(Something I wrote back in the year 2000... an exaggerated anxiety over a very trivial matter. Read on.)
Do you know how a child feels when he let go of a balloon that he loves so much? Or how it feels when you set a bird free after you took care of it in its cage for so many years? Or letting your fish swim in the ocean after it has swam in your aquarium for so long?
That’s how I felt when I left my son this morning in school to join his classmates and teachers on their field... his FIRST field trip.
Of course, you might say that the metaphor wasn’t right because balloons, fishes and birds don’t come back, but my son will surely go home after the trip. Nonetheless, the feeling of fear and anxiety doesn’t differ... perhaps more intense.
Actually, this feeling isn’t really new to me. I felt the same way the first day I left my boy in school. I was able to survive that. What would make a difference now? I don’t know, but as I was walking away this morning, frequently looking back, I can’t help but worry.
Looking at him... so young... small... and fragile. After all, he is only eight years old, in the company of absolute strangers! Well, at least they are strangers to me.
The irony of it all is that my son doesn’t show any signs of fear or anxiety.
He looks so happy talking to his friends, mixing, blending, and losing himself in the crowd without even looking to check if I’m still there.
Maybe that that’s what I fear... to realize that my son can already take care of himself.
Ralph Emerson gave me my first taste of fatherhood. Everything that I know about being a father, I owe it all to him.
Nobody taught me better than my son, as I walk through life with him, I learn new things everyday. It’s like seeing it all again for the first time... through the eyes of a child.
And now, he is teaching me again another new thing – that of letting go... too soon.
Just when I thought that I was ready for anything that life can give me, now this. I wasn’t prepared for this. I don’t think I ever will be. Again, it’s too soon.
Like what they always say, being a father is a tough job. You got to work hard to be able to provide your children all their needs. You got to be tough to be able to discipline them. You have to teach them to be good and God-fearing citizens. You have to guide them so that they won’t stray in the wrong direction. You have to be tough in times of troubles for them to feel secure. And you got to be good to serve as a role model for them.
Well, guess what? Those were the easy parts!
You have to be tough to be able to let go. To be distant when you’re not needed to be around... to accept the fact that your child has grown up.
Perhaps, the father needs the son more than the son needs the father.
- For through the son, the father develops a sense of confidence and a feeling of security.
- For through the son, the father has someone who sincerely looks up to him.
- Through the son, the father has enough motivation that can push him through the hardest of times.
- And only through the son, a father can be one.
Now that my son has a taste of freedom, he may like it. He may develop enough self-confidence... he may discover that he can take care of himself.
When that happens, does that mean that I’m through? Am I done being a father?
See? I told you. Nothing can make a father more secure than a child he can be a father to.
You can teach your child lots of things. He may easily grasp some things, while he may have difficulty learning other things. But I think the hardest thing to teach is independence. Because for a child to be independent, you got to let him be independent!
That means no breathing over his shoulders, no checking every five or ten minutes and looking back when you walk away.
It means you got let go. Loosen your grip, cut those imaginary strings and break those invisible boundaries. You got to let go.
For your child to be independent, you also have to be independent from your child. Trust that you have taught him enough... that you have established a foundation strong enough that could carry your child through life.
Step back and let go.
As I am filled with anxiety and worries about my son going on field trip, I am also excited in meeting him tonight back home from his field trip... his first field trip.
Seeing through his eyes all the things that he has seen and I’ll listen to him patiently as he tells me, perhaps with enthusiasm, all the places that he has been, all the things that they did, and everything that he learned today... without me.
Written on September 15, 2000
As of the date of this posting, Ralph has already graduated from college. In less than a week, he'll be leaving our home to stay in Manila (approx. 80 kms from us) to attend a review class for his upcoming CPA board exam in October 2013. Once again, I am feeling the same anxiety on letting go. I hope he will be safe while he is away from us.
UPDATE: DECEMBER 1, 2013
Ralph passed the CPA Board Exam and is now a licensed professional. He left home to stay in Makati, 85 kms. (approx.) from us, to start his professional life working in one of the biggest auditing company in the Philippines. May the Lord always guide and protect him.