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Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

Archive for December 14th, 2008

Parents are forever 10

Posted on December 14, 2008 by jimparedes

Philippine Star
HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes Updated December 14, 2008 12:00 AM
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I never experienced having a decent conversation with my father. Ever. That’s because he died at age 41 when I was only six years old. I’ve often wondered about him and what he was like. Sometimes I imagine that he must have put me on his lap a few times and hugged me or tried to talk to me, a kid who was clueless about how much he loved me.

This is one of the things I missed, being the ninth of 10 children to a father who died early. And because I never had it, I try to make up for it by consciously trying to be the father I needed to my kids when I can. In my work, I travel a lot so when I am at home, I try to insinuate myself into the lives of my kids through conversation, or by just being around and accessible, half-waiting for an opportunity to connect with them somehow.

It is not always easy. Many times, they do not want you around or to be too available. As they grow up, they want distance and, depending on the phase they are in, it can be a short distance or quite a long one. I guess the constant presence of parents is seen as some sort of encroachment on their desire for independence as they grow up.

I relish the years when they were younger, when I actually enjoyed their dependence on me for homework and other academic stuff they needed help with. I also remember fondly our long conversations at the dinner table about anything and everything. It was so reassuring and wonderful to listen to them talk because not only did we marvel at how they had grown, but it allowed Lydia and me a glimpse into their unfolding lives. It was a way of knowing where they were at. It was also an opportunity for us to give our two cents’ worth of advice on a few things.

We still have these moments occasionally, but as I get older, I feel they are never enough. I often wish I could still put them on my lap and just hug them, but I guess that is simply not realistic anymore.

Today, I told my son that I wanted to spend this weekend with him by taking him to Davao for some scuba diving. He said, apologetically, that he had plans to go out of town with his friends. He must have noticed my slight disappointment when I told him that, as we get older, there will be less and less time for such things.

Even if I am disappointed, I actually understand where he is coming from since I was young once. I remember how I felt no urgency to grab any opportunity to be with my mother, expecting that she would always be around. I guess it just doesn’t seem real to one so young: the notion that time does creep up and opportunities do pass by and will never return.

I was in my late 30s when I began to feel that there might not be much time left to spend with my aging mother. It was only then that I found more occasions to see her for the opportunity — and levitra premature ejaculation pleasure — of just sitting and talking with her.

Parents need to make a conscious effort to accept that our children become less and less “our own” as they grow up and discover themselves. They do have to come into their own and outgrow us. And painful as it feels at first, growing up is actually one of the best compliments our children can give us.

And as they grow up, there is a reversal of roles. Where we once protected them when they were kids, as adults, they are now our protectors. When my mom was alive, I remember changing the TV channel from the sexually charged images of MTV to something more “benign” when she would visit me at home. Our kids do the same to us now. Where once, we shielded them from the craziness of the world, now they hide these from us or disguise the meanings of things we do not readily understand about their world so as not to upset us.

From our children’s point of view, our appreciation of their maturity rate is often belated. They feel that we underestimate their capabilities to make their own decisions. From our point of view as parents, it will always be difficult to see them as ever “arriving” fully. We still feel the need to give advice even when they don’t ask for it. But can we really help it otherwise? It took a lot of effort for us to become parents. In many ways, we will never outlive the role.

Often, I tell my kids, especially when things turn out as I predicted in their lives, that “Sometimes, you have to consider that your father may be right.” It is a way of reminding them of the arrogance of youth that every generation is contaminated with, just as my generation had its bravado and chutzpah.

“Every generation thinks it has the answers, and every generation is humbled by nature,” the scientist Philip Lubin, correctly observed. In moments like these, I feel a validation and quietly bask in their grudging respect.

I tell friends who are having kids for the first time that from the time their kids are born, there will never be a day in their lives when they (parents) will not think and worry about them. Even now that most of my kids are fully grown up, I still think about them many times a day and sometimes I find something to worry about. My wife Lydia probably does this 10 times more than I do. When I see something wrong with their attitude, I feel a panic as I project into the future the consequences that it could result in. I literally feel like “coming on strong” in their lives again and try to backtrack and “correct” them.

But more and more, I restrain myself and trust in the wisdom that, more than my admonitions, life itself will be the better teacher.

I have met parents who practically “disowned” their children for things they did, like getting pregnant outside of marriage, only to bond with them in ever-greater ways when the child was born. Sometimes I wonder if it is because they suddenly awakened to the full reality that their children have become just like them — parents! Or is it because by having to raise a child, they see an opportunity for their kids to learn for themselves things that their parents tried to teach them but failed?

According to American writer Lewis Mumford, “Every generation revolts against its fathers and makes friends with its grandfathers.” This is so true. It is a lot easier and less stressful to shower unconditional love on a grandchild because we are no longer burdened by parental responsibility. And blessed is the grandchild because she bridges the gaps in the difficult relationship between her caring grandparents and her rebellious parent.

I never thought I’d ever say this, especially when I recall its most difficult moments, but I do miss parenting. Just as it is the future of our children to become adults and perhaps parents themselves, what do parents metamorphose into when their children are grown?

A Hebrew proverb goes: “Whoever teaches his son teaches not alone his son but also his son’s son, and so on to the end of generations.” Like our parents, and their parents before them, we will simply go on being parents even past our lifetimes. What has been started will never end. That is, somehow, a comforting thought.

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