Be a father (even when you are not one)
MANILA, Philippines - Fathers cannot always be present. Some work abroad, some work long hours, others die or get sick.
There are those who leave, and there are fathers who stay but whose presence hardly makes any difference. In these cases, it is usually the mothers who must fill in the gaps.
My own father is in all of my good childhood memories. I felt safe with him. I knew that I could count on him during tough times. I could talk to him and share with him my joys and my pain. Most importantly, I knew he was probably the one person who gave me the greatest love, in spite of my flaws.
But he died more than a decade ago.
He taught me many things; and many years after his death, I am still learning from him. These days, when I need to be a father to my son who is now almost 9, I access my memories with my own tatay.
I think of how I can be like him when the situation calls for it. Because whether you are happily married or a single mom, all mothers should know how to sometimes be a father to their children.
1. Work out and take good care of your health
It’s the only way you will be able to keep up with active kids. They will be needing piggy back rides and horseplay. You need to be able to teach them how to bike. You need the stamina for football, badminton, or Frisbee in case they need an extra player.
2. Keep your schedule flexible
Working moms are fully-booked most of the time. You need, however, to be able to move your appointments around to accommodate an urgent school meeting, attend a play or practice, pick up a sick child from school, et cetera.
This is especially true whenever your child’s father suddenly backs out of a commitment, for whatever reason.
3. Equip yourself with the ability and means to protect your child
Whether by learning a martial art or getting a license for a firearm, you need to be able to protect your child whenever necessary.
This also includes having the foresight to secure your home, your car and your communication equipment (phones, internet and other gadgets), organizing emergency numbers, setting up emergency plans and paraphernalia (like a grab bag) and giving your child adequate information about emergencies.
4. Be there when they need you
There are nights when my son could not sleep, or when he’d be struggling with a difficult situation in school. During times like these, I set aside whatever I’m doing and give him my full attention and my time. When he needs to talk, sometimes about seemingly unimportant matters, I would sit down with him and talk.
Many times, our conversations last until the morning or continue until the next day. I am there for as long as he needs me, even if it means missing a meeting, a deadline or sleep.
5. Get out of your comfort zone
Some of the things that your children may like to do might not be totally appealing to you, like skateboarding, fishing, bug hunting, assembling toy models with tiny parts and such things.
I say be ready for it, especially if you have boys, which could mean that your respective interests may be totally different from theirs. You can always call a brother or a cousin, or Google for instructions.
6. Be a toughie, especially inside
And especially if you’re feeling like you’re about to break down. Don’t. It’s okay to show your kids your emotional side, but only if they will also see and understand how you are able to overcome the challenges.
Dads usually represent the stronger figure and authority, but I know many moms will have no problem modeling to their kids the real meaning of strength and power.
7. Expose them to different male figures
Celeste Fremon writes in her essay "Boys without Men" (from "Mothers Who Think," Random House, 1999):
“So, if there is no father to bequeath to my son the cloak of manhood, maybe the needed influence can be quilted together piece by piece. One quilt square from his uncle, who talks computers with him; another square from Sean, the neighbor who takes him surfing;… his friends’ fathers… and so on.”
8. Work hard
A father provides for the needs of his family, and so if there is no father to support the family financially, the mom should be able to take over. One of the most difficult things in the world for a mother is when she has to simultaneously be 4 (sometimes 5) people: mother, income earner, homemaker, her self.
How to do all these things at the same time, and have enough time to read or sleep or, at the very least, breathe, that is the big question. But as my son told me recently: “A lot of people are doing it, and they are successful.”
9. Accept that you can’t be everything to him
That you can’t do it all. So you need to learn the art of delegating, which can be synonymous to trusting people.
When you have to go away and can’t take your child with you, entrust him to a relative and have faith that he will be fine; that sometimes his friends may do a better job of teaching him about teamwork or flexibility.
Many times, your child’s weaknesses will say a lot about your parenting. So use them as cues to know what to improve on and, if you can’t, to get help from others.
10. Encourage your child to have a loving relationship with his real Father
When both parents are gone, when friends disappear (as they sometimes do), your child can go through the toughest of life’s challenges. If he turns to the Father, he’ll have a lifelong partner, an ally, a lucky charm. He will have strength when everyone else falls down, he will be blessed in the midst of adversity — and he will recognize it and will be thankful.
In the absence of wealth, leave your child with the legacy of spirituality.
Happy Father’s Day to all fathers, male or female, who have their family’s best interests at heart. - Rappler.com
Father's hand leading his child photo from Shutterstock
Ime Morales is a freelance writer and single mother to 8-year old Bowi. She is the founder of the Freelance Writers’ Guild of the Philippines and Isang Bata, an independent organization that helps underprivileged Filipino children.