Home alone with Mio

Sunday, July 15, 2007

On my second week here in wintry Sydney, the only companion I have at home is my 18-year-old son Mio. For a week prior to my arrival, Mio was home alone in Sydney. Erica and Ala and Lydia and myself were in Manila, so we were constantly worrying. Although Mio constantly reassured us that everything was fine, I felt I had to come home ASAP so that he could have someone with him. Now it looks like Lydia’s ticket home will take some time to fix, so it looks like it will only be Mio and me here for another week or so.

There are many firsts that I am experiencing being home alone with Mio. I am learning to run the house beyond just paying the bills, taking out the garbage and the occasional cleaning. I am doing pretty much everything — the laundry, cleaning up, mopping, shopping for groceries, errands, tidying up the house, watering the indoor plants, and so many other things. But the biggest challenge — and the most fun, as it is turning out — is cooking!

From the outset, I realized that my original plan of living on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches indefinitely, or until Lydia gets here, would not be feasible. And so I plunged head-on into kitchen duty. You must realize that I am coming from practically zero experience since my knowledge of anything culinary is nil. I know very little about cooking save for the suspicion that it probably involves heat! My few engagements with food preparation and anything culinary date back to my youth when, as a Boy Scout, I cooked eggs and heated stuff from canned foods while camping.

Normally, I can live on food that does not have to be spectacularly delicious or visually appealing. I’m quite a low-maintenance guy when it comes to sustenance. While I enjoy going out, I generally would much rather eat at home and save money. I can even eat the same dishes for days on end, much to the disgust of my family!

But I find that I don’t relish eating so-so or lousy food during these cold, wintry months and so I have taken the bull by the horns. With the help of friends who I call when I have a question about what to do next, I have bravely taken out unprepared frozen meats from the freezer and prepared some dishes from scratch. Since I got back, I have made baked chicken, fried lumpia, mushroom and cheese omelets and a few other dishes. Last night, I was thrilled to have cooked steak, which, in my humble opinion, was rather scrumptious. I sprinkled them with salt and pepper the night before and they came out quite delicious. I was happy (no, ecstatic is the word) about my accomplishment and quickly agreed with Mio’s suggestion that we should try baking a cake or something!

Mio pretty much leaves me to do the cooking while he does the dishes and throws out the garbage. He also drives when we go out. What I am enjoying most at this time is being with him. I have always enjoyed my son’s company. He has a great sense of humor. He is a fairly easygoing kid who can do some pretty spectacular stuff. Even as a first-year immigrant, he shares the honor with two other classmates of having the highest standing in his English class. He is also number three in math, arts and music. Aside from that, he can play a mean guitar (Joe Satriani, Dream Theater stuff) and now has embarked on aerosol art, which he loves to do.

I have had many moments with my son in the past but these days are quite special. There are no other people — not his sisters, my grandchild, or even his mother — who can interrupt our bonding time.

I have been encouraging Mio to take steps toward being more independent. Last week, he finally got a job as a pizza delivery boy. He came home the first night saying he hated the job. I told him to give it a chance since very few people really like the first day of anything. The next day, he felt better about it. He’s been going out a few nights a week since his shifts are in the evening.

Since we got here, we have had so many meals together, including one with his girlfriend. Last night, we watched the movie Transformers and had a great time. The best times are when we are just talking about anything — cracking jokes, figuring out different ways to keep the house clean, this and that, and even big topics like his future. He says he likes it in Sydney and is not missing Manila enough to want to go back. He will end his senior year soon and will hopefully be going to the university by February next year.

In the car last night, I told him about a bank employee I spoke to earlier who is in her late 20s and already owns a house in our neighborhood. He then asked me if I ever imagined when I was young how much my music would be heard and performed, or how successful I would be at what I was doing. I said no, I really just got into everything because I liked doing it.

He said that he is torn between saving all his money for something big in the future, or spending it on art materials, since he needs to pursue what he enjoys doing. He said he is embarrassed to have to ask us for money to support his artistic inclinations and he worries that he is just throwing money away. I told him that I think he is spending his money wisely since he obviously finds fulfillment in his art. He should therefore just thank his lucky stars that he has parents who will support him in the directions that he would like to grow.

