GUEST COMMENTARY: The greatest gift a parent can receive

2012-12-11T00:00:00Z GUEST COMMENTARY: The greatest gift a parent can receiveBy Tom Dabertin
December 11, 2012 12:00 am  • 

While taking a walk with the dog the other day, I recalled a somewhat obscure conversation I had with my mother about 25 years ago.

While sitting in her kitchen, I remarked that Christmas was the happiest time of the year. She replied by agreeing that it was a very joyous time reminding us of the birth of Jesus Christ. Then she said something that I had not expected -- that it was a sad time for parents.

The comment caught me completely off guard. At first I thought it must be a reference to the trouble of finding and shopping for gifts; especially for my mother who had six children. Somewhat perplexed, I asked her for clarification.

As if I was not already confused, my mother added that if I didn’t understand her point, remember the words to the song “Toyland.” She then recited the following verse from the song: Once you pass its borders you can never return again!

After a few moments I realized that her point was about growing up, and I told her that I understood. She looked at me and said, “No, you won’t really understand my point until you have children of your own.”

It’s been decades since that conversation with my mother, but I finally do understand. My daughter Rachel, that little blonde-haired, blue-eyed, precocious child that seemed fascinated and interested in everything around her, has grown up to become a beautiful young woman who is completing her first year in college.

My roly-poly son who sat on my lap and needed my help is no more, replaced by a slim, very fit athlete who can probably help me more than I can help him.

My mother was right. Christmas is both a joyous time because it commemorates all the good in this world, yet it is a very sad one for parents as it reminds us of how precious and short childhood is.

But there are some words of solace I left out in retelling the conversation with my mother from two and a half decades ago. As I was leaving the kitchen, she stopped and grabbed my hand and said: “When you have children, you’ll love them, care for them, and they will love you back. It will be those memories that will become the greatest gift you will ever receive for the rest of your life.”

Once again, she was right!

And so, from my family to yours: Merry Christmas!

Tom Dabertin, of Hammond, is a management consultant and parent. The opinion expressed in this column is the writer's and not necessarily that of The Times.

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