No Time to Worry 

Giant salamanders, political engagement and newborns

The last time I sat down to fill this space I was angry and grief-stricken over the Jan. 7 mass murder of journalists and police at the satirical French newspaper Charlie Hebdo. After I finished that Editor's Note and went home to my 9-months-pregnant wife and our almost-3-year-old son, I despaired at the world we were bringing our second child into.

As is the case with life, it didn't leave me much time for despair. Our second child arrived Thursday, Jan. 8: an 8-pound, 8-ounce girl we named Eleanor. Of course, she is perfect. She sleeps well (mostly), grunts like a slumbering little bear and looks exactly like her lovely mother.

I'd hate to think that the Charlie Hebdo massacre and the birth of my daughter will be forever connected in my mind; for now, though, I'll take it as a challenge to raise her into the kind of person who glories in self expression and resists fundamentalism. Reading the underreported news of this month's Boko Haram attacks, which have left hundreds (maybe thousands) dead in Nigeria and Cameroon, I want my daughter to grow into someone who pays attention to the struggles of people around the world and helps as she can. While chilled by reports that human activity has pushed the earth past four of nine "planetary boundaries" that make it a "safe operating space" for our species, I pray (in my way) that she contributes to the solutions, rather than the problems.

Closer to home, watching 14-year-old Boise eighth-grader Ilah Hickman try and fail for the fifth year to persuade lawmakers to designate the Idaho Giant Salamander as the state's official amphibian, I hope my daughter is similarly inspired by curiosity and brave enough to advance her cause—even (maybe especially) in the face of the kind of ideology-driven mindlessness that too often turns the Idaho Legislature into a place where good ideas go to die and bad ones become law.

There are many things that terrify me about raising kids in 21st century Idaho, including quality education, a living wage and affordable health care, but I have a feeling that my kids are going to be tough characters. Judging by their sleep patterns, neither they nor their mother and I will have much time for terror. Or despair.

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