No More Free Concerts

Last week, I took a day off from work, drove a couple of hours, travel more than a hundred miles, just to see a concert.

It was not a concert of one of those pop superstars, like Adele or Lady Gaga. Nor was it a concert of some well-known classical artist like Andrea Bocelli or Yoyo Ma.

It was my daughter’s concert. It was their university’s orchestra performance. And it was their first concert for this school year.

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I have seen my daughter play cello in the orchestra multiple times in the past. From her grade school days, to high school days, and to community orchestra. From the screechy-sound of beginners, to more polished tones of intermediate, to quite advanced.

Though this maybe the best group that she’s been a member so far. After all they were all music majors, both undergraduate and graduate students. As far as I am concern, they can be considered “professional” musicians now.

We knew back then, that when we introduced our little girl to music, that she has a special attachment to it, and we cannot deny the fact that she has a gift for it. So it was no surprise that that was the career path she chose to pursue. Even though honestly, I tried to sway her to a different path.

I know as a parent, we wanted a secure future for our kids. So we prefer professions like engineer, or doctor, or lawyer. But what’s wrong with literature, or arts, or music, if that’s where our child’s passion is? Success should not be gauge only on how much money we can earn, but also on the satisfaction and joy on doing what we love to do.

It was heartwarming to witness that my daughter is getting very skillful on the cello, as well as playing with the orchestra. But playing cello is not even her major. She’s majoring in another instrument. A much larger instrument, the piano. So there will be more concerts and recitals to attend to.

All those years of music lessons are finally paying off. We’re proud as well that our homeschooling “experiment,” (we homeschooled her from kindergarten to high school) was a success. All of our worries that her education was not adequate, were all appeased.

Now, my daughter is not merely surviving, but thriving in college. She even was granted a good scholarship that covers her college tuition, so we only have to pay for her food and dorm. With the cost of college education ever on the rise, ranging from $10,000 per year in state universities (for in-state residents) to $50,000 or more per year in private and more expensive institutions, getting a college degree these days can definitely break the bank.

Back to the concert. Though some of the selection they played were kind of hypnotic to me, I was able to stay awake through the concert. Over all it was fantastic. After the final bow, the audience were up on their feet. The only gripe I have on the concert is that it was not free. Sorry, I’m cheap.

But I get it. It helps support their university’s music program. Besides, the quality of their performance was superb that the concert was even recorded, and maybe aired one of these days on a public radio station. Definitely worth paying for.

So for the first time, I bought a ticket just to see my daughter perform. But I’m OK with that.

I wonder, would I have to pay a more expensive ticket when it’s time for her solo piano performance?

Empty Room

As parents, there are events in our child’s life that are happy moments, that we are proud of and we celebrate.

Events like their first spoken word, or their first step. Or maybe it is their first goal in the kids’ soccer league, or their first medal in the youth swim meet. Or maybe it is their first piano recital or perhaps their first role in their school play.

Or perhaps it is your child’s first visit to the principal’s office. What? Oh my mistake! We defintely are not proud of that, and don’t celebrate that event.

However, there are also events in our child’s life that are supposed to be milestone, but somehow we are sad that that day has come.

One of those events is when they enter college. Especially when the university they are going to is more than a hundred miles away, and that means they are leaving home.

So the day that we are preparing for, and also dreading for, but know that it is coming, has come.

Our little girl is off to college! Where did time go?

my daughter’s school bag evolution: from elementary, to high shcool, and college

As we sent her off to college the other day, I was having some difficulty bringing her stuff and things down the stairs to load in the car. It was not that her stuff was heavy, like her teddy bear. Or maybe a little bit, like her drawer. But it was more so that my heart was heavy. I can’t seem to let go.

We want her to stay home. Perhaps just to be with us for a little longer. But we also know that it is time. Time for her to pursue her chosen career. Time for her to follow her dreams. Time for her to go out there, and make her own mark in this world.

As I passed my daughter’s room this morning, something have drawn me to enter it. Perhaps I was hoping that she’s still there, sleeping in her bed. Perhaps I was wishing to find someone there that I would nudge out of bed, and tell her to go hop into the shower, for it is late. Perhaps I was just missing someone to greet good morning, and remind her that I love her.

We are definitely not washing our daughter’s bedsheet, pillow cases, and blanket. We will leave her bed as is, as she left it. Until she comes back home for a visit.

 

 

Flowers for My Daughter (Reloaded)

Six years ago, I had this post (see original post here):

Flowers for My Daughter

Today is my daughter’s 12th birthday. And this is her first birthday to be away from home and from us, as she is currently with my relatives in California for a short vacation. Besides greeting her over the phone, I also did send her flowers.

It just seems yesterday that my little girl was just playing in the dirt and picking wild flowers and dandelions in our yard. She will collect the dandelions and put them in a cup with water, and then she will give them to mom.

