x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

My latest revelation - the complexity of parental love

I wonder why we do this to ourselves - love so entirely, and open ourselves up to this world of hurt and vulnerability.

The days and weeks following Baby A's birth and subsequent takeover of our lives were full of bewildering, amazing, overwhelming and stunning moments. There was the realisation that this tiny bundle, with such wrinkly skin and whisper-thin nails, was an actual human being. There was the weight of this lifelong responsibility that Mr T and I had to contend with. There was the dawning awareness that people older and wiser than us sure weren't kidding when they said sleep would become as elusive as the alleged pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.

These moments of clarity keep coming, even now, almost nine months after her birth. For Mr T and I, our latest moment of insight came at a graduation ceremony.

It's graduation season, have you noticed? Young men and women, barely 18 years old, are right now, all over the world, writing the final sentences of one of the more defining chapters of their existence, bidding adieu to childhood, counting down the last moments of 12 years of schooling and trying to keep their excited twitching to a minimum, as they await the beginning of the next chapter of their budding, young lives.

My own brother, the "baby" of the family, the little boy who was born when I was a confused teenager of 14, donned gown and hat just a few days ago and strode proudly to accept his degree. And as I watched him throw his cap in the air, hug his fellow graduates and high-five them on surviving high school, as I watched him dust off the suitcase he would be packing to head off to college while my mother barely held back her tears, I was struck by the most intense of realisations.

The love I have for Baby A, this intense, all-consuming, unconditional, almost desperate love, is not mine alone. It is a parental love that my parents, I realised, have for me and for each of my brothers. And it is mind-blowing - that moment when you realise that you can finally comprehend the extent of love that your parents have for you. It is an infinite amount that cannot be quantified; cannot be described.

She is not yet 9 months old, and the thought of Baby A leaving home one day is almost unendurable to me. My mother's and father's hearts, I see now, broke a little when I packed my own suitcases, 13 years ago, and they will break again, come fall, when my precocious brother leaves the proverbial nest.

I wonder why we do this to ourselves - give birth to children we cannot help but love so entirely, so mindlessly, and open ourselves up to this world of hurt and vulnerability. It's really not because we think that one day, in the far future, they'll make us proud and turn out well and it'll all be worth it, because here's a secret: it's already worth it. Every time Baby A lifts her arms to me and buries her head in my neck with a sigh of contentment, every time she abruptly turns to stare at the front door at the slightest sound while she waits for her father to come home, every time she giggles and smiles and squeals in delight - it's worth it. For Mr T and I, our investment has already paid off, and we're only nine months in.

Good luck to the graduates of 2013. You're heading into a world weighed down with your parents' infinite love, and in those suitcases you're packing there is a tiny piece of a heart, one that has swollen so much with love that it had to break a little.

Hala Khalaf is Arts&Life deputy editor of The National

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hkhalaf@thenational.ae