As a struggling artist in my youth, when I could not even afford guitar strings, I would sometimes resort to tying broken strings together. But I was happy every time I played the guitar. I wished my parents had the money then to buy me a nicer guitar, or that we could have been in a better financial situation so I could go to music school. But what mattered was my mom always encouraged me to do what I loved to do. Now, I can afford all these things for my kids and I really don’t want them to have to scrimp on their vision of what they want to be, or on their dreams.

These moments with Mio are so precious, as I relish every opportunity I have to spend individual time with each of my children. Many times, as parents, we like to compliment ourselves by pointing out that we are providing for our kids’ welfare and education. And we think that is more than enough. But we may forget that it is equally important to go beyond being just a provider and getting to know them more intimately as the unique human beings that they are. And vice versa.

Destiny has thrown us together in this unique time and space, and that is quite a privilege. Our time with our loved ones may be long, or it may be short-lived, as it was with my own father. So such bonding moments when we talk and share dreams, wisdom and our love for each other are nuggets to be cherished. They are the gifts we give each other that really matter.

Many years from now, would you rather be remembered for the sizeable bank account you left behind, or the fact that you were never there because you were working too hard to provide for your kids?

Our children will remember all that. But I am betting that they will remember and cherish much more the memory of how loudly we laughed with them, how sincerely we listened to their stories, how patiently we tried to understand them, how tenderly we cared. They will even appreciate how painfully, but faithfully, we administered tough love when we felt it was needed.

Such memories will compensate for all our shortcomings as parents, whatever they may be. These, more than anything else, are what will shape our children into warm, loving, compassionate and happy human beings, and hopefully, much later, into warm, loving, compassionate and fun parents.

* * *

19 thoughts on “Home alone with Mio”

  1. I was going to say…there are tons of canned goods out there…adn short of that…McDonalds til the wife come home? 🙂

    That’s wonderful legacy to leave with our children I think. The realization that money, while important, is not everything. Family matters too. Character and integrity too.

  2. I am such a dolt! I grow up listening to my Uncle singing all things ApoHS. Why I didn’t realized I am commenting on a stars blog, I would never know. Just blame it on my 5 children.

    I am a fan a long long time ago. When you mention about your song in this post, something finally click. OMG. I feel like doing that Wayne’s World thing.

  3. I agree with you a hundred percent. When my kids became teenagers, i noticed that they were more preoccupied with other things apart from their studies. They wanted to spend more time with their friends. While they were still with me, i borrowed money to be able to spend holidays overseas with them. I worked part time so that I am home when they come home from school. I’ve worked full time now that they are grown up but i take leaves when they needed me e.g. when they get sick. On their school holidays I take a leave from work too and we spend holidays together here or overseas. Time spent with children is far more precious than all the material things we can offer them. I’d rather spend money on them now on things they wanted and on events we can do together like eating out, going to themeparks, attending concerts, travelling, enjoying music, watching DVD’s at home, going to the library etc. I even bring them along grocery shopping. My most memorable time with my Dad (rip) was when he was teaching me things like how to feed a chick, gather citrus or watching him build me a cabinet. Great post, Jim

  4. I am so touched by this post. your children are very lucky to have you as their dad. Well done on the cooking 🙂

  5. Jim,
    Great blog. Makes you want
    to sing Father and Son of
    Cat Stevens. Maybe you can
    compose one in Tagalog. And I
    agree with you that bonding
    with your kid is PRICELESS.
    Every Sunday, I look forward to seeing my kid (she’s 16) we go to church together and we eat brunch or sometimes go biking and have so much fun talking and laughing. This is what fatherhood is all about.

    With regards to home cooked food–there really is one basic thing in cooking and that is the foundation or base (of cooking). That means the “gisa” or saute (cooking oil, garlic, onion, or with tomato), after that, you can take your cooking whereever you want to go. It could be sinigang, nilagang baka, nilagang manok (with ginger), kare-kare, etc. Patis to taste and add vegetables on the last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking. Since I’m currently single,I decided to blend all my vegetables in a blender (ala Swartzenegger!) Yum!–Enjoy!


