Complex Children

Moriah Cunningham

I’ve dreamt about having kids of my own one day. The more I live, the more I realize how selfish having kids really is. It’s not that I don’t want to have them. It’s not like I want to “travel the world” or “live my own life.” It’s not because I won’t be able to tolerate the pain of tiny feet leaving invisible imprints beneath my skin, trying to break into a world they know nothing about. I am simply scared—I won’t ever be able to protect them fully from this horrible world.

Her thick, shiny, soft, little curls will be the envy of the little white girls. They will tease her. She will still come home, crying for Mommy to make her hair straight.

I can tell her that her hair is beautiful the way it is, but I can’t protect her from their brutality. When she’s sick for the first time and grabs my arm tight, tears in her eyes, mucus clogging the back of her throat makes the words she learned for the terrible feeling unattainable. I won’t be able to take it all away.

When he is swaddled in a blanket in the hospital room holding on for dear life, I won’t be able to help him breathe.

I can only pray that he remembers how. When he goes to school and they tell him he is a waste of a tall black boy because he’s more into robotics than basketball, I won’t be able to save him because his Mama’s opinion can’t help the way the words cut into his ebony skin.

His innocent brown eyes will turn cold and deep as he tries to fit in whatever way that he possibly can.

There will be a point when they both tune me out—I’m “stupid,” I’m “not cool.” How am I supposed to handle the peaks and valleys of hatred they’ll cultivate despite my oceans of love for them? How should you feel when you bring innocent lives into the world, but can’t promise the world to them?