I was searching through my files among the sea of folders on my computer when I came across “Letter to Lara 022707.” Without really thinking, I pointed my arrow at it and clicked. The screen opened to a letter I had written when my daughter was going for one final retreat with her graduating class in high school. That was almost eight years ago.
A few explanations may be necessary:
1. I call her, “anak.” It literally means “my child” in Tagalog. We all know what gets lost in translations. The word identifies her as my offspring. But with the term comes the endearment, the welling up of parental pride and joy. More like “mon enfant + ma cherie + mon coeur” all combined. Or, “leibchen + mien kind,” together in one. Of course, there are the nuances with the intonation of the verbalized addressing.
2. The mixer and the kitchen is a running joke, more a testament to my O-C tendencies to nitpick in the kitchen. (I am hoping this will not progress to pathological levels as I get older!). A Hobart mixer is a commercial type of food mixer, heavy-duty, industrial, no-nonsense, non-prissy.
3. The smelling kisses. When she was a toddler, I used to tell her how my grandmother used to hug me in the morning when I greeted her at breakfast. She would scoop me up in her arms and onto her lap. Then she would plant a kiss on each of my cheeks. Well, more at the angle of my neck, really. But her kisses we’re always accompanied by sharp inhalations on each side. I asked her why she did that. She looked at me fondly and said that older people like the baby scent all the time. Over the years, as I became a proud aunt, godparent, adopted auntie, and eventually a parent, I found myself replicating the pucker to the cheeks together with the sharp drawing in of milk breath and that sweet natural baby fragrance. I have become my grandmother!
I read what I had written. It still resonates, more so when she graduated from college in 2011. More so now as she prepares to embark on yet another chapter in her life.
I have friends and relatives who, in spite of their children’s ages, still feel the need to tell them what to do, how to live their lives, who they should choose to be with. Expressions like “Father knows best. Mother knows best.” These can be double-edged swords. Do we really always know what’s best? And for who? Our children? Or ourselves?
Is it a desperate cling to a bygone era in their lives when their word was sacred and they were the center of their child’s universe? Is it really all in the name of true parental love and caring? Or is it a self-serving golden handcuff? Something akin to, “I know what’s good for you. You don’t know what’s good for you. So you have to listen and heed my decisions forever.” It’s amazing how this fallacy is played not just in a nuclear family but in our society in general.
Maybe we should learn from the mother bird who dutifully feeds her chicks day in and day out. She teaches them to spread their wings and flap madly until they are airborne. Then she lets them go to fend for themselves in whatever adventure that awaits them.