In a few months, you’ll be six years old and a first grader. I was browsing through the past entries here and I paused at every picture of you that I’ve posted so far. Where has the time gone? Sigh…
Based on my personal experience, lessons in fatherhood get exponentially difficult over time. As you grow up, the many elements of being a good father seem to evolve and multiply tremendously. I am afraid that I am messing it up quite gloriously. I still hope to be able to catch up with my lessons as much as possible so that when the time comes, I wouldn’t have to say to you or to myself, “I have flunked fatherhood.”
I realized that the heart of a father, though it is the very source of common sense parenting for dads, can be drowned out by the other “roles” I have. I am working on strengthening my foundations so that the roles that matter most, may also end up being the strongest – as a believer, father, husband, son and brother, citizen.
I believe I have said this before in some other way but that’s your old man – I repeat myself. The value of my fatherhood is best reflected in the glory that are my children. It matters not how other people see me as a person and a dad for as long as in the eyes of my wife and children, I am the husband and dad that I’m supposed to be. Light years from perfect that’s for sure, but a good enough husband and dad nonetheless. This is my hope. This is my desire.
Son, if I fail you, and I do fail you many times, please know that beyond my failure, my love for you is not diminished. If for anything, my love for you constantly grows every single day. I only wish for you to be the best person that you can ever be, no matter what stage you are in your life. I love you endlessly.
If one reads through the series of posts, it is not obvious that it has been almost two years since I last wrote something here. Just saying.
You are now five years old. You’re about to finish your first school year in a formal pre-school. By their configuration, you will be in the preparatory level (before first grade) by June this year. We have been amazed by the things they now teach at your level. As far as my faulty memory serves me, some of the things you are being taught in school, I took up when I was already in grade school/elementary. To say that the times have changed so much is such an understatement.
I’ve been reading a book called “No Drama Discipline” by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D. I have been reading it in installments. So far, I am learning much from it. The application of what I’ve learned is a different story altogether. Suffice it to say, I need a lot of practice in order to be able to live out what the book is teaching me so far. My fear is that, I may be running out of time in being able to apply its principles in the sense that I may be causing more harm in your development than good. Still, I hope that it is not too late.
One thing it is teaching me is the importance of connection during opportunities for discipline. It teaches that connection opportunities during moments of discipline support the child’s brain development towards the forming of proper values and being able to make sound decisions in the future. Removing the drama helps a child to focus better on the situation for what it is. At least that’s part of my interpretation of what the book is teaching me.
Son, when we disagree, especially at this point in time when your reasoning abilities are developing more and more each day, unfortunately, there is drama. Our emotions clash, you end up in tears often, we both get frustrated at each other, I tend to expect you to understand as an adult would, and it’s disappointing. I am most disappointed at myself. You, on the other hand, are just being yourself. In spite of this recurring scene (for now), the hope I hold in my heart burns bright – that we will overcome and we will endure. My hope lives, that I may yet be a good father to you and I can contribute to your being a good man in the future. Please bear with me a while as I continue to learn this no drama discipline thing. I believe that it’s really more for my development as a parent than it is for you as a child. Soon…
In the midst of it all, as I always say, I love you to bits and that will never change.
The other day, I was trying to engage you in a conversation. And as most our conversations go, they would normally be about cars, construction vehicles, cartoon characters from movies you watch over and over, your toys, and every now and then, people you know. I can’t remember how our conversation eventually wound its way towards love but this, I vividly remember you say: “I love mom, I love dad, I love Mateo, I love Nanay, I love Tatay, I love Lolo, I love Lola… I love everyone!”
It put a big smile on my face to hear you say that. And as always, it made me wonder how well you actually understood what you said. I suppose that in your very young consciousness, your understanding of love is as complete as it can be and I can only pray that the concept of loving everyone stays with you until you are old and gray.
To love everyone is not easy. But it is surely something that will get you through life. The world is already negative and cynical and fearsome and depressed as it is. Many people long to feel anything that may even just resemble being loved. To genuinely love people, without hope or agenda, will build your character. And to be a man of character is quite an achievement in and by itself. Be a man of character, son.
More on this in the days to come. I love you with my whole life and being.
On 27 May 2015, at three years, three months (and two days) of age, you became an older brother. Little Sebastian Mateo was born early in the morning. Unlike you, he wasn’t able to join us in a matter of a few hours in the room. He stayed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for almost three days. Your mom and I worried much but we also hoped just as much. When Mateo was finally roomed in, he still had an IV drip attached to his tiny hand.
In the Filipino culture (not to mention the nuances in varying family cultures and traditions within the Philippine setting), as the eldest, a lot is expected of you. Just to mention some, you are expected to behave better than your little brother so that you can give him a good example. You are also expected to take care of him because you’re slightly older and therefore, should know better. A lot more of these expectations you will discover for yourself as you go along.
Son, more than such expectations and trying to live up to them, what I would rather have you learn in your life as you grow, is knowing how to take responsibility. I’m not saying that cultural expectations aligned with sibling hierarchy is utterly wrong. In fact, there is a lot we can learn from such traditions. But I’m hoping that foundational to such traditions would be the way you take responsibility for the things and people entrusted to you, one way or another, in big and small ways.
