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  • Salient Mag

A love letter from my generation to our children

Crafted by care by Carrie (she/her)

There is a convention perpetuated in popular culture that that love between a parent and a child is like no other. That it’s unbreakable, a source of limitless joy and is the true origin of happiness and fulfilment.  It’s not like that though. In Hanya Yanagihara’s novel A Little Life one of the characters describes the love a parent has for their child like this.

I have never been one of those people …who feels the love one has for a child is somehow a superior love, one more meaningful, more significant and grander than any other… But it is a singular love, because it is a love whose foundation is not physical attraction, or pleasure or intellect, but fear. You have never known fear until you have a child, and maybe that it what tricks us into thinking that it is more magnificent, because the fear itself is more magnificent. Every day your first though is not “I love him” but “How is he?” 

I had never consciously thought about it this way, that fear was the foundation of a parent’s love for their child. But this passage sums up with amazing clarity what it is that makes the love of a parent for a child so unique.  

The fear can start as soon as you find out you are pregnant. Fear that something will go wrong, fear that you’ll inadvertently cause your unborn baby harm. Fear of not being good enough, fear of not being able to cope, fear of letting go of your previous life.  Then there’s the terror, later in pregnancy, when you realise you haven’t felt your baby move for some time, that prompts panicked visits to the midwife for reassurance all is well. 

Some people will tell you that a new parent is overwhelmed with love the moment their child is born, but love can take time to grow. Fear for your newborn, along with exhaustion, stress and even resentment, are often the dominant emotions in the early months.  I don’t think there is a parent of a newborn who hasn’t at some point been overwhelmed with the fear that makes them wake their sleeping baby, just to check they are still alive and breathing.  

There is the fear that you are never, ever going to have an unbroken night’s sleep again in your entire life. Or have just ten minutes without constant cries of ‘Mummy, mummy, mummy’, every one of which feels like a demand. And the fear of what will happen at bedtime if you don’t find your toddler’s favourite comfort toy that’s missing. 

Then come the fears that one day your child will discover that the world can be cruel.  That they’ll be bullied, or worse. The fear that they’ll be the child left out of games, not invited to birthday parties. The fear that they will encounter that worst of humanity, when we want them to experience the best. Fear of illness, of accidents, of just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

When you were teenagers, growing your freedom and independence, and it felt like your parents were intruding and controlling, wanting to know where you were, who you were with and when you would be home, it was fear of the worst that could happen that your parents were feeling.  We were teenagers once, and the memories of things that happened to us and situations that we were lucky to get out of unscathed made us fear for you.  

As I watch you and your siblings and friends grow into young adults, I’m in awe of the people you are becoming.  Of the choices you make and opportunities that you grab with both hands.  Of the energy that you bring. Of your passion and commitment to what you believe in.  Of your courage to follow your dreams and confidence to be yourselves. 

There are still fears. Fear that you will have your heart broken, maybe many times, that your dreams will be crushed, that your life will be hard.  Fear that the world that you are inheriting won’t be a world worth living in. 

But all this fear comes because we love you so much and we just want your lives to be magical and full of wonder, joy and fulfilment. 

And we wouldn’t be without you for the world. 


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