Having a child is an amazing and life changing experience, that goes without saying. From day one you are suddenly impacted by this completely dependent being and this overwhelming feeling of extreme responsibility none like you’ve ever known or felt before takes hold of you. Caring for Valentino in those first months were the most incredible, knowing that you were one hundred percent needed at all times, Every minute of every day was filled with the duties of caring for and nurturing this newborn individual and in the constant caring you are shaping and molding the next being of full potential. But with each quickly passing day there is this constant encouragement towards their own independence. From lying there like a bump to rolling over, pushing up, then sitting up and eventually crawling. Each milestone reached was (and still is) celebrated with a ridiculous exuberant frenzy, and a ticker tape parade unleashed for every first that comes along, his first clap, his first utterance and of course his first step. With each first there is also much relief, but that’s another post.
So here we are now, my little Tino is not so little anymore. He is two years and nine months old and what was once an entirely dependent being is blossoming into an independent individual and that is overwhelming me. I look at him and pinch myself thinking “what just happened here?” Aside from things like being potty trained or feeding himself, he now dresses himself, puts his own shoes on, counts to twenty, says his ABC’s, chooses his own music, toys and games to play, and is beginning to voice his preferences for dinner. “Tonight I would like to eat, orange noodles (spaghetti), seaweed, and an orange,” he says in a matter of a fact tone. I took the photo (at the top of this blog) of Tino one week ago. When I look at the photo it is more clear to me what Tino will look like as a teenager, more so know than a year ago. With each day I realize that this growing independence, while completely typical and healthy, is making me completely breathless. I am aware that my job is to raise him up so that he can leave the nest and fulfill his own destiny. Of course I always knew this in theory, but somehow I did not expect it so soon, as far as I’m concerned I should still be cradling him in my arms with his clench of dependence. Let’s not start analyzing my need to be needed and move on shall we…
I can remember my own father instilling independence in me through childhood. “You’re a big boy now, you need to do this on your own, (or by yourself)” was the jist of it. He called this growing up. He constantly reminded my that was not going to be around forever, and each day a new responsibility was placed on me to achieve on my own. “I won’t always be there to do these things for you” he would command. By 10 years old he had taught me to cook, clean and care for myself. I think this was an critical age for him because when he was 10 he was fleeing China by himself and from that moment was completely independent of his family and everything he had known up till that time. Arriving to Hawaii on a boat with strangers in a strange land and having to fend for himself and start his new life may have influenced his value of independence. It’s not an absurd thought from someone who had endured fleeing from a country in exile, surviving two wars, and a depression among many other things. The idea of me being dependent on him was not a possibility.
My father had me later in life so I also grew up with the looming thought that he could die at any time , then what would I do? He would literally say to me, ” Son, I am old, if I die you must take care of yourself”. So I always had the idea that my father could die any minute, it was a daunting thought to carry with me. I remember walking into his room as a child when he would be asleep, if he wasn’t snoring my first thought would always be, was he dead? Well my father did not die until I was 27 by then I had been completely independent and living on my own for a decade.. While I find myself encouraging similar independence for my own son it is counter balanced with the fact that I don’t ever want to see him grow up and grow away from me. Yet with each passing day, he accomplishes something new and amazing and it’s just on step further from his dependence on us as parents. It’s an odd mix of celebration and pain.
Every day I am in consideration of families who we server here at Imua Family Services. Parents who do not know if their children will ever reach the next critical milestone nor if their children will ever fully know independence. Our goal is to help every child reach their full potential, what that looks like is unique for each child. Today we celebrate independence, freedom, liberty and equality for all. In our celebration of Independence Day let us take some time to consider those who are still and may forever be dependent on us as a community for their everyday needs and survival. If you are truly independent consider yourself blessed. But know in your deepest of hearts that none of us really live in independence we all do need each other, we need to live in community.