It’s another beautiful time of the year in Vancouver: half-price frappucino season. On Tuesday afternoon Carrie and I decided to take part in the festivities. We purchased our wonderful icy treats at our locals Starbucks and then walked to the park behind Vancouver’s city hall. We sat there for a while enjoying the sun, the incredible view of the city and watching Ethan play on the ground in front of us. Many people passed by us and stopped to smile at Ethan – who just so happens to be incredibly cute.
However, at one point a man began walking up the path beside us staring at us in a rather unusual way. He was in his mid-thirties I would say, well dressed and walking with purpose. As he approached our bench he said to me, “Are you standing behind your decision?”I was so stunned by the question that I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt that he wasn’t asking what I thought he was. So I asked him, “Standing by what decision?”He didn’t even respond, he just nodded his head to refer to Ethan. Again, I was completely stunned and had to repeat his implied question back to him, “Am I standing behind my decision to have a baby? Ya!”
That was it. That was entire interaction and it happened all in the span of about 15 seconds as he walked by our park bench. But I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. What kind of a person asks a question like that? Was it a joke? Does he have kids and wishes he didn’t? Perhaps he and his partner are thinking about having a child and he was looking for an honest answer? Or maybe he just hates children? I don’t know.
What I do know though, is that in nine months of having Ethan out in public spaces in Vancouver, never once have we been asked such a disturbing question. How did he want me to respond? “No. I’m not standing behind the decision. In fact it’s been awful and we’re right now trying to reverse it somehow.”That would be ridiculous, not to mention impossible.
What bothered me most about the question though wasn’t the ridiculousness of it, but rather the implied attitude towards children. He reduced our beautiful son, the little boy who smiles with his tongue out the moment you look at him, to a decision. He reduced our little man who pants like a dog and swings his arms when he gets excited about a box or a piece of plastic, to something that we get to choose.
We live in age in which children have in many ways become a decision. If you don’t want to have kids then don’t, but if you do then do. But this is such a vast oversimplification that it would be comical if it wasn’t so tragic. Ask the teenage girl who just found out that she’s pregnant and is going to have to drop out of school. Ask the couple who after deciding they were done having children, find out that they’re pregnant. Ask the couple who live from month to month in a cycle of expectation and devastation. Or ask the couple who just had to watch their child lowered into the ground.
While medical technologies have brought with them the ability to preserve and prolong life, they have also fostered a sort of therapeutic thinking about children. That children can be chosen or rejected at will, as though they are some kind of medical condition. What we’ve forgotten is that children are always a gift, and a gift of the highest order. The moment we reduce them to a choice, we lose sight of the messiness of life and creation. It’s not simple. It’s not pretty. But it is beautiful.
So are we standing behind our decision to have Ethan? No. Because this was never our decision. Ethan was and continues to be the most incredible gift. We did not give him his life and we will certainly not be the ones to sustain it. All that we can do is sit back and marvel at God’s incredible creation and thank him for our little man, boxes and bits of plastic.