We’re turning one year old tomorrow on 30 September!
My journey as your First 1,000 Days correspondent started out way before The Correspondent was even a reality. For years, I dreamed about writing about how unequal our life is from the very start, and even before we’re conceived. I thought of why we don’t listen to kids enough, and why we don’t play like they do.
When I found the energy to conjure up an application form to get this job, I had no idea that my dream could become real!
So, when last September, the whole team of The Correspondent met in real life, we shared a lot of hugs, and laughs, and some moments of tension too. (In my case: imagine telling a group of people you’ve just met how mortified you were when at age 10 your entire class laughed in your face because you bled through your skirt at school during one of those first unmanageable periods you got.)
Since then, over this past year, we’ve been meeting twice a week over Zoom. I’ve often cried with laughter because of how funny, deep and smart these people are.
Tomorrow, to celebrate our birthday, we’re holding a virtual event! I’ll be dialling in from Lagonisi, in Greece, and my colleagues will join me from Lagos, New Delhi, Cairo and St. Paul.
We can talk about climate, better politics, othering, sanity and the first 1,000 days, but you can also ask about how we manage to work remotely and what our favourite dishes are!
I really hope you can make some time to be there tomorrow. You can ask us anything, really! Please sign up here.
Early trauma is not a sentence
This anniversary is making me reminisce about those first few days in which I was trying to explain why we should think of children when we look at the world.
The bottom line is: we were all once children, and that’s where everything starts, doesn’t it? That’s when we learn how to speak, how to listen, how to walk and play, and how to exist in relation to others.
But even though I spend my days thinking and writing about children, I had never thought about the childhood of a man whose policies and behaviour I abhor, one of the most powerful men on earth.
One day Mark Kramer, a talented journalist who’s become a friend thanks to Zoom, sent me a copy of a newly-released book: Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man.
I devoured the book, and then something clicked: are we facing the case of a neglected child who turned into a neglectful president?
This is why I wrote this story. Check it out, especially if you’re due to vote in the upcoming US elections.
Understanding our childhood is important
We were all children once. We were all once helpless, needing our carers’ love, touch and attention to develop our brains and emotions.
When I think about the importance of the first 1,000 days in our development, and take that perspective to look at other human beings, and myself, I get a different sense of what we’re like. It’s as if we went from flat 2D paper dolls to moving 3D animations.
The effect can be so powerful that I even – if briefly – may feel empathy for a man like Donald J Trump.
While understanding and feeling empathy may be positive steps, understanding one’s childhood is by no means an excuse for a person’s life. Because no childhood experience equals a clear outcome in the future.
Mina, a member of The Correspondent, mentioned that the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had a violent and aggressive father. Other members spoke of the Koch brothers and even of Hitler’s upbringing.
So, we can think of a lot of men with difficult childhoods. But what about the women? Are we thinking about their upbringing even less? I’m curious to hear your thoughts.
Breaking the cycle
Talking about women’s upbringing, I saw a fascinating TV programme that just won an Emmy award.
Black Women Own The Conversation: Motherhood featured 100 women who came together to talk about how we raise our children. The show featured California’s Surgeon General Nadine Burke Harris, who’s done a lot of work and research on the issue of childhood trauma.
In a very moving moment of the show, a woman who was born in a correctional facility spoke of how difficult it was for her to become a mother. Burke Harris responded to her saying that anyone can break the intergenerational cycle of trauma if we ask ourselves: “What happened to me?”
“Selfcare is not selfish,” she said.
This reminded me that childhood trauma is not a sentence. It’s something that we discussed below my piece on Trump’s childhood.
Thank you, members of The Correspondent
This piece I wrote looked very different when I sent it to Stephen Boos, a member of The Correspondent who has helped me with my work before. He is a paediatrician in the United States and focuses on child abuse. When he first introduced himself to me a year ago below my very first article, I had no idea that we would correspond so much throughout the year.
This is one of the things we do, thanks to you members.
Before I go …
This week we marked International Safe Abortion Day and we’ve been having an insightful conversation with some very special guests from five continents. We will be writing up a summary, but in the meantime, I’ve created a Twitter thread with some highlights.
I will leave you with something that journalist Megan Clement said: “It’s also important to remember our history. A few decades ago, women in Sweden often travelled to Poland to get abortions because it was illegal at home and legal behind the Iron Curtain. Now it’s the other way round. This reminds me how things can change on issues like this which are often considered intractable.”
See you tomorrow?! (Remember to sign up here!)
This article first appeared in The Correspondent, the member-funded platform that shut down on 1 January 2021.