[Viewpoint]Parents, live your life and let go!No other species on Earth can compare to the emperor penguin in Antarctica as far as devotion to their offspring is concerned. Emperor penguins spend around 230 days in a year risking their lives in the extreme weather conditions of the Antarctic to raise their chicks.
Korean parents are almost as devoted to their children as emperor penguins. The sweet dreams of their honeymoon end when the baby is born. The lifestyle of a couple changes to one centered on the child. Since Korea’s public education does not guarantee anything for their child’s future, they have to shoulder extremely high private education costs.
If they still feel anxious, they send the child to a school abroad. Then they have to live apart from each other because one of them has to take care of the child who is studying abroad. The end of education does not mean the end of all problems. If the child fails to find a job, his or her parents have to find one for him. I even heard that there were parents who selected reference books for state bar examinations for their children.
The next stage is marriage. Korean parents try hard to find a suitable spouse for their child, collecting information from various sources, and they think it is their duty to provide them with expensive wedding presents and throw an extravagant ceremony, even with borrowed money. Parents also feel that they must provide a home for the newlyweds, even if it is rented on a deposit base. That is not all. They even take the trouble of changing the diapers of their grandchildren for the newlyweds have to keep their jobs. There may be a few differences in the degree of devotion, but in general, those things are common to Korean parents. Some of them illegally find ways to make their sons exempt from military service so they won’t have to waste time in the military barracks. They beat up their son’s assailants, even with the help of hooligans, if the child comes back with scars on his face. How difficult it is to be a parent in Korea!
However, the real problem lies ahead of them. Because they have spent almost everything they have on their children, Korean parents do not have much left for their retirement.
Except for some extraordinary people who have money and power, the only insurance policy most parents have is their children.
However, do the children think so, too? As is seen in the case of the emperor penguin, the love goes from the parents to the children, but it doesn’t go in the opposite direction. Even children who love their parents don’t have the means to support them.
As they have to repeat the life cycle of having children, giving them a private education and then leading the life of a lone goose, how can children pay attention to their parents?
Parents in the Republic of Korea, look at the reality! Be egotists! You must find the courage to break your present life cycle. You have to make your own happiness the first priority. Instead of investing in your children, you must put all of your financial resources into spending your retirement life meaningfully. Waiting for visits from your sons and daughters and grandchildren should not be the only pleasure left for you. You had better not pin high hopes on the national pension payment because it will amount to nothing but pocket money.
Don’t try to protect your children from others. You will only make them useless beings who can’t do anything unless they get help from other people. Don’t try to make them exempt from the difficulties your parents suffered. You will only rob them of the chance to have valuable experiences that enrich their lives. If you don’t make any sacrifices for your children, you shouldn’t expect anything from them in return.
Dorothy C. Fisher, an educational reformer and bestselling American author in the 1950s, said, “A mother is not a person to lean on, but a person to make leaning unnecessary.” Bertrand Russell, a British philosopher, said that a father’s main error is to wish that his children bring glory to his honor.
If you agree with this, please say to your children, “I have done all that I should. Now, you have to live your life on your own.”
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Lee Hoon-beom