Dads make mistakes, too

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – June 16, 2019 – 12:00am

It is Father’s Day once more. There will be the usual greetings from children to their dads. Some of us dads may even receive cards, phone calls, kisses and hugs, and gifts from our partners and offspring. Lucky for those who do.

Some fathers may just see today as just another day in their lives. It starts and finishes uneventfully. It comes and goes without fanfare. It does not necessarily mean they are not loved nor cared for. Some families just do not celebrate it with hoopla.

I want to talk to fathers in this article.

The world has defined fathers as multi-taskers. We are supposed to be material providers, physical protectors and defenders, nurturers, cheerleaders, disciplinarians, the big man to run to when you have problems, the final decision maker and arbiter of fights in the house, the head of the family, someone to depend on to help you, someone who won’t fail you; the teacher, guide and moral guardian in life, the pillar of strength, etc. Fathers should be looked up to by their children as role models. That’s how the world has defined what fathers are.

Might I add that fathers are also one of the reasons that children do their best in school and sports. They need to hear validation from Dad (and Mom) that they are worthy and good children.

The job description above is a tall order. They are big burdens that fathers are supposed to carry out the moment they have children. For a father like me and many others, we are expected to do all these with patience, consistency and heart.

In real life, not all fathers are up to these tasks. Some have a hard time being material providers. Some are emotionally incapable of having meaningful or close relationships with their children. There are those who work abroad whose relationship and interaction with their children are limited through video chats or social media and the rare vacation from work when they come home and actually see their children. Fathers are also not shining examples of adult behavior all the time. We trip. We fall. We fail. We are not always mature. We are human.

Each family situation is different. There are many unique circumstances in modern life that make being successful in all of the above tasks impossible. There are also those who are deadbeat dads — those who have abandoned all responsibilities and obligations and have practically cut ties with their children. I pity them both. There is so much they are missing out on.

One thing I know is there are many adults who have issues with their fathers. Perhaps all of us do to some degree, be they minor or major. Some have deep unresolved issues that continue to play out in their adult lives.

I remember being part of a staff of a workshop called “Reparenting the Child Within” that was run by the psychologist Harriet Hormillosa. The aim of the workshop was to help you move on from childhood traumas by reliving them but this time as an adult with the right tools, skills and support to handle them better. The goal is to help you consciously move on from past experiences and be happier. With help from trained workshop facilitators, you can now go through your childhood crises better prepared as you consciously process and heal the pain you’ve carried through the years.

Harriet asked me to be present during one workshop and be a “substitute dad” to anyone who may feel a “father hunger.” In workshops like these, participants can talk to a surrogate father and tell him things they may have wished to tell their own dad, but never did. Or maybe they may want that hug from “father” who rarely showed affection.

Expectedly, there were very emotionally charged moments that I went through with some of the participants. I absorbed their projections and in turn I gave back some validation of their feelings. Some had very angry emotions of abandonment and shame. They were crying, shouting. They were highly strung. Some needed to say things they never got to tell their own fathers, especially those whose dads had passed away. I experienced confrontation, painful confessions, and different types of engagements that they so needed to go through. On my end, I asked questions to help them bring out the pain that had bound them to trauma. I did not defend nor accuse their fathers. I was merely present to what they were going through. I validated what they felt. Some needed a shoulder and a hug while crying profusely. I tried to exude love, compassion and understanding at all times. I hardly said anything. They just had to let it all out. It is an understatement to say I learned a lot from the workshops.

Our connection to our fathers defines us to a great deal for better or worse. They affect our choices in life in practically all aspects.

I am aware of this with my own children. As a father of three children, I have taken great pride and joy in helping my kids with their homework and many other things. I have had many conversations with them about all sorts of things and issues. We have had many happy times. But I also knew that they had some sort of resentment about my being away during long tours. I missed out on birthdays, graduations, etc. They also did not like being defined as children of some celebrity and living under my shadow. I wanted them to live their own lives and make it on their own.

The move to Australia was about giving them a chance at making a life for themselves without my fame or influence getting in the way. That was my gift to them. They always know they can come back home. But through their own efforts, they have built lives and careers there and found happiness and fulfillment.

At a certain point, children stop being children and parents cease being parents except perhaps in name. When kids get older, they begin to live their own lives while their parents try to move into a new chapter without having to tend to their children’s everyday lives. That’s a pretty hard move for parents to do. My children and I are at this point in our family life. We do care for each other but we also have our own lives to live.

As time goes by, more and more changes will happen to our family.

Parents who used to care for their kids will soon be watched over by their own children. Kids will realize that their parents do get older and get more vulnerable health-wise.

Our family is not there yet, thank God.

I would hate to be a burden to my children later on. I am taking care of my health to avoid this as much as possible. Time is moving fast. There are so many things to do and so little time to do them. I have one immediate goal I would like to do and that is to have a family vacation soon. With my children living in two separate continents and having kids and partners in life, it gets harder to plan these things where everyone can spare common time to be together. I am hoping we can pull it off next year.

I know Lydia and I have taught our kids many things. The most important are compassion, kindness, independence, and love for each other. These are essential things to teach your children.

As much as I have loved them, so will they love me back. They have done that many times and continue to do so. And I can only be a grateful dad.

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