Many would argue it is your absolute right to have children, period. Regardless of how you plan to nourish, care, nurture, raise or guide them through their early lives and into adulthood. This is a sensitive topic for Marketman, as I personally believe (though not all of you need agree) that far too many men out there sow their oats before they can digest oatmeal, let alone know how to boil the water needed to cook it with, or realize there is a proper utensil to eat it with. It amazes me that society as a whole, mandates that you must be 18 before you are held accountable for criminal acts, that you cannot say what you think or you might get sued for libel or slander, that you can’t drink an alcoholic beverage before you can vote, but for the latter it’s possible to sell that right in exchange for some cigarette money that you can buy without difficulty at the tender age of 10. Military recruits can presumably shoot an insurgent before the recruit can drink a San Mig Light. We need licenses to drive a motor vehicle, licenses to practice law, licenses to care for the sick and suck out their excess fat cells, and licenses to push pencils and tap calculators. But, ohmigosh, NO licenses at all to become a parent, other than mandating that the mingling egg and sperm must have met each other voluntarily only after their hosts achieved the age of 18 (at least in the Philippines)… There are no fitness tests, no seminars, no mandatory reading material that covers child care topics like nutrition, mental health, emotional intelligence, etc. No financial tests to see if you are capable of providing adequate caloric intake and a roof over their heads, not to mention a decent education. No psychological analyses to see if you actually should NOT perpetuate your gene pool for the good of overall mankind. And frankly, who would design, administer and score such tests? Are we really fit to be fathers simply because we carry an average of several hundred million doodads in our gonads? Hmmm, food for thought this Father’s Day, is all I can say…
Becoming a parent, and having a child, is perhaps the single most amazing thing that can happen in one’s lifetime. That is, if you bother to pay attention. If you are around to see both the minute and miraculous changes. If you are there when the munchkin(s) seek counsel, or just want to have a warm body close by. When humans were designed, and over thousands of years of evolution since, at least one parent was probably constantly present for their children, or not physically far removed. It is perhaps only in the last 100 years that many families find that both parents have to work to support their familes, or have one parent abroad 98% of the year, or parents who have abdicated child care to a nanny or family member. I bet if I did a scientific study, the amount of time the average parent spends with their children has probably dropped 60+% in the last century in the Philippines, and there must be some consequences… It is also interesting to note that in 1900, the average lifespan of a Filipino was probably around 40-42 years of age, and today that has risen by about 70% to say 70-72 years of age. So we are around on this planet 70% longer yet we see our kids probably 50-60% less during their most formative years. Do the math. As far as I am concerned, I consider myself somewhat on borrowed time, because for much of mankind’s history, I should already be in my seriously twilighty years, and any offspring of mine should be ready to fend for themselves soon…that is, until about just a 100 years ago.
I waited until relatively late before having The Kid; I was 31 years old. And even then, I don’t think I fully understood what I was getting into despite a university degree (magna cum laude), and a graduate degree in business (with honors), and 30 years of observing other humans raising (or obliterating) families. All I know is, the minute I became a father, something kicked in. And I have tried to meet the responsibility of being a parent to the utter best of my ability. I haven’t always done the best thing, but I hope my overall scorecard would put me in the top whatever percentile. Fathers do their thing in all kinds of ways; and it isn’t for one to say which way is better, or worse. But there is a tremendous responsiblity that comes with fatherhood and if you aren’t up to the job, don’t even think of applying, is my harsh take on the matter. After all, kids never asked to come into this world, we knowingly made a choice to have them.
Barbara Bush once gave a commencement speech at Wellesley College, that brilliant all women’s school that aims to graduate independent, intelligent and accomplished students, where she basically said that “at the end of your life you will never say I should have gotten that next promotion, made more money, appeared in more newspapers, been number 1… you will most likely say, I should have spent more time with my kids.” I always thought that was excellent advice (but, ahem, she should talk…). I just wish there was an equally high-profile and successful man who would have the gonads to say the same thing. I will forever cherish being around for my daughter’s early years… and nothing will ever replace the time I chose to be around. Just around. One of the activities we did which we hope will be remembered is the simple planting of trees. Every other year or so, we have planted dozens and dozens of trees — around our homes, as charity donations to schools, etc. There is just something so amazing about planting the seedlings and seeing them grow over the years. And I have this romantic notion that several decades down the road we can return to these places and look at massive narra, mango or mahogany trees and realize we were there when they were wee bitty little seedlings (and cost just PHP10 each by the way!). In these photos here, are pictures of The Kid planting some mahogany seedlings, a picture of a mahogany tree planted 8 years ago, a picture of a narra tree we planted just 3 years ago but is thriving… I hope you all have a Happy Father’s Day… I know I will, simply because I am one. :)