Our daughter turned 4 last week. A big girl now, she announced that she would try to make her own bed in the morning and would learn (at some point this year) to unbuckle herself from her car seat. But she would not, under any circumstances, clean up her toys, because "that's boring."
To that, I had no response. All I could do was marvel at this opinionated little person who didn't even exist just an election cycle before.
In the four short years since she burst into being and changed my husband's and my world forever, the world also has changed.
Not long after Curveball joined our family in 2012, the U.S. inaugurated Barack Obama as president for the second time, seemingly validating his message of hope and change. Across the pond, Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her Diamond Jubilee. There was a flotilla! Life was good!
But today, my husband and I sometimes look around at the mood and tenor of the world we've brought our three children into and we say to ourselves, "What have we done?"
Neither of us were naive enough to believe that electing the country's first black president — even twice — would change racial politics and discrimination for the better. "Postracial" was a fantastical, silly word to us, like "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious." But still, we were optimistic, and could never have predicted the downturn race relations has taken since. From the rancorous presidential race to reactions to the Super Bowl halftime show, people seem more divided than ever. And the haters are less eager to hide their hate; instead, they happily shout about it, using vulgar terms and cartoonish stereotypes.
When Kristen Howerton, a popular parenting blogger I greatly admire, posted a YouTube video of her two white daughters ecstatic about getting black dolls for Christmas, her Twitter account was bombarded with anger and hate speech. Images of her children were distorted into nasty posts that would have made Andrew Dice Clay blush. It was an astonishing display of bigotry, even for the Internet.
We're talking about Christmas presents. Dolls! And people are frothing at the mouth. Like Marvin Gaye said: What's going on?
And it's not just race relations that worry us — although, because we are parents of black children, it's high on the list.
Neither of us are math people (see: Why We Went to Journalism School), but even to us, the world's economies seem wildly out of control, especially here at home. When will the financial card castle come crashing down? Just when our children are ready to join the world of work?
And how will we even prepare our children to join the working world? We doubt we'll be able to afford to send them to college, the way costs are increasing at mind-blowing rates. The average cost to attend a four-year university during the years my husband and I entered college was between about $8,000 and $12,000. Meanwhile, some say college costs for the class of 2034 — our daughter's estimated graduation year — could be as high as $288,000. (I cried a little just typing that.)
Climate change. Wars and atrocities all over the globe. Violence, intolerance and strife.
What is going on?
It sounds cliched, but when your babies are born, you really do want the world for them. You imagine all good things will befall them, and that their lives will be better than yours.
At a point in our nation's history, I think that was a real possibility. These days, I'm not so sure. But I look at our little Curveball — with her tenacity, determination and spark — and I have hope. I have to.
She might not learn to pick up her things without a fight, but if nothing else, she will learn that a better world is worth fighting for. And that no matter what unhappy, fearful people try to signal to her, this world is just as much hers as it is anyone else's.
It's hers to change.
So bring on her flotilla, sparkly with pink glitter, strewn with toys. She (and her brothers) can and will contribute to a better world. And getting there will never, ever be boring.
Tanika Davis is a former Baltimore Sun reporter who now works as director at a communications firm. She and her husband have twin 5-year-old sons, a 4-year-old daughter, a perpetually messy house and rapidly appearing gray hairs. She also needs a nap. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her column appears monthly.