Sun.Star Davao - - OPINION - Arnold Van Vugt

ONCE we be­come par­ents, there is no need ever to won­der about where our pri­or­i­ties lie. All par­ents, of what­ever species, raise their off­spring with one cen­tral am­bi­tion: to make them in­de­pen­dent.

We grow them to let them go; it is the crux of the mat­ter. But let­ting them go is bitter-sweet, be­cause part of us goes with them. They are the pil­lar of our life’s work; once we be­come par­ents, there is no need ever again to won­der about where our pri­or­i­ties lie.

Par­ent­ing grounds us; it helps us de­ter­mine in the busy­ness of our “big”, grown-up lives what only mat­ters. It turns the world on its head, be­cause it leads us to re­al­ize that it is in the small things that the big­gest re­al­i­ties lie.

Of course there are eco­nomic re­al­i­ties, and there is a lux­ury to hav­ing the time to con­cen­trate fully on the needs of small chil­dren: but it is a lux­ury ev­ery par­ent should have, not an add-on for the priv­i­leged.

So we give them our all, and when they go there is a child-sized whole inside us that noth­ing else seems quite ad­e­quate to fill (al­though I am hope­ful that be­ing a grand­par­ent, when that even­tu­ally hap­pens, could go some way to plug­ging the gab). But at this point, it seems to me, our re­spon­si­bil­ity shifts from ex­ist­ing with them at the cen­tre of our lives to ex­ist­ing with­out them at its cen­tre; to be­ing in­de­pen­dent enough our­selves to sur­vive with­out them.

Like so much in par­ent­ing, it is a del­i­cate bal­ance: our chil­dren need to know that are missed, be­cause that is the re­as­sur­ance that they con­tinue to be loved, and con­tinue to have an an­chor in our home. But they must not feel so missed that our sad­ness at their ab­sence is a bur­den: we need to let them go with light­ness in their hearts, not with weights tied to their feet.

I al­ways knew, when I got a daugh­ter my­self, that noth­ing in my life would sur­pass the joy of those times and noth­ing I will ever do, will be as won­der­ful.

A friend I once told this to said it sounded un­bear­ably sad; I feel the op­po­site, that it is a source of im­mense hap­pi­ness to know I had that time, and that I lived it know­ing how vi­tal it was. Far from re­duc­ing my ex­pec­ta­tions for the rest of my life, it raises the bar.

I have ex­pe­ri­enced the best life has to of­fer, and I will go on hop­ing to have ex­pe­ri­ences that come as close as pos­si­ble, for as long as I pos­si­bly can into the fu­ture. ***** For your com­ment email: nolvan­

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