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Falling into the love trap


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I remember reading about a man who was watching a butterfly struggle out of its cocoon. He pitied the straining creature so he did what every Good Samaritan would do… he helped it out to ease its passage from the dark confines of the cocoon into the bright new world that awaits it.

I guess that we all know what happened next. The butterfly’s wings became crippled because of the man’s kindly efforts. Unbeknownst to him, the poor creature had to go through that painful process. The butterfly needed to struggle out of the cocoon so it could emerge whole and capable of flight. The article went on to explain how this story is an analogy of every parent’s primordial instinct to shield their children from every hardship that would come their way. There is no argument against that.

As a matter of fact, this very instinct is what guarantees the survival of our race. But as we all know, too much of anything is not always a good thing. As in the case of the man and the butterfly, a loving parent wanting to show his love through every means possible, including easing the way for his child and doing everything he could to spare his little one from going through the same struggles and difficulties he grew up with, might be doing his own child a great disservice.

For he may not know it yet, but he might be raising a spineless individual, one who, not so unlike the flightless butterfly, is incapable of standing on his own two feet.

I read this article from the Readers’ Digest when I was in college, a time in my life when it felt as if things could not get any worse. To put it simply, life was very, very hard. From a relatively privileged childhood where everything got done for me by other people, I suddenly found myself living in Manila in a cramped rented room, and sharing a dilapidated house with three other families. Money was very scarce. Every food on the table was a result of my father’s mighty struggle for survival. And on those times when there were none, we would walk over to a nearby used clothing store and sell off our own clothes. Then we’d have rice to cook.

The circumstances surrounding my life may have been the reason why I never forgot the butterfly’s story, and why I made the resolve to learn its lesson: Don’t fall into the parental love trap.

The word “trap” is always bad, and so it is when, loving parents as we are, we want to do everything for, and give everything to our children to make their lives as easy and as struggle-free as we could make it.

And how does this translate into my being a mother? Of course, like every doting parent out there, I would never wish the life I had on my only child. But I keep reminding myself that that very life that I pray she would never get a taste of, was the very same life that moulded me into the kind of person I am now.

I am a survivor. I came out of it a much stronger person. Circumstances forced me to learn early on that our parents cannot provide for all our needs all the time…that we cannot, and should not expect other people to take care of the same for us…that later in life, when we grow up, we will have to work hard for all our needs and wants.

And so my daughter began her training on independence and self-reliance as a baby who was still learning how to walk. I was always beside her, ready to help whenever she needed me. But oftentimes when she would fall, and I knew that she could get up on her own, her mama just stood by and watched her proudly as she struggled back to her feet. Lesson: “Rely on yourself. You can do it.”

Abby’s training continues until now. She has to work hard if she were to get what she wanted. With God’s grace, hers will be a different form of struggle. I pray that she will never have to experience hunger or deprivation, but learn the value of hard work…she must! Lesson: “Things do not come for free. You have to work hard for them.”

Of course, there are things that I provide to her freely — but these are things that are intended to equip her for life ahead: her needs.

Staying true to this course is also a struggle because as a mother, the desire to shower my only child with all the pampering and material comforts I could muster is understandably strong. But I try to stay on course by looking around and seeing the children who have been crippled by their parents’ great love.

I see grown-up sons, married and with children, still living with their parents and relying on them to see to their own children’s every need. I see young men whose needs have always been provided for by doting parents, too lazy to fend for themselves, and resorting to theft and drug peddling for its easy money when the parents were no longer there to provide for them.

I believe that it is the little things that matter. In Abby’s school (Catherina Cittadini St. Louis School) for example, Sr. Marissa, the principal, has always encouraged the children to take their bags to their classrooms by themselves, and not to rely on their parents to do it for them.

I am certain there are parents who oppose this policy under the mindset “Why let my child do it when I can do it for him?” I could only hope they would see how this little act can go a long way into forming their children’s character.

We can’t love our children enough. Or to put it in another way, there is no such thing as too much love. Our love has no bounds, but I also believe that too much pampering does not always translate into loving the child. This mother believes that letting a child taste a little hardship or inconvenience to prepare him for what lies ahead is a form of loving that no child should go without.

Unlike that man with the butterfly, we should not make life too easy for our precious ones, lest we cripple their wings, and miss the chance of seeing them take flight and soar.

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