We ask ourselves so many questions. How will my daughter be when she grows up? Will she have her mom’s black curls or her dad’s blond hair? How will her smile be? We wonder so many times, and come up with a thousand different answers while our imagination runs wild. It might be the reason why the web is filled with sites that try to answer these questions with simulations of the physical appearance of a couple’s child using their photos or calculating the child’s future height with various formulas. All fun games that don’t take up much time but cannot replace the dreams and expectations we create inside our heads every day, as we see our son’s face changing and see him growing increasingly taller.
To every mom and dad their child is unique, and they dream to see it growing strong, healthy, and trouble-free, to protect it from their schoolmates’ mischief or the first heartbreak. We want everything for it: to have all that we could not get for ourselves, to learn all that we don’t know, to never have to suffer. Yet raising a child means also that we cannot always protect it, as much as we cannot decide whether it will have green eyes, be a rock star or a football champion. A child’s life is made of so many different moments, some wonderful and others a little sad, with triumphs and defeats. We need to learn to always be at its side, encourage it and wiping its tears, enjoy its moments of happiness, push it to overcome fear.
Raising a child is perhaps the most difficult job there is: Alda Merini, the great poet, used to say that giving birth to our child is an everyday labour. In fact, every day we need to understand something new: that raising a happy boy or girl means being at their side without deciding on their behalf; dreaming, but making sure not to superimpose our dreams on theirs; helping them to choose, not making choices instead of them. It is difficult, because mothers think of their child as still small and fragile like that defenceless creature they put into her arms the first day; but with passing years, we ought to understand – and accept – that the little girl with the braids who did not know how to ride a cycle without training wheels is now a woman that can travel on her own with a backpack on her shoulders, that the boy who loved the nursery rhymes has become a young man taller than we are and who goes to clubs. Moms and dads with small children may think that such moments are very far away, and in many cases it is really so. But being able to see our child as a person, though tiny, is the first lesson we need to learn. The first of many: because children also can teach us many things. Every time a child is born, parents are born, and they will grow up with him, understand how to respect it and raise it to be an independent person, trouble-free, capable of finding its own way. We need to give our child the certainty of always relying on us for a safe harbour and for the courage to face the open sea. This is the most complicated challenge and the most beautiful about being mums and dads. As the saying goes, there are only two lasting things we can give our children: roots and wings.