I am almost 50, yet when I said goodbye to my parents to fly to Phuket for a few months, my father said urgently to my partner in his thready 81-year-old voice, “Look after my little girl for me.” Hallo Daddy, there are no more tigers on the island of Phuket.
My mother clutched my partner’s hand and said, “Please do. She’s our only daughter.” As if he didn’t know that fact! They tell him at every opportunity just how precious I am to them, despite my stroppiness. I am their only girl after all. As if it matters how many daughters they have.
I felt like crying. I think I did. In their 80s, the world is wider and further to my parents than it had once been. Back in those days, they would get on planes at the drop of a hat and fly across the world in their life of adventures and travel. Now, their world has shrunken to the boundaries of our little seaside town in southern England.
My father was not yet ready wave goodbye to me. “Look after her for us!”
“I will, Sir.” My partner was formal in his reply and I am eternally grateful for his love and respect for my parents. His late mother would be so proud of how beautiful her son can be, when it is important to be. We fight, but he knows what matters in life: parents, not angry words. I see that in the hand he often brings to his heart in a wordless gesture of promise. Strong English voice that argues vociferously with me, and I sometimes hate him, but he speaks with such gentleness to my parents. How could I not love that? My parents guide me to loving him at times when I didn’t feel like it.
Feelings of love come and go, but the choice to love remains.
My mum was in tears. “Oh, there’re so many things I want to say to you!” She said, surprisingly to my partner and not I. She blurted, “She does have a hot temper but she loves you!”
My partner hugged my mum tightly. “Don’t worry, Ma.”
“Bring her home soon!” My father called as the taxi pulled away. My heart broke a little each time I say goodbye to them for a few months.
“It’s OK, babe,” my partner said to me as I bawled into his chest. “I’ll be back in two weeks’ time to see them.”
I am reminded, once again with tears flowing down my face, that love is not just between two people in a relationship. Longtime love is more about family than just the two people. When it encompasses the whole family, it is a lot easier and more meaningful. We need the whole family standing strong in a circle to protect the love, because that’s how families are made. Not only by blood or marriage, but through the passage of time and real commitment, of caring for each other.
I strongly believe that we must love our children so very fiercely, so very kindly, so that they will know how to replicate love in adulthood, because childhood is a practice for the life to come.
On the other side of the coin, we parents must love our children so passionately and so utterly, so that our children will know never to accept anything shoddy from others. Teach children never to accept tainted love, because they are worth more than being someone’s emotional punchbag or slave.
Love is a circle: you have to love yourself in order (1) to be loved and (2) to love.
Strong words by The Progressive Parent, which I strongly agree with:
Bullies come from unhappy homes. They are scared little boys or little girls in adults’ bodies. They often wear smart clothes and have good jobs. And remember, bullying is often emotional and mental, rather than physical. Love your children so damn hard so that they will not grow up into bullies hurting others.
And here’s a beautiful song for Daddies of little girls out there, Be careful when you hold my girl.
Main photo: lavender my my mother’s front garden.
For my partner’s late mother:
Thank you for the strength and beauty of him. You loved him first, and I will continue for the rest of my days. With love always, jk.