  6. Hi, Jim.

    That’s a great post…it was touching. But forgive me if I veer away a little. I’ve read some days back in Ricardo Lo’s column that the APO are gonna have their 38th anniversary concert on August 11. I will actually be home for a two-week leave later this month but I’m gonna miss your concert by a week (I return to Dubai on Aug 4th). I really feel bad about it because I already missed your 25th anniversary concert. That time, I was also on home leave but I was torn between my first nephew’s desire to watch David Copperfield and my own’s to see you in concert. Obviously, my nephew prevailed. Every year, whenever I hear you’re having a concert (Philippines or somewhere else) I always that I’d make sure to watch your major one. And here now, your 38th and I’m gonna miss again.

    Question is: would somebody (a TV station or some promoter) show it on TV some time after the concert? Or is somebody planning to film it and sell it in DVD format? Man, I’m a BIG FAN–no question about that–and your music always bring good memories to me. They uplift me. I’m not musically-inclined nor could I carry a note, but whenever I hear APO’s songs, they never fail me to sing with you. You bet, I’ve memorized some your songs and I’d say I can carry some of your tune if given the karaoke mic.

    Anyway, I wish I can watch your concert but it would again be one missed opportunity. I just hope that you’re going to mount a major, major concert on your 40th and hopefully you’ll give your fans, especially those overseas like me, ample time to prepare and schedule their home leaves around your concert day.

  7. Joey of Dubai–Sayang! No, there won’t be TV coverage.

    On our 49th, we will have a big one and probably do an extensive tour all over so maybe you can watch us.

    Shoshana–ha ha.

    vicky–Yup. Those are the best memories of all. When you share time and attention with anyone, it’s precious.

    kaje– thanks.

    Ray–Thanks to suggestions like yours, I am learning a lot!

  8. Jim:

    Sounds like you don’t need recipes anymore. Be ambitious and bake! yes, they have those ready mix cake and instructions at the back of the box. Masarap yong Betty Crocker mix, especially the chocolate one…it will taste good if you put some chocolate icing on top. Yum!

    Spending time with children are very precious. When my children were small, they love to hang out with us, now that they are 22 and 18, I’m the least important person in their lives. They only need me or their father when they need something. Isn’t that the truth? Anyways, I don’t have any regrets with them (they still live with us). Their father is transferring all the VHS to DVD’s from the time they were born to present. Isn’t that cool? Once they have their own children, they will be doing the same thing we do, Jim.

    Bond with your son before the ladies get back…time is ticking.


  9. Get ready for some expense with Aus university costs, Jim. Whew!

    So do you trust the recipes that women have sent you more than the ones men have sent you? Be honest. Haha.

    Don’t forget the Aus cities in your Apo tours Jim. Also the cities outside Sydney & Melbourne.


  10. Hi Jim

    Made some comment before which most of your fans didn’t like. Unfortunately, when I say I love Australia, my adopted country, what people hear is “I hate the Philippines”.

    Re “Home alone”, because of my son’s and I involvement in soccer, we spent ten years being togetherthrough trainings and driving all over NSW for games. We started from Under 8’s to under 18’s, until he started Uni.

    Experiences like this though priceless are not unique with the lifestyle here in Sydney. It is part and parcel of family lifestyle. It is something that is extremely difficult to do for a middle class family in the Phils.

    Glad to hear you’re enjoying the little things in your adopted country.

  11. Hi Jim,

    I salute you for being a wonderful parent to your children. I suggest to your son, Mio to save for all – university education, art supplies, and musical expenses by having a balanced savings and spending plan. It is great living at home with supportive parents like you and your wife. Mio should explore investment opportunities such as Mutual Funds, bonds, stocks and RRSP’s. I strongly suggest checking this book, “Secrets of the Millionaire Mind” by T. Harv Eker. A great financial book and please check out, Financial management for Dummies.

    I saved up for college on my own here in Toronto, Canada and still found the time, energy and money to play with my band to pursue my musical dreams because I am working in a decent job after college. A significant positive experieces and results from dozens of gigs, performances, 3 CDS and meeting a lot of cool people from rehearsals and performances.

    All I can say is pursue your passions, be compassion and do all of them in a full stomach! Being financially independent is essential ingredient to be fully independent.

    Hanggang sa muli,

    Bass Poet

  12. hello po mang jim,
    nice post and very touching.kahit d kau marunong mag luto k lang yun basta you have a great bonding with mio for the rest of the days na wala pa duan wife nyo.

    your kids must be proud to have a parents like you.

    best regards !

