What is worse? Losing a child, or losing a parent? An ailing 80 year old father whose 45 year old son was the only source of sustenance or the 12 year old girl who sees her father collapse before her? Whose loss is greater? As I grapple with a personal tragedy, I pause to consider my life both as a parent and child. And I am swarmed with emotions that leave me very, very vulnerable.
It’s a given that we take our lives and that of others for granted. Today, as a parent I leave home for work but I will never know if I’d return to see my child’s face in the evening. Likewise, for every missed opportunity, I would regret not having told my parents how thankful I am for them being in my life, if something were to happen to them.
Why do we procreate? Why do we choose to become parents? Someone told me, “so that you have children to take care of you in your old age.” And just by that definition parenting appeared to me as such a selfish relationship. Parenting by this definition becomes a tryst or an unsaid charter of understanding that my child in return for all my love and affection will look after me in my old age. Suddenly, the purity, the selfless quality of being a parent is robbed from me. But what would happen to my child if I am not there in his life? Would his life be any worse? We like to think of life in terms of insurances sold to us; assurances that life will carry on even if we are not around forever. But is money everything? Unfortunately, money makes our lives go around. But is that all?
If something were to happen to me, will my son miss his mother’s watchful eye? Don’t we cluck our tongues for all mother-less children we see around? Poor X, he doesn’t have a mother! How easy or difficult is it for a child to live without a parent? As a parent, I am scared to imagine my son in that position. I’m more distraught to know that my life would be cut short; I won’t be able to see my son grow up. I won’t be around to see him talk, to answer his questions, to see him go through school and college, to see him fall in love, and go for his dreams… the thought that the rest of his life would be taken away from me makes me cringe in fear. Here I am selfish… selfish about a life that I will be deprived of… a life that is spent bringing up my child be part of his beautiful growth story. I am not game for that.
But will it make it more bearable if I were to witness it all? If I were to die as an old parent who has seen the best of all her child’s life, would that be a good end? Maybe yes… but then would my child be ready to let me go? I am not ready to let go off of my parents. And as a child who has grown up to be a parent, I feel this is best time that I have with them. The child in me will never want them to leave.
I don’t think I have ever been afraid of death. At least, not as long as I saw myself just as my parent’s child. Much earlier in life I saw my mother battle a severe accident and stand up on her feet. Did I fear losing my mother then? To be very honest, no… I knew my father would take care of that. He isn’t a doctor, but I knew he wouldn’t let her slip away… for our sake, for my brother, me and him. I saw my mother fight her circumstances and return to her life. Earlier this year when I saw my parents deal with my brother’s life threatening accident and saw them deal with his recovery, I first saw what fear means. The fear of being a parent, the fear of knowing that your son was almost snatched away! For now, parenting has made me vulnerable. I fear death more than I did a year back. And as I live each day with my child, I want to love him like this is my last.
This is the darkest post I have ever written. But if words can describe what I feel, this fear needs a vent. I can’t even get to the point of expressing, what life would be without my child… but then there are some things better left unsaid.
A former TV junkie & workaholic – turned – stay-at-home-mother – recently turned work-at-home – mother Rituparna Ghosh loves herself as @VeesMother (my twitter identity as a parent). Her son’s student, she is learning the ropes of parenting every day. Rituparna blogs at http://onboardthemommyship.wordpress.com/