and take pride in how good people are becoming?

The world may be a rotten place, and rotting even further in some ways, but I believe if we can all pause for a moment, look at ourselves and each other with objectivity and love, that we will be able to look back at the mistakes of those that came before us, make positive adjustments, and resume the greatest do-over that mankind is blessed with.

For our children.