I will be blunt this week. If you are a parent or carer, or are expecting at some point in your life to be part of the first 1,000-day journey, I’m thrilled to have you among my readership. But you’re not the readers for whom I stay awake at night.
My assumption is that if you’re on the 1,000-day journey, you probably already believe that the first 1,000 days are important. My hope for my work is to get everyone else interested in children.
I’m writing this now because this week I got an email from an acquaintance who said she didn’t have time to read my articles because “what’s happening at a political level is more important” than anything child-related.
If you think that politics is more important than – or even separable from – childhood, I think that you are missing an important insight: everything starts from a person’s birth, actually before birth, from conception, and what leads to it. Reporting on childhood is just a different lens to understand how the world works.
When I say everything, I do mean everything: a child born today will become your neighbour, your employee, or maybe your president. To put this a different way: a child born today is “what’s happening at a political level”, in a myriad of ways.
By covering the first 1,000 days I want to explore the foundational, and not the sensational – the way we do at The Correspondent.
Let me give you an example. There are many infants and pregnant mothers who try to cross the Mediterranean to find refuge in Europe. Thousands more flee Syria, Venezuela, Myanmar or El Salvador, for life in makeshift camps in Turkey or Colombia, where they give birth in precarious conditions.
Countless news reports focus on the desperate lives of these migrants, suggesting there is little hope for those children.
In my reporting, I try to understand the options that these mothers have. What a pregnancy may mean for them, how much those children may be affected by these experiences, and how those early moments in childhood may shape the way they approach the rest of their lives and everyone they come across. I want to stress a basic idea: no matter how harsh a person’s environment is, the love and protection of parents and carers can actually shield children from adversity.
And once we let go of the hopelessness that is hardwired into the mainstream news narrative, we can focus on the real issue at stake: inequality.
I write about the first 1,000 days, and about the first moments of life, because inequality makes me angry.
The other night I was bathing my son when he slipped a little in the water, his head went under, and he grabbed me very tightly. There was hardly any water in the bathtub. Lorenzo wasn’t at risk at all, not for one second, but I couldn’t get out of my mind the feeling of how strongly he had grasped me.
Then I thought of the impotence of a mother on a boat sinking in the Mediterranean. A poem by British-Somali writer Warsan Shire, Home (which OluTimehin Adegbeye shared last week), came back to my mind:
you have to understand,
no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land.
If you think I’m wasting your time by putting the spotlight on children, I beg to differ. And I hope you’ll join me on this journey to understand the perspectives that we often miss.
Until next week,
P.S. Thank you to the members who showed up at the screening of Born in Evin in Amsterdam on Sunday: what a moving experience! For those of you who weren’t there, more on this next week. Stay tuned!
This article first appeared in The Correspondent, the member-funded platform that shut down on 1 January 2021.