Raising children: it’s not for the faint of heart.
To me, the most agonizing of parents’ responsibilities to their kids are not the steady string of expenses for food and education, or the seraphic patience one needs to inculcate values into their young lives, even the daily sacrifices where time and attention are always desperately required, no, demanded while moving mountains to make ends meet.
The most difficult is the realization that all I’ve given up in order to raise my kids—time for myself and other things, attention and resources, and a hell of a lot of my own right, as a parent, to be obeyed because of such sacrifices—is for this one end only: that sooner than I can say “goodbye,” they will all have to think and decide for themselves on how to live their lives.
To live their own lives while in pursuit of their own happiness: that is the goal.
That I must, eventually, give them up freely and without the slightest hesitation to a world where hostile people lie in wait for them along dank, dark corners, where the powerful would consider them as victims of their lusts, where fraud and lies are mixed with the truth, is the meanest and most brutal sacrifice a loving, doting parent must be willing to face and accept.
The world at large might not be the flower garden fairy tales thought it would be, thus it must be clear to children what they will soon be facing.
To begin the training, I taught my children early on the benefits of reading. Novels, poems, essays, polemical pieces, criticism, science, politics: you name it, they’ve read it. With the reading came my close guidance.
As a journalist, I refused to give them a candy-coated vision of the world. I taught them what the world is like, its unchallenged beauty and perils, and how, as individuals and as a people, they should be able to surmount the odds.
A child trained in the rubric of letters is a child fully equipped for his greatest battle of all: the battle against lies.
I also encouraged them to speak their minds, to openly and without fear challenge my own ideas by pitting theirs against mine. To this very day, no child of mine fears me. They take me on. If they can boldly challenge my own thoughts—with the intelligence required to back it up—then they can challenge anyone.
Facing this world without the ability to critically think, to possess the intellectual, emotional, and psychological faculties required to survive the onslaught of lies is no different from being murdered in our streets.
For what are life and success if, with one easy tug, any and all can drag my children by the nose, compel them to believe ideas too far removed from what is good and what is real?
I would consider myself as an utter failure as a parent if and when this becomes true in my children’s lives.
I understand the fear of some parents when children get mixed up in politics. The dangers are real. Too real in this day and age, in fact, that children are being murdered in the streets even prior to the students’ protest rallies.
But must parents stop their children from airing their grievance against a government hell bent on making life miserable for them?
I will not dare speak for other parents. But if you will ask me, this is my answer: What I will first do is have a long talk with my kids, and make them realize that every decision has its consequences.
Some consequences can be mended; others, final. I will at the same time assure them that while they all have to stand by their decisions, I will always be there to help them should the need arise.
The one thing I will not do is stop them from speaking their minds and making difficult decisions, from pursuing what they think would be beneficial for their own future despite the troubles it may cost me and the family.
Ranting about the litany of sacrifices I have done for them offers no solution to their troubles. They must be heard. If children feel we have failed them in this, they will go out and seek advice somewhere else, and by that I mean it will not be all good. Their future, I have to finally admit, is not the same as mine.
No matter how large a shadow they think I cast, somewhere along the path, they must leave it in order to cast their own.
Raising children is hard enough as it is. Raising children who are dead serious about their future lives is even worse. But then tell me, who, as your children, would you rather have?
Because somewhere along the journey to maturity, we must not only give our children our fullest confidence, but likewise we must trust the training and wisdom we’ve sacrificed so much to give them.
I hate to say this, but our distrust speaks a lot about the time we’ve spent—or the lack of it—with our kids.
Parents cannot always be there for their children. In the course of living our lives, there will always come a time when one has to make sudden turns. A child equipped early on to make such turns, no matter the cost to himself, herself or their parents, is a child prepared for the inevitable.
Isn’t that what we really want as parents? For our young ones to prepare themselves to live their own lives? What did parents think they were getting into when they decided to have kids?
Never forget that in the struggle to be free, it is the most worthwhile of all that parents can offer to one day treat their children as equals. G