“Take care.” I keep saying this to all my dear ones. Time and time again. This basically means, “Dear, I really care for you… I do not want any unpleasant things to happen to you.”
So much is evident. However, what is not evident is the silent under current of this statement: “Dear, if any unpleasant things happen to you, I will not be able to handle it!”
I understand this as I have a teenager son. My fears are: He lives in a hostel, away from home. He may get some negative influences from undesirable friends… drugs, drinks, smoking, girls and all sorts of habits can affect my son’s life. Yes, these are just thoughts and they do cross my mind, frequently. But then, what saves me from getting neurotic about such thoughts is that I look back at my own days. “Have I not survived?” I ask. “Were my parents not worried the way I do now?” I ask. “Have I not tried to inculcate some strong values in my son?” I ask. “Doesn’t he have the sense of responsibility…and a sense of shame?” I ask.
As a parent, I am able to understand this phenomenon clearly. My reaction and behavior stem from my own fears and insecurities. Hence, time and again, I remind myself that - it is not about whether my son will be able to handle himself should any unpleasant things happen to him. Rather, it is about me: whether I will be able to handle myself should such things happen to my son.
I feel much relaxed.
If I had a daughter, I would have had unique set of insecurities and fears. Again, the truth would remain same: Should any unpleasant things happen to my young daughter, will I be able to handle myself?
We do not confess, it is so. We pretend that we care for our dear ones – our sons, daughters and spouses – and keep wishing them, “Take care.” And, we silently suffer from our insecurities and fears.
What would I have done, if my parents reacted so? I am no different. As a young man, I would have failed to understand them and would have surely yelled back at them, “Why do you think so negative about me?” I know, I would have argued, sulked, banged the doors… and, in the end, done exactly what I deeply felt right. I would have failed to empathize with my parents… That, they have their fears and insecurities and it is important for them to voice them the way they do. I would have not realized that I could help them by being a little extra sensitive to their feelings, by being more vocal about my assurances to them.
I am able to think so now, because I have a teenager son… and, I know what I deeply fear every time I tell him, “Son, take care.” Or, every time I go on ‘preaching’ him in spite of his resistance. One word from my son, “Dad, I understand how much you love me and care for me. But, dad, I will take care of myself… and I won’t let you down.” Yes, one sincere promise would work magic, make me melt… and I would help me give a big sigh of relief. In fact, I keep reminding my son about my need to hear such things from him. I also know, many parents find it difficult to be so vulnerable before their own children, more so, when the children are young.
But, to love means, to be vulnerable. We need to express our needs, we need to express our fears… we need to promise, assure, commit, sacrifice and even bleed, at times. Love means, I am human… as you too are. Love means – I know I can live with out you… but, living with you would make my life more meaningful, more worthwhile. Love, therefore, means I am scared... I do not know, if I will be able to handle myself if some unpleasant things happen to you… And, I want to tell you, how I feel.
I write this as a father of a young son. I also write this as a young son who has grown up to be a father… Both. Love is a universal thirst… and fear, too, is a universal cloud of our hearts. As a father, I want my young son to help me handle my insecurities about him. As a father, I also assure him my presence all along his growing-up.
Kahlil Gibran did say this:
“Your Children are not your children…
They are Life’s longing for itself.
They come THROUGH you…
But, they do not BELONG to you…”
It is beautiful. But, then, my son is MY son. Isn’t he?
Son, I love you. Please tell you do, too.
Let us, now, TAKE CHARGE!