I think it is interesting that she finds beauty in the dandelions while I find them a nuisance weed that needs to be killed at all cost, even if I use enough herbicide to poison a whole town. That just prove that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.

Now, my little girl is not little anymore as I want to believe. Where did time go?

I know not very long from now, boys will be giving her flowers for her birthday, for Valentine’s, and for no occasion at all. I just want to be the first one to do so. And when that day (that every father dreads) comes, when she will walk down the aisle with a bouquet of flowers in her hands, I hope she remembers who gave her, her first flowers.

If you do the math, then you’ll deduce how old my daughter is now. Time really flies. I still have a hard time believing this too.

In a few months she will be off to college and will be leaving home. There will be one empty room in our home. No one in that room that I would nudge out of bed if she won’t get up even after her two alarm clocks went off. No one to gently remind to hurry up if she’s taking her sweet time in the shower. No one to holler to to get out of her room and come down for dinner. No one in that room that I would say good night to. And no one from that room that would answer back “Good night Dad.” No one to……..

Sorry. Maybe I’m just over reacting. Or maybe I’m a hopeless sentimental fool. Is it full moon?

But even if she’s away and not home anymore, I still can send her flowers, right? Just like before, when she turned 12.

Today, I just did. Even if she’s not away.

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(*photo taken with an iPhone)

 

Someone to Watch Over Me

“Your bear needs a car seat”.

With a knowing smile, that’s what one of my partners at work told me, a few days ago. He was talking about the teddy bear in my car.

He claimed his curiosity was piqued when he saw a teddy bear securely strapped with a seatbelt in the back seat of a car, and wondered whose car was it. Then he saw a white lab coat with a name embroidered on it, hanging on the back rest of the front seat. He then learned that it was mine.

I was busted for having a teddy bear in the car!

my silent passenger

You probably wondering, why does a grown-up man have a toy bear?

That teddy bear was placed by my wife in my car right after our son was born. We were still in Florida at that time. It was for the purpose that whenever our baby rides in my car, there’s a toy that he can play with to keep him quiet, and also to keep him company in the back seat.

Sure enough, whenever my son and even my daughter whose 5 years older, rode in my car, they played with that teddy bear. It pacified them. It cheered them. It kept them company. My son even gave it a name. He called it “Dr. Teddy.”

That was some time ago.

We have changed home address at least 3 times, moved to Iowa since, and I even replaced my previous car. But that bear remained in the back seat of my car.

And my son? He does not even sit in the back seat anymore. He now sits in the front seat whenever he rides with me.

In the US, the traffic law of most states only allow children to sit in the front seat of a vehicle if they are more than 80 pounds, or more than 5 feet tall, or more than 12 years of age. My son is all of the above now.

My daughter? She herself has been driving for about a year already.

Perhaps I just did not notice how time have gone so fast that that bear was not needed anymore. Or perhaps I was too busy and just did not have the time to remove the teddy bear. Or maybe I just cannot let go of the bear, and the period of time and the memories it represents.

Though I don’t particularly miss tangling with infant carrier, or futzing with car seats, or changing diapers.

For you parents with little children, who probably gets annoyed with the ritual of fastening carriers and car seats, or perhaps are fed up of the duty of changing the dreaded dirty diapers: embrace these rites of passage. For tomorrow, you blink, and they’re gone, except for the memories.

Or maybe, just maybe, that the bear was not really for my kids, but for me. Someone to watch over me, and keep me company when I’m all by myself.

The bear stays.

(*photo taken with an iPhone)

Overdrive

They said it is a landmark event. An occasion of historic proportion. Signaling the dawn of a new era.

Before you get too excited, perhaps I’m just getting overly dramatic. It just that it was the first time that I was sitting on the passenger seat of a car, and my daughter was on the driver’s seat. My little girl is driving!

My daughter who is now 16 years of age, has recently acquired a learner’s permit and can drive under adult supervision. She is also taking a driver’s education course (driver’s ed).

Completing a formal driver’s ed, is required here in Iowa for all who have learner’s permit before they can apply for a full driver’s license. This includes 30 hours of classroom instruction and 6 hours of laboratory instruction, including 3 hours behind the wheel. That’s an extensive driving lesson, more than all the driving tips I can provide. Plus I don’t want her to inherit my bad driving habits that I learned from driving in Manila.

In the meantime, this means my daughter can drive as long as an adult with a valid driver’s license, is with her inside the vehicle. In another year, she’ll be able to drive alone on her own altogether.

This is exciting because this means my daughter is now a young lady and driving must be a monumental experience for her. Isn’t it not too long ago that she was just sitting at the back, strapped on a child car seat, and kicking the back of my driver’s seat?

