“Like all parents, we want you to grow up in a world better than ours today,” Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan wrote to their newborn daughter Max in a personal letter posted on Facebook. The letter goes on to detail their aspirations to eradicate disease and significantly reduce inequality, and contribute $45 billion to the effort.
After being blown away by the magnitude of the Chan-Zuckerberg’s gesture and the upsetting/inspiring reality that individuals are increasingly doing what governments used to, I thought back to when I had my first daughter, and what we hoped for her.
It was more local and certainly a lot less public.
First, we wanted to make it through the night with her breathing. Then, we wanted to be magically blessed with knowing-how-to-be-a-parent powers. After some of the panic subsided, we thought about what we hoped for her: health and happiness, kindness, courage and wisdom. Since then, we have had a steady discussion of the small and large things that will get her—and now her sister—there.
Like all parents, Mark and Priscilla will also have a million of these conversations, and they will look nothing like their manifesto.
As impressive as it is to use the opportunity of your daughter’s birth to articulate such amazing goals, the two are distinctive and separate events. One involves improving the lot of humanity, writing a plan for it, and committing the resources. The other is the very personal experience of welcoming your daughter to this planet and then helping her, every day, to manage her experience.
Connecting the two feels odd, even when it is coming from a millennial founder of the world’s largest over-sharing platform.
Yet, however strange the letter may feel, if parenting is leading by example, the example they just set is probably about as good as it gets.
And by now, they have probably discovered that parenting is an intensely private affair. For all the pictures we might share on Facebook, and Gchats we have about the preschools and BPA-free bottles, most of what happens every day is not share-worthy. Much of what happens remains thankfully undocumented.
Somewhere offline, Max will learn to be Max, not just the kid whose parents gave $45 billion away the day she was born (which begs the question of what they will do if they have another kid). Max will have to make and lose friends, have her heart broken and figure out her own formula for meaning and success. Mark and Pricilla will have a million conversations about food and sleep and schools and friends, and, because they are who they are, how to eradicate disease and improve opportunities for everyone because “all lives matter.”
Some of that will be posted on Facebook. Most of it will not.