Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

Archive for June 19th, 2016

Real-life fathering 1

Posted on June 19, 2016 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated June 19, 2016 – 12:00am

Today is Father’s Day.

I became a father in 1979 when my daughter Erica was born on May 7 of that year. It was tremendous experience to see her right after birth being bathed by a nurse. She was so fragile. My feelings welled just watching her get wrapped up and taken to the baby viewing room. At that moment when I saw her, I knew I would never live a day without thinking and wondering about her.

I have two other kids — Ala and Mio. There isn’t any kid I love more than the others. I love them equally but differently. We raised them in the best way Lydia and I knew how. I did a lot to get them to enjoy reading and writing. I sat with them, helping them do a lot their homework from prep through college. I was the walking encyclopedia in the house who tried to answer all their questions. I taught them poetry and appreciation for the arts. Lydia nourished their health, mothered them, fed them, showered them with love and made sure they were always safe.

We are glad we became parents at the time that we did. It was a time when we still experienced the old ways our parents taught us about raising children while also being exposed to the new ways of building our family’s life.

I am both and old-fashioned and a modern dad. I taught them to be respectful of others and to be accountable for their actions. I shared the value and importance of being totally trustworthy when it came to money matters. They had to return the complete change always. I also encouraged them to learn to live with little.

At the same time, we encouraged then to join every activity they wanted. Erica was into gymnastics. Ala was into piano and ballet. Mio took up Tae Kwan Do. We traveled a lot with them. We let them attend youth leadership camps. We made sure they had both indoor and outdoor lives.

I am also a bit of a disciplinarian. I don’t believe in not calling my kids out when they do wrong. To kids, silence on my part can seem like a tacit “Okay.”

One time at the dinner table many years ago, I set a rule that “required” them to tell me at least three things they learned in school or things that happened to them that day. This came about because there was a time none of them would talk or converse even when I asked them questions. I hated their short answers. No one was interested in sharing. Dinner, which is an important family activity, was spent not even noticing one another.

I remembered pounding my fist on the table one night and demanding they talk to Lydia and me during dinnertime. They had to, or else no one could leave the table. At first it was a tense situation. In no time, I got them to start talking. From the required three things, we started to converse about everything. Supper, which used to be a 20-minute activity, became a one-hour affair, often extending to two hours because everyone had more stories to share.

Soon, they invited their friends to join in. Everything could be discussed at the table. I set no rules. They all talked candidly. It was a great way of learning where their lives were at. Lydia also thought of making a gratitude journal for everyone to write about things they were thankful for. That was a big hit with everyone. Every one of us, and even our friends and visitors, started to write their “thank you”
messages in the notebook. It was so inspiring to read this one: “I thank God for being born into this family.”

One of the things fathers often think about is how close they should be to their children. I am a dad who can sit down with them and listen with great patience and compassion, while still maintaining objectivity. I like to talk about spirituality, and discussing questions about life with them. I also like laughing with them and tickling their imaginations with absurdities. We can really have fun together. To be a real dad, you have to be present and engaged with your children!

The television used to be called the third parent since kids spend a lot of time watching it. Many kids grew up being exposed to TV content that, as a parent, I probably would not be crazy about. I am glad we as a family never got addicted to TV. We liked conversation more.

Some parents aim to be their kids’ best friend. I do not believe in that. As a friend, you will not want to give tough love when needed. And you will always find excuses for them when they do wrong. As a dad, I feel my duty is to check on them and raise them well with the right values, and to be around to guide them.

They have actually grown into fine adults. Erica is 37 years old. Ala is 33 and Mio is 28. I appreciate them a lot as true and good human beings who just happen to be my kids.

Parenting in this age of social media can be much more difficult. Too many gadgets stand in the way of real conversation. The kids, and even the parents, can get too spaced out. The big bad world outside can lord it over the family values you want to teach them. Porno, gambling, etc. are so accessible online. In place of reading books, kids now limit their reading to book reviews. In place of acquiring real knowledge and thinking things out, they opt for memes. In place of outdoor activities, they rely on video games.

The true values in life require patience, reflection and hard work. In a world of instant 24/7 communication, constant titillation and immediate gratification, it can be very difficult for parents to inculcate these life lessons unless access to all these gadgets is regulated. Kids should spend more time living a real life rather than a virtual one.

As a father, there is nothing like being with your kids, talking face to face and sharing real moments with them. Dad speaking from a TV monitor or cellphone can never replace a physically present dad who can hug his children, and be hugged back.

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