The Craziest Thing I’ve Ever Done

This was originally written many years ago for Metro Mom Magazine. I am sharing it for Father’s Day.

One of the craziest things I’ve ever done was to become a dad. I use the word “crazy” not because I did not give fatherhood some thought before I became one but because one can NEVER give it enough thinking to anticipate its full ramifications.

To start with, I never liked children as a young adult. Children were just too….young! As a newly married man at twenty-six, what could I possibly see as “enjoyable” with children? They cried a lot, ate a lot, took much of one’s time, were inarticulate and cost a lot to raise. And yet, 9 months after getting married, my wife and I decided to make one. And in the next ten years, we had three of them, Erica, Ala and Mio.

Having children is a defining experience, just like drugs or going to jail. In the early weeks after they are born, you find yourself zonked out of your bright and alert self due to intense sleep deprivation. It’s amazing how you find your way to work and fake being productive at all. And yet I did. With my first child, I was able to write the song “Batang-bata Ka Pa” many sleepless nights after she was born. I remember one of my first gulp-stuck-in-my-throat realizations after Erica came into this world. It was the inescapable truth that I will never experience another day without this child of mine tugging at my paternal instincts of protecting and nurturing a loved one. I will never ever be alone again. The bond is there as long as one of us is alive. It’s like being feet-cuffed together. We are both our own jailers and prisoners. I must at all times, live my life within the confines of our father-offspring relationship and make sure she is well-cared for, loved, nourished and protected. She in turn must try not to upset Daddy so much and must be charming enough to earn her keep. Boy oh Boy! I’ve just been trapped into fatherhood!

With all my three children I was an active father. I personally taught them their ABC’s and 123’s. I always tell people that one of the perils of active fatherhood is being condemned to go through grade school as many times as the number of children one has plus one if you count your own experience. I have spent countless hours reading to them Dr. Seuss, Robert Louis Stevenson, William Blake, etc. and answering as best I can every question they’ve asked. “Why is the sky blue?” “Why is red that color?” “Why is God invisible?” “Why do boys have penises and girls vaginas?” I really can’t remember the answers I gave but trust me; one usually comes up with a satisfactory answer when needed. In questions of sex, you can tell your answers were “good” when they lose concentration as you talk and immediately run outside or opt to play with something else.

To this day, I am a busy resource person for my kids. For Erica and Ala who are in college, not only am I a walking thesaurus but also an adviser on papers they write for their classes. I am also their Filipino grammar teacher. For my son Mio at the Ateneo Grade School, I am much, much more. I review him and try my best to make his Waterloo subjects like Araling Pilipino and Pilipino as enjoyable as possible. Many times, it is akin to standing on my head while spewing fire from my mouth just to get him focused.

I have also gone through the wringer which is the difficult but ultimately rewarding task of teaching them the “birds and the bees”. To my teenage daughters, I compared sex to owning a wild horse. If you don’t train it, it will take you where it wants to go. But if you train it, you can take it where it should go. I also told them that in relationships, if you find yourself in a situation where you are not in control, then you are potentially a victim. So be smart and always know the consequences of your action. Make sure that at all times, wherever you find yourself should be where and what you wanted or intended to be. Be street smart about guys! My son Mio should be having his talk with Dad soon enough since he’s turning twelve already, if I can just get him off the PlayStation for a moment.

One of the truly great things I learned from an ate of mine on how to raise kids is “to teach them everything you know that is useful.” Simple enough. The other things I learned from my mother are the values of striving to be the best, strength of character, courage to stand for one’s convictions and trustworthiness. All these of course, must be done with great love, patience and compassion. Personally. I try to NOT instill more guilt than kids naturally develop on their own. I truly believe that guilt has no great value to teach us. In fact, what it does is to make us feel that we are inferior, and undeserving to live a life of reciprocal loving because of a mistake we have done. It makes us deny our own God-nature.

Lastly, the experience of being a dad has always been, and in the end will always be, at best a mixed bag– thankless but rewarding. It was Khalil Gibran who said that our children are not really our own. They merely came into this world through us. I would like to add then that the biggest moment that will come to us as parents will probably be the time when they finally spread their own wings, fly off into the bigger world and outgrow us!

I just hope that when the moment finally comes, I won’t be crying so much looking for the other person on the other end of the foot-cuff!

8 thoughts on “The Craziest Thing I’ve Ever Done”

  1. sir jim, i’m so sure that you are the coolest dad to your children — i’m a regular reader of Ala’s blog and i can see in her the beautiful spirit you have helped nurtured to grow. =)

    please allow me to share one of my favorite passages from Khalil Gibran’s writings (i’m quite sure you know about this guy hehe)

    “And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, ‘Speak to us of Children.’
    And he said:
    Your children are not your children.
    They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
    They come through you but not from you,
    And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
    You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
    For they have their own thoughts.
    You may house their bodies but not their souls,
    For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
    You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
    For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
    You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
    The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
    Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
    For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.”

    ~ from the book, The Prophet, by Khalil Gibran

    happy father’s day, sir jim =)

  2. niki– The first time I came across this beautiful verse was in college I think. I’ve always taken this to heart. Thank you for sending it. I really love this.

    Yes, Ala, like all my children (and everyone in the world) have beautiful spirits. Unlike many people though, Ala seems to have awakened to that reality.

  3. Just as your children are your blessings from above, your strength, honesty, wisdom and dedication are constant reminders to your children (Erica, Ala & Mio) that you are the Lord’s blessing to them too. HAPPY FATHER’S DAY to you Jim (and to Danny & Boboy too) Best regards. Take care. God Bless 🙂 Julia

  4. … With my first child, I was able to write the song “Batang-bata Ka Pa” many sleepless nights after she was born …

    Uh-huh! So was the higher pitched “ohhhhh…” in the middle of Batang-bata Ka Pa originally a gutteral, primeval, sleep deprived scream that evolved into a melodic wail? 🙂

    Seriously though, doesn’t “batang-bata ka pa” translate to “you are very childish”? If so, is that something you would say to a newborn child in Tagalog? Because if my English translation is correct, then I’m now confused.

    Sorry for my bad Tagalog skills, Jim. Still lots of learning ahead of me yet.


  5. Batang-bata ka pa at marami ka pang Kailangang malaman at intindihin sa mundo. Yan ang totoo
    Nagkakamali ka kung akala mo na
    Ang buhay ay isang mumunting paraiso lamang

    You are so young and there are still so many things to know and understand in the world. That is the truth. You are mistaken if you think that life is a only tiny paradise.

    This Bisaya is taking a shot at translating tagalog 🙂

    I have always loved that song. It means a lot to you and it showed when you sang it when your granddaughter was born.

    My grandpa once said that we can only do our best as parents, cross our fingers and pray to God that they turn out OK. That is his way of saying that children learn from parents but they are still individuals who will live their own lives, and not necessarily live up to their parents dreams.

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