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Thirty-eight years of fatherhood

I have been a father for 38 years. I have three children. I remember my entire journey of fatherhood from the very beginning.

It started off as something effortless. I got my wife pregnant which was not difficult at all. It was so wonderful we decided to she should get pregnant two more times. 

It was when she delivered our first baby that fatherhood stopped being something abstract and became real. Erica was a colicky baby who was allergic to almost all types of milk. But she was a sprightly kid, super active, who walked very early. She seemed to be ahead of the curve. She also ran and talked in quick succession — a fast learner in every way.

Our second child, Ala, was more relaxed and easygoing, a direct contrast to Erica. She was quiet, unrushed. She fantasized about being a princess and internalized it so that it showed in the way she walked and handled herself as a very young kid. She was sensitive to music and would cry when the chords and melody of something she was listening to turned sad. Early on, it was clear she would be an artist.

Mio, our only boy, was born smiling and had a loud chuckle even as an infant. He was curious about everything and was the most easy-going of our three kids. I’ve always enjoyed our father-son relationship. We seem to be on the same wavelength.

I learned fatherhood skills when they were needed. I helped Lydia put them to sleep. I spent a lot of time reading to them and with them, the classic children’s stories like “Peter Pan,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” etc. I also read poems to them and played music at bedtime.

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When they started going to school, I helped them with their homework. I got them into reading, and made sure they loved the written word so they would become readers for life, which they are. And all of them write as well.

Erica is four years older than Ala. And Ala is five years older than Mio. For a time, I had a child in college, high school and grade school. I had to relate to each of them uniquely as they went through the different stages of learning, socializing and self-discovery.

Fatherhood is demanding. Aside from physically protecting, nurturing, educating and taking care of them, I have to be some kind of authority on intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual matters. I am also a disciplinarian, playmate, storyteller, protector, coach, rescuer, friend, someone who can make them laugh, think, and more. I must also earn their respect. And whatever the occasion, I have to be fully present and relevant.

When they were growing up, I liked to provoke them to think and discover things for themselves, experience being the greatest teacher. I gave them ample opportunities to figure things out for themselves.

As they have grown older, I find that many of my traditional roles as father have begun to recede and disappear. Kids grow up and become young adults. They have new sets of problems that require me to step back in spite of my protective instincts towards them. I must learn to listen and allow them the freedom to experience life on their own. I must refrain from imposing on them too much. I must learn to trust them and let go, but still be around to lend advice and empathy when they ask for it or need it.

I am quite pleased that my children feel free to open up to me not just about their careers, or their emotional turmoil, but also about their love lives. We speak very frankly since they know I will really listen and, at that moment, suspend judgment when they tell me their problems. I have had many long, satisfying talks with my three kids.

What I enjoy most these days is the constant affirmation that Lydia and I have raised interesting, intelligent and compassionate human beings who have something positive to contribute to the world. Erica, Ala and Mio know how to love deeply. They are kind and forgiving. They are passionate and independent. They are mostly happy and have a strong sense and appreciation of being part of the family we find ourselves in.

Our kids have had opportunities to travel together, caring and looking after each other. It is a blessing that they genuinely enjoy each other’s company. While they are all on their own in different parts of the world, they work at being together as often as they can.

It is said that a parent’s work is never done. I am not sure about that. To a certain extent, many of the roles I played when they were growing up have ended. Lydia and I raised our kids to be free and independent. I like to think that they will eventually outgrow us, come into their own, and live their own lives. But our presence in their lives continues. I hope we continue to be relevant to them as we all get older.

I like it that they chose their own paths in life. Independence does not mean they will forget us. It just means they can be brave enough to pursue their dreams knowing that they have our support.

Fatherhood has taught me many things, the most important of which is unconditional love. As parents, we may sometimes feel that our kids have failed us when they do not live up to our expectations. But we still love them even as we pick up after some bad decisions they may make. I hope they can also forgive our failures and imperfections as parents. Raising my kids has taught me patience, consistency, discipline, love and compassion. For this, I am grateful to them.

By the way, my kids have made me a grandfather of two — which is an entirely different experience altogether. But that’s a subject for another article. 

 

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