As consumerism intensifies and instant gratification replaces the joys of anticipation and the virtue of patience, we often forget the fact that our parents have waited for us to grow up, not because our parents expect us to support them in their old age but rather, they experience satisfaction in seeing our gradual development in every stage of our lives from birth: a toddler reaching out for a toy, a kid waiting eagerly for his birthday present, a teenager experiencing teenage angst during adolescence, an adult striving to do well in his career and marriage. If possible, our parents will probably love to see us into our old age. And in their hearts, we will always be children – their children.
Yes, sometimes we are neglected or ignored by our parents. Sometimes, we feel that we are not loved by our parents. And at other times, we might not have grown up with parents by our sides at all. But we should always be eternally grateful to our parents because we are indebted to our parents – not from birth but from conception. Our mothers have kept us in their wombs for many months before having to bear the further pains of childbirth. And our fathers have fulfilled their responsibilities to our existence in this world through love. Some might argue that their existence could merely be a mistaken case of lust instead of love but if there’s no attraction between our parents, we would not be here in the first place. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding our births, we should be grateful to our parents and try to repay their kindness whatever possible.
Love is the circumstances that we are born in and thus, love should be the quality that we should live by.
Having said that, how and who should we direct our love towards? We should direct our love outwards to the world. And we should start with loving our own parents. This is a logical progression. As we often have a tendency to take our loved ones for granted, we should start training ourselves by first loving our parents – individuals who are or should be the closest to us. There’s a saying which says that a person who treats his parents and siblings with love and respect has a strong tendency to accord the same respect towards his classmates and teachers in school, as well as towards his colleagues and bosses in the workplace. While this might not be entirely true, there’s a certain degree of truth in this adage.
Different cultures determine our lifestyle and hence our living proximity with our parents. In some cultures, especially in areas where Confucianism thrives, filial piety is heavily emphasised upon and thus it is not uncommon to see children in their thirties and forties still residing with and taking care of their aging parents. In other cultures, children are encouraged by their parents to leave home, settle down and gain life experiences. The latter doesn’t pale in comparison with the former because in both cases, the children’s hearts are often with their parents.
There may be some children who might feel that taking care of their parents requires a tremendous amount of effort. This is especially so when our parents are in their old age – where mobility and their sense of hearing become an issue. While this is true, we should always remember that while we are young and helpless, the hardship faced by our parents in bringing us up is even worse! We should never forget this. Moreover, we should not regard the act of taking care of our parents as a duty or worse – an obligation. We should consider the tender care of our parents as an act of love, a pure love that transcends all emotions, and which expects no reciprocations.
True love never lies within the shadows of consumerism and instant gratification. Only when we are free from the shackles of such ills of contemporary society will we truly experience true love.