Dear Xander

The Best Defence

One night, just before falling asleep…

Xander: Daddy, protect me.
Me: Protect you? How?
Xander: Like this (puts one arm around bolster) and like this (puts the other arm around bolster).

… And he snuggled in and fell asleep in my arms.

Dear Xander,

It is only natural for your parents to worry for you, fuss over you, or nag at you for running/climbing/jumping/flying around all over the place. You’re never out of our sight when you’re with us, and we’re never out of yours. We want you to be safe, and protect you from harm as much as we can.

At the same time, your mother and I also know there are some things we can’t protect you from. For example, we can’t protect you from loving someone, or the pain that comes with a broken heart. We can’t protect you from the stress of growing up and growing old. We can’t protect you from the harshness of the world you are to experience, its societies and the unspoken rules that govern them, the stress, pain and suffering, the multitudes of opinions and beliefs that will either beckon you or repel you. We can’t protect you from learning about the realities of life.

So just as much as we want you to be safe, and just as much as we want to protect you, your mother and I also know you need to learn to take care of yourself and protect yourself. Since you learned how to crawl, we never coddled you when you fell, and you’ve certainly fallen many times; on your hands, on your knees, on your head, on your face. And each time you fell, we wouldn’t suddenly exclaim in worried shock. We wouldn’t run to your side if you cried. We wouldn’t feel around your body looking to see if you injured yourself. We wouldn’t immediately pick you up.

It wasn’t easy for us. The first few times your mother would react on instinct, trying to catch you as you fell; she would even chide me for not taking good care of you. Over time though, she understood the lesson that had to be learned, and that the only way to administer that lesson is by having you experience it yourself. She would even instruct your aunties and your grandparents to stand their ground and not be too alarmed if you did suddenly fall down and they tried to pick you up. She had a mantra for just these occasions: “No blood? No problem.”

And learn you did.

You learned to pick yourself up. You learned to brush yourself off. You learned not to cry. And best of all, you learned to laugh it off and carry on.

We teach you values, like what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is evil, We even try to teach you as much about everything that falls in between, the grey areas, sometimes things other parents wouldn’t imagine to broach with their children. Your mother has a favourite quote from the movie The Changeling for if you ever get into trouble with others: “Never start a fight, but always finish it.” (That pretty much explains what kind of grey areas we might be talking about.)

You need to know we are always trying to protect you from harm. But the times we can’t shield you from the harsh realities of life, you need to know you’ve already learned to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and carry on. And we know you’ll have the strength of mind and body to do it.




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