Yes exciting, but also scary.

Scary not because I’m afraid that she’ll drive recklessly and crash. She’s more “law-abiding” than any of us in the family. If the speed limit says 55 miles per hour, she will stay at 55. Not 65. Not 60. Not 58. But 55!

Scary not because I don’t trust her with this big responsibility signifying her independence. For I do trust her and I know that she is a responsible young lady.

It is scary because this means that as much as I want to be in control and protect her all the time, this time she has to do it on her own.

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A couple of days ago, I let my daughter drive with all of us inside the car. I sat on the front passenger seat, while my wife and son were in the back seat. Not too long after we pulled out of our driveway, I got so tense and almost jump from my seat, as I thought she was driving too close to the curb and almost hit our neighbor’s mailbox.

After giving her more driving tips, I tried to relax, but I can’t. My feet every now and then, would unknowingly kick or step on the floor as if I have the gas pedal or brake pedal on my side. I remember my father doing this too when he let me drive for the first time. It is a parent’s reflex.

Many times as parents, due to our paternal or maternal instincts, we always have the feeling that our children are in harm’s way and we try to protect them and keep them always under our wings.

But there comes a time, that we should let go. And let them take flight.

After a few more miles, as my daughter have gained more confidence behind the wheel, without me overbearing on her every move, I was able to control my anxiety and settle down. I am not the driver anymore. I am now a mere passenger.

Several more minutes later, we arrived at our destination safely and with my sanity intact. I’m sure my wife was much relieved too. Though I would say, my daughter still need to work on her parking skills.

Maybe someday when she will be more masterful in her driving, I can sit in the back of the driver’s seat. And as an homage and payback, I’ll softly kick her seat.

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Post Note: After publishing this piece, I received a notification that this is my 500th post. This is another landmark! Again, thank you for all you readers who make this all worthwhile.

Beyond Testing

Recently my wife and I were helping our daughter prepare for a national exam. It was the Preliminary Scholastic Assessment Test (PSAT) or also known as National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT). For my readers who are not familiar with this, it is one of the standardized tests high school students here in the US take. It is one thing colleges can use to evaluate for admissions, as well as qualification for scholarship grants. It is akin to the National College Entrance Examination (NCEE) in the Philippines which I took to apply for college. (By the way, NCEE was abolished in 1994, ten years after I took it.)

Test prep 1

It seems only yesterday, we were introducing the ABC’s to our daughter and teaching her how to count 1, 2, 3. Now she is way beyond 1A + 2/B = 3C. And indeed, we are preparing her for college admission already. In another blink, she’ll be off to college. Where did time go?

I would consider myself an expert test taker. That’s not bragging. Or maybe a little bit. With college exams, medical school tests, medical licensure exams (both US and Philippines), American board exam and different subspecialties board certifications – I believe I have taken so many exams that I have my test-taking skills refined to a tee. But that’s not my best qualification to coach my daughter for the PSAT. I may also have aced my college admission test, but that’s not my prime qualification either.

I believe my foremost qualification to help my daughter prepare for the exam, is the plain fact that I am his father, and I really cared for her future. In fact, my wife and I have taken our children’s education personally that we homeschooled them.

I remember my father telling me years ago, that the best inheritance they could leave me is education. We may not have much but I am thankful to my parents for the education they provided me, and the opportunities it opened for me that led me where I am now.

I have mentioned in the past that my father came not from a family of means, but a family of farmers in the Philippines. They were hardworking yet simple people. My father was the first one in their kinsfolk to pursue a higher education and to have a college degree. He did it by working to support himself through college.

My mother on the other hand came from a family of teachers. Most of them were elementary school teachers, including my mom. She was my first teacher, who introduced me to reading and math, even before I officially enrolled in kindergarten.

I have also mentioned in my past posts, that I am the first in our clan to go to medical school. I wished my dad could have seen me graduate, but he died prematurely even before I completed my first year. Even though he passed away, I was blessed that I was still able to finish medical school. Thanks to scholarship.

Last year, one nephew of mine, finished medical school. So I am not the only doctor now in our clan. I hope there will be another one in the future, even in my own immediate family.

My daughter does not know yet exactly what college course she wants to pursue. Nonetheless she is leaning towards music and math. One thing she knows though is that she does not want to be a medical doctor, and I am fine with that.

But there’s more important things in life than grades and scoring high in exams. There’s more important assets in this world than titles and college degrees. Values like integrity, honesty, perseverance, love, and family, just to name a few. I hope I can teach these to my children as well.

Whatever happens to the PSAT/NMSQT; or whatever college or career my daughter pursues; or whatever future for that matter, she will have – there is one thing that will not change. And that is I will be proud of her no matter what. Just for the simple reason, that she is my daughter.

