As we dined celebrating my daughter Amy’s twenty-first birthday, in the midst of conversations full of laughter; She asks me, “How has it been for you to see us grow? I want to know because I turned 21 today.” I replied, “If I give you the answer right now, you’re going to start crying.” So, we started laughing and continued eating.
Amy’s question sent my mind back in time… When I was a child, my mother worked long hours to support the household. My sisters were already married and had children. My nephews and I were at my parents’ house most of the time. Due to various circumstances, my sister Olga emigrated to California. I had grown up next to her and she took care of me as if I was one of her children. The morning Olga left home I was awake, but I pretended to be asleep. The pain I felt at her departure prevented me from getting out of bed to say goodbye and I felt like I was dying of sadness when she kissed me on the cheek before leaving.
When the sunlight lit up that day, I had to face the sad emotion of feeling abandoned and the need that arose in me to protect my nephews. Since then, I began to take care of them, to watch over their interests, loving them without measure. In my inexperience, I was rude and uncompromising, as I was always trying to protect them. Many times, I didn’t allow them to go out with their friends or participate in field trips for fear that something bad could happen to them. Without realizing it, I deprived them of living through some of the most beautiful experiences of their young lives. Although I always tried to make them happy. Over the years my sister took them to live with her in California and I felt my heart break with pain and sadness. I cried countless nights missing their presence.
When I was a teenager, while I was studying in my seventh year of school, I met who would become my best friend and who coincidentally was named Olga like my sister. School flew by and in ninth year my friend had her first baby. I shared with her all her afflictions and developed a lot of love for her child. Then my friend had her second daughter. I shared with them many beautiful moments. Over time, my friend divorced her husband and emigrated to Chicago, leaving her two children in the care of her grandmother. I continued to visit the children for whom I felt great love for, as if they had been my children. Every time I saw them, I spent many hours with them, bringing gifts and joy to their little hearts. And one day I came looking for them, they were gone, my friend had taken them to live with her in Chicago. Then I felt again that horrible pain in my heart… SADNESS.
I continued with my life. I finished University. I found a good job in a practical profession. I got married and as a logical blessing, my daughters began to be born. I loved each of them from the first moment. Working very hard to give them a stable and happy life. To enjoy every moment of their childhoods. I fed them with tenderness and love when they were babies. Memorized every gesture on their faces when they laughed, cried, slept, or played. Healed their wounds with rain of kisses. Taught them to prudently enjoy all the good things that life gives us. Explained to them the importance of making good decisions. To not give up the increasing the power we feel by believing in ourselves. To not hesitate when they seek to achieve their dreams. To love God above all things. I taught them their first words in English. I corrected them when I had to, even though they didn’t understand.
On many occasions I allowed them to stay at home and not attend school, suffering from a feigned illness. (It was very obvious to me that they were telling me lies). So instead of going to the doctor, we watched movies at home or went on a ride to an amusement park. Many times, I sent them to bed, and they stayed awake until dawn playing or watching television. I pretended not to notice. If for some reason I came home late, when they saw the lights of my car, they would run to turn off the lights in the house and the television. So, I would go to their rooms asking, “Are you asleep yet?” to which they always responded “Yes, we are already asleep. We already have been sleeping for a long time.”
I always took my daughters to school and looked for them when their classes were over. Participated in all their awards. I accompanied them on field trips many times. I went to lunch with them enjoying their company. Celebrated all their achievements and their birthdays. Helped them achieve their goals by explaining the importance of doing things for ourselves.
With my daughters I have visited all the amusement parks in Orlando. We have been to the movie’s countless times. We have cried, laughed, or enjoyed every moment that life has allowed us to be together. When my nephews see how flexible I have been with my daughters, they still ask me, “Why were you so strict with us?” And I answer them, “By losing you learn. With my daughters I am putting into practice what I learned with you.”
God gave me the opportunity to be present in all the developments that my daughters have had in the different stages of their lives. By my own decision, I put aside economic progress and my professional development to be a father, without ever neglecting my responsibilities as a provider. My youngest daughter just graduated from high school, and I know that very soon she will be leaving home just like her sisters did, to start carving out her future for herself.
When I left home, I saw my mother crying inconsolably. I couldn’t understand it at the time because I was happy to start a new stage in my life away from my parents’ house. And as an adult, seeing how my daughters spread their wings to seek new horizons, with tears running down my cheeks without being able to contain them, I understand what my mother felt when I left home.
And after I’ve narrated a lot, I can answer Amy’s question. How has it been for me to see them grow? The answer is significantly simple and can be summed up in one word that is full of the love and the experiences that will accompany me into eternity, because for me, the fact that God has allowed me to stay with them as they grew into young women has been a PRIVILEGE.