How much can a parent expect his child to love him back?
A young man opened up to me about his father.
He spent years trying to understand the separation of his parents and to deal with his skepticism about his father’s love. Yet it seems, in all those years, he hardly felt his father’s dedication. “It seems he doesn’t care for me anymore,” said the young man.
I had to pause and think about what he said. I didn’t want him to think I was biased or judgmental.
It is very difficult for children to understand and accept that what they have learned about what a parent should be is contrary to what is happening in their lives. We have always wished for happiness, peace and harmony.
When my father passed away in 1980, my mother became head of the family and showed us unwavering love and dedication. She does so to this today.
She moved heaven and earth to meet our basic needs, including a proper education.
She never stops reminding me and my siblings about the importance of parental love.
Now that I have children of my own, I have raised my two sons following the same principles my parents reinforced in me.
As adults, we realize that honor and love could mean different things. Children honor their parents because they are taught to respect those older than they, and because their parents gave birth to them.
Love is different from respect. While I believe that I have done all I could for my children, I cannot demand or expect them to love me if they don’t feel like reciprocating.
This is where our choices for rearing our kids come in.
Fifteen years ago, I had to make choices for my sons and me to survive. I chose the schools that could help me guide their physical, mental and spiritual development.
But this decision entailed that I shuttled between Manila and Angeles City. I held four jobs, and for the next 10 years, I drove the distance just to be able to cover our basic needs and pay for my kids’ education.
I hardly went to social functions, and chose quality time with Mark and Joshua over anything else.
Despite the fatigue and stress, I was content and looked at everything I did as an investment—to strengthen my bond with them, hoping they would not have a hard time coping with the world in the future.
I did that for 10 years, and we have relocated to Manila since. I know I have their respect, but I do not demand the same amount of love I have given them, because I respect them, too.
They have their own minds to process what we have been through, and their own trials to deal with, so I leave it up to them how they will love me.
Parental love means more than just saying “I love you.” Actions will always speak louder than words, and constant communication will always be better than just saying those three words.
Your children can learn to respect you, but it doesn’t mean that they will love you the way you want them to, if you haven’t shown them how it is to love.
Besides the laughter and comfort, there will always be struggles and issues. But we should face them with courage, not avoid them.
No matter the situation before, it was your choice to become a parent, and you owe it to your children to give them a future to look forward to.
Children need to be loved. It validates their existence, making them feel like they belong and are valued for who they are. We all relate to it.
A young child’s brain development is significant. A child must know the right principles early on, and must learn self-esteem. That is why it is important to give the child a model to follow.
Don’t wait for them to seek that love. It is not their responsibility to teach you how to love; it’s yours.
I’ve always said that once we look at parenting as a privilege, it will cease to feel like an obligation. Bringing forth children in the world means you are responsible for their physical growth, mental development and well-being.
You are a great part of your children’s lives, and a great part of your legacy also rests on them.
I am not a perfect parent, but I can draw comfort from the fact that the sacrifices and show of love will all be worth it.
The only time you stop being a parent is when your children no longer recognize you as one.
I looked at the young man and thought about his life, the changes he had gone through, and the challenges he had overcome. The fact that he expressed his thoughts was good, because it meant he was open to other opinions and respected me enough to hear him out.
I placed my hand on his shoulder and said, “You feel hurt and confused because he is your father, and you have expectations. At any stage in life, a person may change or not. But thinking about it will only bring you down more. So many other people love you more than you know—your family, relatives and friends. But I believe your father loves you.
“If you accept people for who they are and understand the decisions they make, the load you feel will be lessened, and you will eventually learn to separate what is important and what is not in your life. Just continue to respect him, because remember, you will always have yourself to value and think of.”