  13. Re: Pizza Job

    My younger son worked at Pizza Hut for 2 yrs and then Rebel Sports during his entire years at the uni. Pag-uwi sa bahay, amoy pizza and after a while, amoy pizza na rin ang buong bahay. Because of these parttime jobs, we didn’t have to spend money on his education; he paid for his books and other expenses; HECS naman ang tuition.

    On his final term at uni, he went to a few job interviews and before the term ended, he had a job placement; after 6 years, he’s still with this company.

    He told me that his training and work experiences at Pizza and Rebel were crucial in the job interviews as there were plenty of questions on working with teams.

    Sa pinas, slightly different story – I think parents generally discourage their kids from working while studying dahil importante raw ay puro aral.

  14. I’m a 29 year-old dad of a 8 month-old son, and reading your posts on how you’ve been spending time with your son gets me excited and anxious of the days when I do get to have bonding time with my own son, bonding between a father and a son

  15. that’s a very nice post. it made me want to go home and be with my son. thanks for sharing it.

    your children are so lucky to have you.

  16. Hi Jim,

    It’s so great that i’ve “stumbled” into your blog. You’ve got lots of touching stories to tell, thanks for sharing. I just wish my hubby could get to read this too! I admire the relationship you have with your son. Mio in chavacano (dialect of zamboanga) means mine, bet you know that already… :p

    God bless and keep on cookin’, hehehe, i’m not a good cook myself, lucky me hubby is an excellent one!


  17. Hello,Sir Jim.
    just came across your blogsite.I was touch with your bonding story with your Mico,hindi mapapantayan nang ano mang amount of money ang every moment you spend with your kids.When i got here in the US 18 years ago,i became a mother right away,sa kabila ng katutuhanang i needed to send money back home every month, pinili kong mag-stayhome to be with my child,becuse of this i didn’t really leave my life like i invision to be like before i left Philippines.Myself and my hubby lived our life pay-day to pay-day and the money that i need to send back home…tinitipid ko ang pag-kain ko,pag-kain ko lang naman since my hubby is an american hindi ko ma-i-aply if he wants pizza or steak they gotta have it,the nice thing was i had to cook.My point is wala paring castle ang MaMa dearest ko hindi parin ako mayaman “no i didn’t dreamed to be a rich person” i am rich with attension from my hubby and my three, yes three young teens.And of course a lot and very rich with love.I don’t care kung after 18 years of marriage ngayon palang kami bumili nang house,okey lang mas malaki ang kingdom na maitayo ko,which are my love of my life,”my three boys”and of course my husband.I used to envy poeple like you Sir,lot’s of money,fame,looks and maraming friends i bet,pero hindi ko akalaing i was foolish to envy,oh..also you are my idol Sir,you are still handsome.”sorry to say this Sir and i hope this is legal in your blog” you don’t have to post it if you find it inapropriate,again a thousand apology.Anyway, way off na yata ako sa topic,sorry po…na touch lang ako,my father was there for us or should i say i was there for him till i was ten,he was there but walang trabaho,you are father i bet you know where i’m going with this,which a totally very,very long story….i’ll stop right here.I guess ibang story totally kung ikaw ang father kaysa mother,i think we have the choices wethere we want to go to work and ipa-alaga na lang ang mga bata or stay home,which sa karamihan sa aming nandito sa ibang bansa at ina-asahan nang mga kaanak back home for financial support, which i don’t mind i like doing it and i know that mahaga sa kanila ang tulong naming mag-asawa.Para sa akin,wala akong regrets,only total satisfaction,at alam nyo ba Sir Jim kung saan ko masyadong nara-ramdaman ang mga ito? kapag nagpaluto na nang sinigang and menudo ang mga anak ko.Hanga ako sa inyo Sir sana naging tulad nyo ang father ko,pero para sa akin what ever happened before hindi big deal,i have loved my father the way he was and still love him the way he is,after all,he is what he is and who he is untill now,still my loved father.Your story Sir Jim, makes me miss him more and also my MaMa.Thank you sir for this site,i will visit this everyday.

  18. very nice entry. it is definitely heartwarming. i wish i had a dad like you when i was mio’s age. growing up would have truly been a whole lot easier. keep it up sir & god bless!

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