Now, learning to take responsibility is not easy. It will take a lot of experience before one can even get a glimpse of what it means to take responsibility. That is to say, I do not intend to teach you whatever it is I know about taking responsibility in this post. But as my other posts are intended, I write this to serve as a reminder that one day, we will eventually talk about such things, father to son.
Until then, please always remember to be good for it is character that determines the kind of person we are to be in this world. I love you endlessly.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything here. Your mom expects to deliver towards the end of this month or early the next. It has not been an easy-breezy pregnancy compared to when she was pregnant with you but we are nonetheless thankful that we’re nearing full term.
Son, as you continue to grow and learn, your character and your personality also develop. I have been realizing more fully lately how possible it is for your personality and my personality to disagree sometimes. I don’t know how old you’ll be when you begin reading these posts but let me write it down now so that these words don’t get lost in the ocean of everyday things. When we end up disagreeing about something and I hurt your feelings and let you down, I would like to ask for your forgiveness even now. As out of line as it may seem, I would like to ask for your patience. Whatever our disagreement may be, and how stubborn with pride I may seem, please know that I love you with all my heart even if it doesn’t feel that way at the moment we don’t see eye to eye. I may infuriate you every now and then because dads are imperfect and not really the superhero kind of guy little boys would sometimes picture their dads to be. It may sometimes seem that I don’t care about what it is you’re fighting for because I don’t seem to listen to what you’re really saying. Even if such instances come between us and it feels as though I have turned my back on you to put my own feelings and pride first, please, please know that as stubborn as your old man may be, I do not ever stop loving you, not even in a moment of intense anger or frustration.
Many times, I have an urge to write here but when I start to try to write something, my mind draws a blank. I’ve reflected on why that happens and I’ve realized that, my urge to write here is mostly out of the growing father in me. Many times, that growth is beyond words. When you were born, that was also the very moment the father in me was born. In a very real sense, although I may be the adult (for now) in this father-son relationship, I am actually growing as a father together with you. You’re a three-year-old boy and I’m a three-year-old dad. Let us walk this father-and-son path together and discover its many surprises!
I love you. Should forgetfulness afflict me at some point in my life to the point that I do not even recognize the people whom I dearly love, I want to assure you, son, that in the deepest recesses of my being, my love for your remains true and whole.
In 2014, I was half your grandfather’s age. I’m no mathematician but through the simple estimates I’ve run through my head, I don’t think it will ever happen again during both our lifetime (your grandfather’s and mine). Not that there is something earth-shatteringly significant about it. I guess I’m just nostalgic that way.
In 2014, I moved to a different employer and it was the year some major decisions were made regarding the beginnings of a permanent home for us.
You turned two years old and we have witnessed every day how you are more significantly developing your own personality. After a miscarriage in 2013, we have been blessed again and are now expecting your sibling sometime towards the middle of this year.
How quickly the years go by…
I personally believe that the importance of communicating clearly cannot be stressed enough especially in this day and age. I witness it too often how unclear communication between people can cause some really serious situations.
I went out to get a haircut the other day – a Sunday. On other Sundays, the usual barber shops that I go to are normally open. That Sunday was a bit different as all of the barber shops I’ve gone to before for a haircut, were closed. Perhaps it was because it was a long weekend (Monday being a holiday). So, I looked for one that was open.
It was a small barber shop but not the run-by-the-mill kind with just one or two barbers. This one had four busy barbers with two other seats to spare. I waited my turn. When my haircut was already underway, a somewhat elderly man began to raise his voice at one of the barbers. I noticed in the background that they have already been talking but I didn’t pay attention to their conversation as it was none of my business. Besides, I was busy with thoughts of my own. But with the raising of the voice, it was impossible not to notice. In fact, everyone else in the barber shop – customers and staff alike – paid attention.
Apparently, the elderly man (it wasn’t clear to me if he was a customer or just a guy who hangs around the barber shop with his other elderly friend) felt somewhat disrespected by one of the barbers. He felt that the manner by which the barber told him to get a haircut from one of the other barbers who just finished with his customer, was disrespectful. From the defense of the accused barber, he mentioned that he meant no disrespect of any sort. The long and short of it, tempers began to flare and I actually thought they were going to get into a brawl. Thankfully, the elderly man’s friend intervened by telling him to stop it unless he would want him to get a heart attack. Even then, the elderly man still managed to make some trailing comments with his friend cutting him abruptly in order for him to just shut it.
In the course of the brewing argument, I witnessed how things got out of hand because both began to misunderstand each other even in the process of each defending his own. I don’t know at what point it happened but one or both parties seemed to have just shut the other out to the point of merely standing his ground for the sake of not conceding that he was wrong. Initial claims seemed to slightly change as their tempers escalated all in defense of one’s own position. All-in-all, it was amazing how things got to boiling point in just a matter of seconds. During those moments, images of tabloid headlines flashed into my mind – “Man killed inside barber shop for not wanting a haircut…”
I will say it again – I personally believe that the importance of communicating clearly cannot be stressed enough especially in this day and age. So, son, it will do you well to learn how to communicate clearly. And you know what? I believe that the biggest part of communicating clearly is learning to listen very, very well. Clear communication which brings about harmonious and life-giving relationships, is mostly about understanding the other person first, before seeking to be understood.
More on this in the future. I love you, son!