Disclosure: I watch the Walking Dead. It’s a show about zombies on Sunday nights. It’s gross, but great.
Now, I obviously don’t think we’re on the brink of a zombie apocalypse and the dissolution of society as we know it. I’m pretty sure I’m not going to wake up from a coma in a hospital and then find myself wandering through abandoned streets while I slowly piece together what’s happened and then learn to shoot, slice, impale and otherwise destroy reanimated, blood-thirsty dead people.
But when I watch a show or read a book about the end of the world — whether the end comes from zombies, freak storms, aliens or anything else — I do think about it. Would I make it? Would I band together with other hearty survivors and rebuild some kind of life? Or would I lock myself in a closet and wait for the end?
I also find myself thinking about everyone who’s died before this hypothetical disaster. My grandparents, or their parents. Weren’t they lucky that they didn’t have to see it all come crumbling down? Didn’t they live their lives blissfully unaware of the impending doom? And then I start hoping that disaster stays away for another 50 years until I’m old or possibly dead, and then I’ll be one of the lucky ones who didn’t see it. I’d like to be blissfully unaware.
Now that I have a son, I care in a more personal way about what happens even after I’m old or possibly dead. I need disaster to stay away for much, much longer. I don’t want John to have to fight zombies or build a makeshift raft out of an old bedframe to survive a flood. And what if he has kids? I need disaster to stay away for their lifetimes, because I wouldn’t want John to feel the way I would feel if he was in danger or in pain.
And here is my more serious point. Having a child fundamentally changes our connection to the world. Whatever’s coming in the future must be addressed. And not only for as long as our lifetimes, but as long as our children’s lifetimes. And as long as the lives of the ones they love. And the ones they love. And that basically means forever.
I know it’s not going to be zombies that cause the problem. And probably not aliens either. But there are environmental issues to be addressed. Health issues to think about.
This is something I didn’t anticipate about being a parent. I knew that I’d be responsible for the welfare of another human being. I’d need to be sure that he says please and thank you and is warm at night and laughs as often as possible. But I didn’t know that I’d need the whole world to be a better place forever, for him. The weight of that responsibility can be a little daunting.
It could only be balanced (and made bearable) by something as overwhelming as the joy of having the child in the first place.
P.S. I’m dedicating this post to my friend Doug, zombie watcher and now father of one-month-old twins! Good luck, Doug.