By Megan Pan ’18
In the past few weeks, we’ve had the chance to hear some excellent speeches about parenting. At the LeBow Competition, Jonathan Chen (V) talked about his parents’ “endless love and endless support” and urged us to “thank those who support you,” while at last week’s Morning Meeting, Mr. Keating shared stories about his own parents and encouraged us to “pay attention to how your parents are raising you.” Even Mr. Andrew Onimus, in his presentation at the Carver Lecture, emphasized the support he received from his parents in his struggle with mental illness. Spurred by their example, I’d like to take the time now to pen atribute to my own parents
Since before even I was born, both of my parents commuted every day to work in the city. Sometimes if I woke up early enough, I could hear from down the hall the rustling sounds of my parents getting ready in the morning.
Nestled underneath the warm covers, I listened through a semi-conscious, sleep-clouded haze to the sound of water striking tile in the shower like keys of a typewriter, the crisp click of my mother’s high heels and the swift zip of a jacket, and finally the distant roar of the car ignition growing ever fainter as my parents drove off into the dawn. As I heard but never saw my parents in the mornings, these sounds were the only confirmation that my parents did in fact exist prior to six in the evening and did not simply materialize every night out of thin air, complete with work-weary faces and the perfume of the commuter train.
Nevertheless, it was anything but an unhappy life. The many grown-ups who watched over me during the day treated me kindly, and there was no shortage of love on the part of my parents either. But even if I can say that now, looking back in retrospect, I can’t deny that there were times during my childhood life when I simply felt that something was different. Not missing, necessarily, not wrong either—just different. In the eyes of a young child learning to observe the world around her, the small inconsistencies between other families and hers must have imprinted themselves in her mind; a quick kiss planted on a reluctant cheek in the morning carpool line, a lunch box complete with sandwich and sticky note lovingly packed, a pair of arms outstretched in greeting, waiting at the door—she must have circled them in her memory as if they were objects in a game of spot the difference.
My parents’ love felt like the light of the sun—brilliant, warm, and vividly palpable, but ultimately exer- cised through the physical barrier of distance. However, I never felt any resentment towards them, even as a child. In fact, it is as a result of their absence in my childhood that I believe I am able to better appreciate them now. As opposed to being something that is taken for granted, their presence is something that is alive and dynamic, like a flower wriggling its roots through the dirt or a fire breathing smoke through its embers. Throughout the years of my development, I have grown up and become increasingly independent. One by one, the adults who had watched over and cared for me as a child have let go of my hand, and I have since stepped forward to join them in line as a fledgling adult myself. The responsibility for my own well-being has now fallen squarely on my shoulders with no one else to lead me.
That is, with the exception of my parents. Even now when I’m expected to be able to walk on my own, my parents still remain by my side and serve as a source of guidance and support. But unlike the child for whom the surrogate love of others eclipsed the solitude she felt, I have since learned to become receptive to my parents’ love in every form that it takes.
In parting, I would like to urge members of the Pingry community—adults as well as adolescents- to remember their parents and to be forgiving of them. If there is anything in my perception of my parents that has changed from childhood, it is that I have learned that they are fallibly, beautifully human, subject to the same emotions, desires, and fears as we all are. The true strength of my parents’ love manifests itself in its endurance. Throughout all this time, it has never wavered or faltered—instead growing to overcome any barrier in its way, like vines of ivy winding their way upward, ever upward in search of sunlight.