They say that the love a parent has for a child is unparalleled, one-of-a-kind, can’t understand it til you experience it first-hand kind of love. When I was a little girl, my mom and I would often have “I love you” wars, a battle of wills over who would stop saying “I love you” first. She would always end with “I love you more”, but I never really thought much of it.
As time went on, and I went away to college, I slowly grew to realize just how lucky I was to have my two parents to call my own. Many of the friends I made at Cal had incredibly tough relationships with their parents, fraught with tension or even hatred. Two of my friends from earlier in college didn’t even really talk with their fathers. Many came from broken homes. I came to understand that though my parents bickered with each other occasionally (maybe even regularly), their love for each other and myself was always abundantly clear, at least in hindsight. My parents are two of the most kind, caring, warm individuals I’ve ever met, and I am so grateful for their love each and every day.
This isn’t to say we haven’t had our conflicts. I was a fairly difficult child; as my sister would say, I was a “family stopper” because I was so hard to deal with. We had our fair share of clashes, mostly over the fact that I often straight up refused to participate in household chores. But perhaps the biggest conflicts came later, like when I chose to go to UC Berkeley over Fresno State, when they feared I would accrue so much debt I’d graduate crippled by student loans. Or when I brashly bought a plane ticket to Guatemala and shortly after received a long email from my dad asking me what the hell I was thinking. As a college student, I came into my own, and with my new-found semi-independence, I began to carve out a path for myself that they didn’t always approve of. My many trips to Latin America fell into this category, as did some of the ways I spent my money, I’m sure. But nonetheless, they never left my side, despite feeling that I didn’t always make the best, most responsible decisions.
My sister, too, has made her share of decisions that rocked the boat with our parents. When she went to Ecuador for a year, for example, they weren’t too keen on the idea. She sort of paved the way for me, though, because when the time came around four years later to me telling my parents I was going to be spending a year in Ecuador too, they were actually relatively at peace with that decision (though this might have also had something to do with the fact that it was either Latin America or Africa, and at least Laura had already survived Ecuador).
It came as a total surprise to me today, however, when my mother texted me telling me that she and my dad would be paying basically my whole program fee for my WorldTeach program. Now, don’t get me wrong, I had enough money saved to cover the costs associated with the program (except maybe supplemental health insurance, which my parents were already gracious enough to buy for me a while ago!). Imagine my surprise when my parents, who were never too excited about me traveling to Latin America–let alone living there–told me they would be supporting me in such a significant way. I can’t even begin to describe the gratitude I feel towards them for their love and support. For them to gift me the money for me to be be able to participate more easily in the WorldTeach Ecuador program–after having just spent literally thousands of hard-earned dollars on my sister’s wedding–means so much more than I could ever express in words. Though it’s not something they would ever do themselves, they know it will make me happy, and that is quite simply why they are doing it. When I suggested they buy airplane tickets to come visit me there with that same money instead, they said that seeing me so happy to be going on this journey is more than enough. In short, they would rather see me able enjoy myself more with the additional financial support when I’m there than spend the money for them to come visit and enjoy Ecuador themselves. It is especially powerful because I know they don’t quite fully understand why I would want to move to a developing country and not even get paid for it. Perhaps they don’t understand entirely because they never could have even dreamed of doing this as young adults themselves; they were too busy working and struggling to pay their own ways through college to contemplate such a thing. It means so much to me that they place such a premium on my happiness and fulfillment.
Unending support and love for a child despite not understanding all of your child’s decisions. To make sacrifices great and small for your child solely to see your child even the tiniest bit happier. This, I think, must be the epitome of what a parent’s love looks like.