Way back in the day, I remember driving up with my parents and siblings to Baguio city to visit my Grandmother, Apo. She was always fond of pets – it can either be a cat or a dog – but she almost always had a pet. There was one time that she had a small part of her backyard built for her 5 cats to live in. It had a narrow walk way – where the cats can run up and down, a small area for each of them to sleep, they were fed 2-3x a day – but their only source of light came from the ceiling – where it was covered with wires to prevent them from getting out.
They also have little interaction with other human beings; feeding time was the only time they get to socialize with a human.
So, when we went to visit. I would try to pet them through the wires – all I heard was hissing and they all just wanted to scratch my finger.
I asked my grandmother, why she keeps them all locked up.
“I don’t want them to die like Elvis. He got run over by a car.” My Apo said.
Elvis, as she lovingly named him; was so loved by my grandmother. He was fed the best cat food, slept beside her and loved sitting on her lap. The cat was almost always with her, except for the hours that he would go around the streets – but at the end of the day, Elvis always came back.
Until, one day he didn’t and all my grandmother found was pieces of Elvis scattered on the road in front of her house. He was ran over by one of those speeding cars.
And it about broke her heart.
She then kept all her future pets under lock and key. To keep them safe from another speeding car, or another human that would cause them harm.
Having an only child come out of your womb. My natural tendency is to keep him close and safe as I can. Back in The Philippines, we almost did everything together. I did not want him out of my sight for even a single minute. Because, I was – and still am afraid.
Afraid that I would lose him to something senseless like a speeding driver or from God forbid – a predator in sheep’s clothing. I would not be able to forgive myself if anything happens to him.
But at the same time, I know that I have to let go. That I have to let him walk to school, play with his friends, go to the bathroom by himself in a mall.
Because, I will not always be there. He needs to be able to get by without my watchful eye. He needs to be able to defend himself, when his mom or his dad is not around.
And he did that one day, when one of the kids in school tried to rip out his watch from his wrist. He pushed the other kid and defended himself and his friend that was with him.
When he came home that afternoon, he was so scared that we would get mad at him for pushing the other kid away.
As we go through this journey that we call parenthood, sometimes as we try to hold on and think that we need to hover around our kids all the time. Letting go and teaching them to be self-sufficient is the most important lesson that you can teach our them.
Otherwise, they will end up hissing or scratching you – and they will wind up not being able to take care of themselves.