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Someday, our kids will grow up better than we did. They will have an entire room dedicated to playtime with gentle foam tiles to romp around and different toys for every day of the week. They will sleep in the finest cribs, crafted from rich oak or deep mahogany, under a ceiling as high as the sky where chandeliers glitter like the stars. They will fall asleep not to the sound of gunshots or muted arguments but to the sweet sound of silence.
Someday, our kids will eat better than we did. They will have traveled around the world using only their tongues, sampling the best delicacies each nation has to offer. They will come back from soccer practice or violin lessons to a hot meal waiting for them at the dinner table. They will never know what a hungry stomach feels like, a stomach so empty that its grumbling protests disrupt a classroom or make them redden with shame.
Someday, our kids will learn better than we did. They will roam the hallways of our nation’s best private schools and discover opportunities that will open doors from which we were shut out. They will excel on all their exams, thanks to the experienced guidance of private tutors and prep courses. They may even find themselves sitting on the same unreasonably overpriced lawn chairs in the Yard just as we did, discovering friends who traveled to the same extravagant countries as them. They will get to where we are today — but not from the same path we took.
Our kids will be better.
Isn’t that why we’re all here? Isn’t that why our parents came here? Somehow, by the sheer power of survival, we claimed our spots in an institution that was not meant for us. We eat, sleep, and study with people from all different walks of life, including ones we only fantasized about. When we graduate from these brick walls, we will have the opportunity to give our children the lives we never had and the privilege that we witnessed but could never touch. For many of us, we will be changing the tides of our generations, introducing newfound wealth and status. We will be paving a gilded road for our descendents, and it will be unprecedented. We are the first generation. And our kids will be even better.
So why does it feel so wrong?
Part of me wants to give my future child the secure, cushioned life I never had. Part of me grew up resenting those who had that lifestyle. Despite the struggles I’ve faced, I don’t regret any aspect of my upbringing, for it shaped me into who I am today. My childhood taught me how to empathize with someone else’s pain, how to always appreciate what I have, how to stay humble, and how to be patient in the face of adversaries. I want to spoil my child with a perfect life, but I consider the good, the bad, and even the ugly parts of my life to be the foundation of strengths and values that I consider to be more valuable than any luxury toy or extravagant vacation.
So what does it mean for my kid if they grow up shielded from these hardships? How do you raise a child to have a life that you yourself have never known? This is the greatest paradox I have grappled with during my time at Harvard. My four years at this institution will touch the lives of my children and my children’s children like a ripple of energy, and I have no idea what to expect. From the moment I stepped foot onto Harvard’s campus, I’ve been treading uncharted waters. Every decision I’ve made has been the first of its kind, regardless of whether it has been a step in the right direction or a catastrophic mistake. And wherever I end up after these years of blind, terrifying exploration will mark the spot where my child begins their life, too.
Our kids will indeed be better. But it’s up to us to understand what “better” truly means. We are the bridge between two spheres of life, bringing together generations of hardship with generations of opportunity. We are the ones who are most familiar with both sides, so it is up to us to translate the lessons of our past into the dreams of our future, lest we lose sight of the strength, survival, and struggles that have grounded our values and the values of those before us.
Linda Lee ’21, a Crimson Editorial editor, is a Computer Science concentrator in Eliot House.
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