Let me start this letter with a statement that all children like you should hear from maturely wise adults like me. Anak, parenthood is NOT easy. It may be challenging, fulfilling, exhausting, rewarding, maddening, exhilarating even. But, it is never easy.
When a man and a woman decide to start a family, nothing has really prepared them for the eternal and life-changing experience that is parenthood. No amount of friendly advice could have braced them for the challenge of putting someone else’s welfare and needs before their own wants and desires. No prior experience could have warned them that their worlds are about to be turned upside down, and that their plans and priorities will be completely realigned. No idiot’s guide for first-time parents could have exactly groomed them for the great responsibility that looms before them. And, you guys, didn’t particularly come with instructional manuals. We had to do everything by instinct and common sense.
And even if we always try our best, we invariably suffer from guilt of varying degrees.
When you stumbled on your first attempt to walk, when you experienced teething discomforts, when you turned out to be a cry-baby and a maldita growing up, or even when a mosquito decided to bite you, we felt guilty. We couldn’t help it, as much as we couldn’t help getting worried about everything that involved you. What if she missed a step and fell off the stairs? What if her bike ran into that killer of a tree? What if that kid at the playground bullied her? What if her teacher terrorized her, an incident that could scar her for life? What if some guy broke her heart? So many what ifs, right? You multiply all those lifetime’s worth of guilt and worries with the three of you, and you end up with a pair of parents who are emotionally deranged, paranoid, wackos, crackbrain, nutcase, psycho, crazies. I’m sure, you get the picture.
But, if there are drawbacks to parenthood, there are also the perks that go with it.
The joy of holding you in my arms for the first time? That was heavenly! Then, there were the excitement of hearing your first word and witnessing all your other firsts; the bliss of eliciting from you a “this much” response (accompanied by your arms fully stretched sideways) in reply to our frequent question of “how much do you love us?”; the warm feeling inside after receiving a kiss or a hug that you used to give us on impulse; the thrill of seeing your broad grin when you were caught doing something naughty, and shy smile and rosy cheeks when your crush happened to pass by, or hearing your giggles and laughter when you were with your friends and cousins; the ecstasy of sharing with you all your achievements – both your small triumphs and big victories -; the happiness of watching you grow into a fine, young lady that you are now – a lady of beauty, grace and intellect -; and the relief at the sight of you still in one piece after your stay, week after week, at that torture chamber you call school.
What I’m trying to say, anak, is this: We’re not perfect. In fact, we’re far from being perfect. We have our flaws, mistakes and lapses in judgment. But, I hope that you’ll cut us some slack because everything that we do, we do only out of deep love and genuine concern for you and your well-being.
We love you, Lala. If we were to live our lives all over again and were given the freedom of choice, we would still choose to be your parents. It is our immense joy, honor and privilege. And, know that whatever path you may opt to take, you’ll find us walking beside you – either to hold your hand in comfort or for encouragement, to pat your back for a job well done, or to occasionally give you a loving slap in the back of your head for each act borne out of sheer foolishness or pigheadedness.
I always tell this to your Daddy. Whilst most people are filled with dread or apprehension over the prospect of getting old, I actually look forward to becoming a senior citizen. I’m excited to see what the three of you will turn out to be. You’re all smart that even I, your own mother, sometimes doubt whether you really are our kids or you were all accidentally switched with someone else’s babies when I gave birth to you! 😉 Seriously, though, anak, with all your inclinations coupled with the multitude of opportunities out there up for grabs, and a solid support from us, you have the world virtually at your feet. All you have to do is to decide on what you really want to be, focus on that goal, and work truly hard to achieve it. It’s as easy as counting 1, 2, 3. Right?
Finally, I would like to end this letter with a prayer. It’s actually a prayer by a certain Joyce Maynard for her daughter. I just chanced upon this on the internet, and since it perfectly mirrors my own prayers for you, well, I decided to “borrow” it for you to read.
We love you, anak.
Hugs and Kisses,
I pray that my daughter will grow into a woman who likes and values herself.
I pray that my daughter will grow into a woman who values the thoughts and opinions of people she respects, but also, one who knows her own mind, and trusts herself sufficiently that she feels able to take an unpopular stand. I hope she is always sure enough of her own value that she won’t rely exclusively on the approval of others, or define herself by who she knows or what she wears.
I pray that my daughter will recognize and respond to the feelings of others around her — especially those in need of compassion.
And I pray that she will listen, also, to her own feelings, and respond to those. So often, I think, we work so hard at raising our children — our daughters in particular — to please others that we neglect to teach them how to listen to their own feelings and meet their own needs, along the way.
We teach our daughters to be kind, and considerate, and charming. But we are not always so careful to teach them that it’s also their right to speak up when they are being unfairly treated, when they are in pain, or when their needs are being neglected. I was 35 years old before I truly learned how to say no to people or demands that didn’t feel right to me. I pray that my daughter learns that lesson sooner.
I pray that she never loses her respect and curiosity and interest in the world around her. I pray that she always views the world as rich and fascinating, that she keeps an open and questioning mind, that she never ceases to read, to learn, to ask questions, and that she never allows herself to be satisfied with the easy answer and the simple response. When she listens to the news, when she watches a television commercial, when she listens to the speech of a politician, when she reads a book, I hope she will always weigh what she takes in, against what she knows already, and what she still needs to find out.
I pray that she will always value people over things, deeds over words, and the voice of her own conscience over the consensus of the crowd.
I pray that she maintains respect and love for the natural world, and recognition of its preciousness and its fragility. And that she takes good care for her own precious self, her own irreplaceable health as part of that God-made natural world.
I pray that she will find work she loves to do — and know the joy of working hard for something she cares about. I hope she carries through her life the goal of making a contribution to the world, and that she can take pride in how she spends her days.
I pray that she remains loyal to her family, and to her friends — that she is open to new friendships, but that she never takes her old ones for granted. I hope she will be for her brothers (as I pray they will be, for her) someone they can always turn to, who knows them and loves them with unconditional love. And I hope she will always feel that there is no problem so large, no deed so terrible, that she cannot share it with her father and with me.
I hope she will someday find someone to love and value, who loves and values her in the ways she needs. I pray that she takes time to find out who she is, what she needs, and what she has to give, before she makes a lifelong commitment to someone else. And if she finds such a person, I pray that she will tend that love as carefully as any gardener tends a garden.
I can’t pray for a life without adversity — because I don’t believe that’s possible to achieve — and so I pray, instead, that whatever form of adversity she confronts, she will have the inner strength to face it.
I pray for her that she may one day have children herself, but only if it’s her choice to do so. And if it is her choice, I pray that she may one day have a daughter who brings her as much joy as mine does. Amen.