(*image from here)

I’m a Father of a Teenager

It seems like yesterday…….

When you arrived into our world and I held you for the first time, in a hospital room that overlooks the New York’s Central Park.

When I danced with you in the middle of the night, as you would not sleep, while the Number 7 train roars from a distant track.

When I pushed you on a swing, in a crowded playground in the middle of hustle and bustle of upper Manhattan.

In our New York Apartment (Number 7 train in the distance)

Was it only yesterday…….

When you ran in your swimsuit on the grass, with the sprinkler on, as you gleefully soaked in water under Florida sun.

When you played and dug in the dirt beside our apartment, with the nearby fragrant orange groves in sight.

When I pushed your stroller as we walked in Downtown Disney, to watch the fireworks in the humid Orlando night.

It was like yesterday……

When you first stomped on the freshly fallen snow and scooped it up with your bare hands, in the dead of Des Moines winter.

When you roamed in our yard picking dandelions, while the distant fields of corn swayed in the breeze of Midwest summer.

When I held and steadied your bike as you first learn to ride, in the driveway of our home here in Iowa.

me and my daughter in our backyard, here in Iowa

It was like yesterday, that you came into my life, and I became a father.

Where did time go? Now, I am a father of a teenager.

Yes, a teenager! But’s that’s not a bad thing, in fact, it is a wonderful thing.

My baby, is now a young lady. And I’m looking forward to more happiness you will bring.

My Daughter’s Gift

Few days ago, my daughter had her second cello recital, that made me proud. After just a year and a half of cello lessons, many people are amazed on how quickly she learned to play and at the level she is playing now. She started piano lessons about 2 and a half years ago and today, her piano teacher at our local church recommended that we get her a professional music teacher, as she thinks my daughter is getting more advanced.

I can painfully remember when my daughter was still very young, her speech was delayed and she does not interact with the other kids as we expected her to. We have noticed that she was “different”, and this caused us great concern. We feared that she will be labeled with some kind of a syndrome that has capital letters on it or has a foreign-sounding name. And for a parent, one of the worst fear you can have is to be told that your child is “not normal”.

But as the years went by, she started to speak. And when she started school she learned to read, write, and do math at her grade level. Our fears slowly ebbed away. Though she still sees things “differently” and reacts “differently” compared to other kids. I guess, she will always be seen as different. But when we introduced her to music lessons, “different” turned into “special”.

More than a year ago, while we were waiting in the hallway at her music school for her cello lesson, we overheard a music piece being played in one of the piano rooms. My wife asked our daughter if she knows the title of that piece. She said that she does not know, but she nonchalantly stated that it was being played in B minor. We thought her answer was odd. How can she tell B minor if she does not even know the music piece?

When we got home, I started playing different hymns in our piano, and asked my daughter who was in another room what key I was playing. She answered them all correctly! Then I played just single notes, and she named them all correctly too. Not only can she name the right key, she can also hum to me the specific pitch if I asked her. That’s when I  realized she got “absolute pitch“- an ability to identify a pitch of a musical tone without an external reference pitch. This is a rare musical trait and is believed to be genetic. If this is a genetic trait, it surely skipped me!

Yes, my daughter is “different”. But this time, I am not worried. I still find it amusing when she tunes her cello without any reference tone except her ear.

My Daughter’s Tears

The other day, my daughter lost something that she cried almost all night over it. Even though we told her that we will buy her something similar to replace it, still she was unconsolable. The cost of the thing she lost – less than $20.

I may think that what she lost was nothing of value, but to her it was irreplaceable. To her the loss was real, enough to cause her heartache and shed precious tears. I don’t need to reason with her and try to understand what I cannot. I just need to be there, accept her grief and share with her loss.

How can I tell her that life will be full of disappointments, heartaches, loss, suffering and pain. I cannot shelter her from these realities of life. I know I just have to be there for her, in joy and in tears.

Flowers for My Daughter


Today is my daughter’s 12th birthday. And this is her 1st birthday to be away from home and from us, as she is currently with my relatives in California for a short vacation. Besides greeting her over the phone, I also did send her flowers.

It just seems yesterday that my little girl was just playing in the dirt and picking wild flowers and dandelions in our yard. She will collect the dandelions and put them in a cup with water, and then she will give them to mom.

I think it is interesting that she finds beauty in the dandelions while I find them a nuisance weed that needs to be killed at all cost, even if I use enough herbicide to poison a whole town. That just prove that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.

Now, my little girl is not little anymore as I want to believe. Where did time go?

I know not very long from now, boys will be giving her flowers for her birthday, for Valentine’s, and for no occasion at all. I just want to be the first one to do so. And when that day (that every father dreads) comes, when she will walk down the aisle with a bouquet of flowers in her hands, I hope she remembers who gave her, her first flowers.