I am an avid reader of your column and feel it has offered me the type of education I couldn’t receive anywhere else and will be of enormous benefit to me down the line. I am probably also not your average reader as I am only seventeen years old.
In case you’re wondering, my parents are okay with my reading your column (which I’ve been doing for some time now), because they are of the opinion that in today’s world ignorance poses a greater threat than being informed, especially on issues that may affect any of us, at any time.
I find that my peers who are not given the opportunity to be enlightened in the same way I am tend to pick up bits and pieces of information on the streets or on the web, which often end up either distorted or confusing. If I ever had any questions about something I’ve heard or read, I felt comfortable asking my parents for clarification or their opinion.
The reason I am writing to you now is because of a fear that’s taken hold of me and seems to be intensifying with time rather than letting up. Yes, I have confided the fear to my mother who is of the opinion that it is a passing phase that will become a non-issue as I mature.
Since your column deals with all sorts of dilemmas and I have a high regard for your viewpoints, I was curious to know how you would handle my problem. I am almost embarrassed to reveal that I am afraid of having children. No, it’s not the pain of childbirth that scares me, but the fear of bringing children into this crazy world.
Whenever I see a small innocent child, I find myself feeling sorry for him or her having to grow up in a world that is rampant with anti-Semitism, corruption, violence, and the very real threat of terrorism hanging over us.
Somehow I don’t recall things being this bad when I was younger, or maybe I just didn’t think ahead or too deeply into things. Today’s climate, however, is enough to make a seasoned adult afraid of his or her own shadow.
Is there any advice you may be able to offer me? I’ve admired your insight on a wide range of topics for a while now and thank you in advance for taking the trouble to address my anxiety.
Fear for my (future) children Dear Fear,
To begin with, I can assure you that there are others who share your fear, albeit to different degrees. One can hardly help but feel for the defenseless infants and children who are so trusting in their wide-eyed innocence, and who will need to grow up and learn the harsh truth: there is cruelty and insanity in our world and we must tread cautiously to keep ourselves out of harm’s way.
Luckily, those of us who believe that there is a G-d running the world are halfway there. Much of the rest of the way is paved with a combination of trust (in a Higher Power) and exertion (hishtadlus). It is not enough to believe that He Who placed us here is singularly competent at protecting us — we are also expected to put in wholehearted effort in order to prove ourselves worthy of His divine guidance, by, for example, choosing good friends as well good neighborhoods to raise our children in. You are a savvy young lady who obviously recognizes that the divine privilege of bringing a child into the world comes with an awesome responsibility: the caring for and nurturing of another being totally reliant on you for all of its needs.
In the same way your parents have been there for you and continue to guide and ready you for the time when you will be off establishing a home of your own, you will be there for your own children, G-d willing.
Take your mother’s words to heart — as you grow and mature, your developing natural instincts will help you overcome your fear. And when you will link up with your other half, hopefully in the near future, you will share your fears and joys with your life-partner, which will automatically make your load much lighter.
Finally, remember that each of us placed here on earth has a divine mission to fulfill, our success to that end contingent on following in the footsteps of our parents and ancestors. To perpetuate our legacy and rich heritage for the next generation, we were given the divine commandment of “pru urvu” – to be fruitful and multiply, and were thus imbued with a natural longing for offspring.
Most everyone’s aware that physical maintenance requires eating right, exercising and getting enough sleep. But what about sustenance for our souls? Birchas Ha’Shachar (morning blessings) are a minimum requisite for starting our day off on the right foot, as is Krias Shema (bedtime prayer) for promoting an untroubled night’s sleep. These are natural relaxants and powerful antioxidants for our neshamos. Nothing is as reassuring as placing our trust in Hashem and letting Him run the world.