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.

 

 

Over the Hill

A few months ago we got our son a new bike. He is growing so fast that he has outgrown his kiddie bike. He’s undergoing a growth spurt like he’s being stretch, and probably grew a couple of inches this past year. He’ll outgrow a shoe size after only a few months.

And what size is his bike now? It’s a full size bike. Same as mine.

Gone are the days of kid trikes, or training wheels, or youth-size bikes. It seems like it was just yesterday that I was teaching him how to ride, and he won’t let me let go of his bike for fear that he would fall. It also took a lot of convincing before he allowed us to take off the training wheels. Now he’s fearless.

Last weekend, my son and I went out for a bike ride. It was the perfect weather for a ride, not hot, nor too cold, just cool enough to break a sweat under the sun. We rode for about an hour over several miles, through paved roads and dirt roads, and up and down some hills.

We have hybrid bikes – a cross between a road bike and a mountain bike. Light and fast enough on paved roads, but sturdy enough to handle dirt and trail roads.

Before when we would go for a bike ride, I would have to slow down or even stop especially when we ride uphill. Or I will hear him call, “Dad, wait up!” His small legs just cannot pedal fast enough to keep up.

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But this time, it was quite different. On two occasions, as we rode up a steep hill, it was him who had to slow down or even stop. Why? To wait for his old man. I am eating his dust!

What happened? Certainly the lots have changed.

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I would like to think that it was his bike, which is newer, perhaps lighter, and with more gears than mine, that made the difference, that’s why I cannot keep up with him. But I know it’s more than that.

Or I can use the excuse that I have to stop to take pictures. Or perhaps I just want a slower ride. And maybe stop once in a while to smell the roses. Or sniff his dust?

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My son is certainly ascending. While I may be over the hill, though I refuse to admit it. And I’m not even talking about biking.

(*photos 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.)

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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)

Some Assembly Required

I came home one day and saw my son in his room, busy tinkering on something. He had our tool box open on the floor. Was he working on a new project, like the time machine? Or transmogrifier gun? Or perhaps the shrink ray gizmo? No. He was just assembling his newly bought Nerf toy gun.

Everything that we purchase nowadays has some kind of assembly required. From furnitures, to gadgets, to toys. Next time, even our pets will need assembly. Pet robots, that is!

I bought my first furnitures from IKEA, 19 years ago. Like everything else from this store, it required some assembly. I am proud to say that I assembled my table and my single-size bed on my own. Without help. Yes, they may be crooked a little bit, but hey, they were functional. The table still sits in our home, and being used. The single-size bed, I gave away a long time ago, after I got married.446f87299cecabd15e216efd4bdf3f56_254920-700x

The key to these some assembly required things, is following the instructions that accompany them. It may be something like this: 1. Set up part A parallel to part B. (What is parallel again?) 2. Insert tab C to slot C. (But it does not fit!) 3. Connect fixture D to proximal end of slab D. (Which of these 5 types of screws provided would I use?) 4. Find piece E. (Find piece E! It’s missing!)

Many times though, we forego of the instructions and assemble them on our own instincts, until we learn that we are doing it wrong. I know, I have done that, as I have to disassemble something almost halfway, when it did not fit right. Of course the instructions was right there all along, I just have to read it.

Not too long ago, we bought a bookcase that needed some assembly. My son (who is 10 years old) and I worked hand-in-hand to put it together. In fact, I let him do most of the work. I even let him use my battery-powered screw driver which was a Father’s Day gift from my wife a few years back. It surely gave us some father-and-son time. Though most of it, we were arguing about the instructions.

Like many things, our relationships are some assembly required. Especially our relationship with our spouse and our children. But the instructions are not exact nor universal. They are more like recommendations rather than a command. It is up to us to figure it out and work it out. There may be trial and error at times. But the important thing is to assemble it up.

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I am fully aware that it takes time and effort to assemble anything. Whether it is a 3-piece furniture like a bench, or 300-piece contraption, like a children’s play set. And I know it will be much easier for us if it comes already assembled. But that’s not the case with our relationships. It does not come pre-fabricated nor assembled. It needs our time and effort to put it up properly.

Now what’s our next project? What will my daughter and I assemble? A grand piano?

For all the fathers out there, may we all have a meaningful Father’s Day.

(*photos from the net)

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.