There is a well-known phrase in Spanish that says “One is more beautiful in silence”; its meaning is that to remain silent is more honorable than to give an opinion that wasn’t asked for. This sentiment is one Francisco G. has aspired to both live and father by. There are times, he says, while raising his daughter, Erika, where he could have seen choices of hers as challenges and let it create a rift between them by exhibiting disapproval or trying to change her mind. One notable example he remembers is when she returned home from studying abroad to announce that she planned to get married and leave Mexico indefinitely to build a life with her husband somewhere else.
Naturally, Francisco wasn’t thrilled with the idea of his daughter leaving again so soon, and more permanently this time, having missed her as much as he had already. “This is the law of life, though.” he told me.
You can’t keep someone if they need to go, if their life is pointing them toward something else.
“As a father, you have to learn how to maneuver in your relationship, embracing what becomes, how it unfolds, rather than what you expected or hoped for. You have to be able to love the process of respecting your child as she becomes the separate being she was meant to be.” Francisco also acknowledges that his goal has always been to see her become self-sufficient; when he saw her able to make this choice, difficult as it was, it was proof he had succeeded.
Growing up, he says, he was strict with Erika. Values and responsibilities, such as doing well in school, being punctual and respectful, were not just ideas he presented her with, but things that he made sure she lived and breathed. Francisco believes that this consistency forms part of the essence of the person. In other ways though, he was more lenient and would simply stay close and observe without interfering, such as when she showed a natural aptitude for swimming at a young age. While other parents were shocked and criticized him for allowing such a small child to be in the water on her own, he believed this is how self-sufficiency develops, from the very beginning.
He also taught Erika that everything in life has a price; and understanding what that price is, what you will need to do to be able to afford it, is the basis of how to build a career that can allow you to live a life you love. Francisco rarely indulged her in material ways growing up, but instead gave her the opportunity to help him in his architecture business, from the age of 14, so she could earn the money to buy things she wanted for herself. As Erika now prepares to start a family of her own, Francisco marvels at seeing how well-prepared she is and how strong a mother he believes she will be. “Only as time goes on does anyone realize what it means to have a child, to have helped guide this separate being to autonomy.” he says.
I believe I gave her all a father is capable of giving his child and I did it from my heart. Now it’s her turn to create her own version of this to help someone else grow.