A Letter to Max

I’d like to use this month’s column to write a letter to my newest grandson.

I have a new grandson—Max—who is two weeks old as I write this. He is a beautiful baby, born to parents who wanted him, and who were emotionally and financially ready for him. He is surrounded by aunts, uncles and cousins who already adore him, and grandparents intent on spoiling him. One look at his nursery is enough to confirm that he enters a world lovingly created for him. If only all babies entered this world with so many advantages.


As I look at this little miracle, it is hard not to want to wrap him in cotton and protect him from the world. I can’t, of course, but because the birth of a baby is a time to reflect on the kind of world we would want children to enter, I’d like to use this month’s column to write a letter to my newest grandson.


Dear Max,


If I could make the world over for you, what would it look like?


·        It wouldn’t be utopia, because the best part of life is the struggle to achieve, to be (as the recruiting commercial might put it) all you can be. But it would be a world where everyone had an equal chance to shine. In my made-over world, no child would have his future prospects dimmed or foreclosed because he was born into a family with the “wrong” race or religion. All children would be valued—rich or poor, gay or straight, smart or pretty or not.

·        It would be a diverse world—not because diversity is politically correct, but because it is interesting. I don’t want you to live in a world of gated communities peopled by social clones who dress the same, drive the same SUV’s, and vote for political candidates who promise to protect their privileges. I want you to live in a messy, joyous mélange of people who look different from you, people who speak different languages, aspire to different goals, who work and live and love variously.

·        It would be a passionate world—not in the sexual sense (although that’s nice too!), but intellectually. I want you to grow up with people who care about ideas, who seriously confront the nature of good and evil, who debate what it means to be a human on this planet. I want you to grow up to be that kind of person, too.

·        It would be a world where good people re-entered and re-energized politics; where candidates offered themselves and their ideas because they wanted to do something, not because they wanted to be someone, and where it would be widely understood that the purpose of government is not to enforce social conformity, but to enable social action.

·        It would be a world where every child had access to a good education, adequate health care, and loving adults to raise him. In that world, children without such families would be adopted by people most able to provide stability and love, irrespective of their sexual orientation, the color of their skin, or other irrelevancies.


It’s way too soon to know who you will be when you grow up, Max. Right now, you are a small, sweet bundle of possibilities. Maybe you will be one of those who helps us get from the world we have to the world I have imagined for you. Maybe not. Whatever your future, whoever you choose to be, whatever your interests, your talents, your sexual orientation—whoever you become, welcome to our family. We love you.


Your grandmother