All parents have been through this same path before.
Remember the first day you had to go back to work after a lengthy maternity/paternity leave? What about the day you had to hand your kids to their grandparents for a long-overdue vacation with them? This one’s a classic — your children’s first day in school! And then, there’s their very first pyjama party or sleep-over with friends, followed by their first field trip, their first prom, and their first date. What about when they went off to college and had to stay in a dorm? And, of course, how could you forget the day they packed their things because they had found a place of their own, conveniently closer to their workplace? But this one’s the most painful of all, I’m sure — when you walked your daughter down the aisle on her wedding day!
I could go on and on and on with this list because, as parents, we experience countless moments when we find it hard to let go. But, although the only thing we wanted to do was to keep holding on, we knew in our hearts that we had to set them free. That we couldn’t keep them sheltered forever. That we had to give them the chance to discover the world on their own.
We could only hope that all the years of love and guidance in our home will provide them with strong wings to fly and soar, and yes, with deep roots, too, to remind them that whatever happens, they have a family that they could always come back to.
The following is another letter I wrote a couple of years back for my daughter, Lala, and it has something to do with the tug of war I’ve been prattling about. 🙂
My dearest Lala,
It seems only yesterday when we brought you to the dorm that would be, for the next four years, your home away from home. Coming up with the decision to let you study in Pisay was extremely difficult for us. You were only 11 years old back then, virtually a baby. Yes, you were pretty responsible for your age, but there were a lot of things that you knew nothing about. You were too young to venture into the “outside world” on your own.
But, oftentimes, parents make tough decisions thinking and hoping that those decisions would ultimately benefit their children.
When the once-in-a-lifetime chance to have you in the company of the academically-gifted and to have you receive the privilege of a Pisay-quality education presented itself, we grabbed it with both hands. We thought that we had already braced ourselves for what was ahead, that we had everything figured out down to the littlest detail, that we had everything under control.
But still, we couldn’t help but feel a twinge of regret, and question the wisdom of our decision every time we see your empty chair at the dining table during mealtimes, or when I cook one of your many favorite dishes and you’re not there to share it with us, or when you can’t join us during ordinary family activities such as malling, eating out, watching a movie, or hearing mass, because you have to spend your weekend at the dorm to prepare for the exam week, or work on a project, or practice for a group performance. But, you know what hurts me the most, anak? It’s the feeling that you’re gradually drifting away from us. Deliberately or otherwise, I’m not sure.
Sometimes, I look at you and I want to shake you. “Who are you? What right do you have to invade my daughter’s body? Where did you take her?”
When I visit your dorm, I feel like an outsider, an intruder in that close-knit circle of friends and dorm mates that you have conveniently surrounded yourself with. When you’re home, I feel as if we’re doing a lot of tiptoeing around each other. You’re testing my mood, I’m testing yours.
I would like to think that it is just another manifestation of your adolescence. Really, I do. And I could easily believe that if I don’t have prior experiences with your two kuyas. But I do have, and so I know that that occasional awkwardness between us has less to do with your awkward stage and more to do with the fact that we’re no longer your only family. That we have to share that significant role with your dorm mates and friends in school because, if the basis of family belongingness lies solely on the length of time people spend with each other, they are much more of a family to you than we are.
And that thought makes me sad.
Now that you’re about to graduate, I am assailed by a multitude of emotions (as, I’m sure, you are too!).
I am relieved because, after four long and tedious years, you will very soon be rewarded with a high school diploma for all your hard work. I am excited because you are about to venture into yet another world, a world that is entirely new to you. I am melancholic because of all the familiar faces, places, things and routines that you’ll have to part ways with. I am ecstatic because dorms and weekend stays will already be things of the past. And, I am hopeful because we’ll be given a chance to mend whatever there is to mend in our family relationships.
The two of us could be a formidable mother-daughter duo, the best of friends, reading buddies, each other’s writing consultants and most trusted confidants. We can share everything – from clothes, shoes and accessories, to junk foods, books and movies. We could discover more things that we have in common. This has always been my dream relationship with my daughter, anak. That she would be so comfortable with me, her mother, and so secured with the knowledge that she could trust me with everything and anything.
I hope that we can make that happen.
Finally, I hope that you enjoy every single moment of your remaining three months in Pisay. High school is, after all, supposed to be the happiest and most carefree part of our lives.
May you leave a lasting and memorable imprint on the lives of all your batch mates and friends. Try to get all their contact details so that the communication lines will always remain open. Try to talk to all your teachers, past and present, and to the school staff and let them know that you appreciate them. Try to always smile at everyone, especially to the manongs and manangs at the cafeteria, the guards and the maintenance people. At some point, you may want to return to Pisay and decide to walk the same corridors, have lunch at the same caf, wave at the same guards, linger at your favorite tambayan, but the experience will never be the same as when you were still a student there.
Believe me, I know.
So, try to spread as much of yourself as possible. Try to be generous with your time. Try to be kinder and a little more compassionate. And, try to share your smile and laughter with everyone.
We love you, baby. We are very proud of you. I only pray that the Good Lord will always guide and protect you especially at times when we’re not there to do that for you.
Hugs and kisses,
PS: If you want to read my other articles on parenting, click
Don’ts For Parents of Teenaged Kids, Things Teens Wish Their Parents Realize, ASAP!, Bond Of Brothers, The Perks of Having Teens Around (Part 1 & Part 2), Being The First — A Bane Or A Boon?, and My Letter For My Daughter.