Friday, October 28, 2005

Six years ago...

Six years ago today, Joel Jan was born.

"Do you know how happy we are to have you?"

There are not enough words in the dictionary to encompass the depth of emotion I feel when I look at my son.

In him I see God's hand at work.

"Go ahead," I say to him. "Go ahead and dream big dreams. It's good to have dreams, it's good to long for and to reach towards something..."

"Go on."

My lips speak the words even while my heart longs to shelter him, keep him safe, protect him from all the hardness and harshness of life.

"Don't be scared."

I want him to find his wings, to be strong, to be brave, to be gallant and courageous.

This is The Netherlands, this is Europe not Asia. Here, children learn fast. You do not get anywhere unless you have the courage to step forward. You do not get anything done, unless you open your mouth and speak up. What we mistake for brutality is simply being open and honest, 'and do not feel hurt if I speak my mind because when the truth is out in the open, we can both breathe easier'.

I, with my cultural baggage of Asian deference have had to learn to say, "speak up, say what you think."

I, who grew up believing in the unspoken rule of saving face, have had to learn to shed my inhibitions and speak straight and open just as Dutch people do. But it is very hard to shed the habit of hiding pain. There are moments when I still remain dumb when I should really be saying what I think.

So I say to my son: I hear you. Your words are important to me. You are a child, that's true, but your thoughts are just as important as my thoughts. You are human like me, a person with an entire world of feelings and experiences, that you have just as much right as I, to give voice to.

I look at him and see the confidence in his stance, the way he lifts his chin and looks at life without fear. He does not bend his head, he looks me straight in the eye when he speaks because he knows his size does not diminish the value of his thoughts.

So, you are officially six years old today.


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