Monday, December 26, 2011

Our Own Traditions

Kids say the darn-est things.

A few weeks ago your mother said that you asked her a pointed question. You wanted to know why did we always go to someone else's house to spend the holidays. She told you that we like to spend time with our families so that's why we go to see them. A rather simple question, easily answered and we moved on. It was not over though. It was one of those questions that start a snowball effect. It got me to think about the reasons and ways we celebrate holidays in our family.

Family re-defined.

Some times it takes a while to notice how things have changed. It is hard to pinpoint when exactly the change happened and yet you know it has come. I have my own family, let that sink in, my own family. The statement tells me that I have to provide for my girls, that I have to put them before others, that I am responsible for more than just myself. I hadn't really thought about how that affects holidays. For as long as  I could remember we spent Thanksgiving at whoever was cooking, Christmas Eve at my grandmother's and Christmas Day at your aunts. Now we have to start thinking about what "our" traditions will become. Those were your mother's and mine traditions, now time to create some with you.

Impromptu beginnings.

This year was a strange one in the way things happened. Since my mother was traveling during Thanksgiving we started to have a pre-Thanksgiving dinner at her house so that we could enjoy it with her while still being able to have our own Thanksgiving. This allowed us all to get together and still do our own thing. This Christmas Eve we spent it together, just the three of us. It was a far cry to being at my grandmother's along with dozens of other family members. It felt right. The three of us got to spend a lot of quality time together. Plans changed, events got canceled, we didn't go everywhere we were expected, and it was perfect.

From now on.

We are creating our own traditions.One day these traditions will be passed down to your children and their children. I want you to be able to look back at your childhood and warmly remember all the things that we did with joy. Beyond pictures and videos I want you to have real memories with the people that matter most to you. To be able to tell your friends, your kids, your grandchildren how great it was to grow up in our household. We are more than people who happen to live together, we are a family. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

After a Long Day

Too early.

I wake up before you and your mother wake up; I always have. I get to see peace and tranquility in your faces before I head out to make a living. Unfortunately that means that I also don't get to see you when you first wake up in the morning. I miss out on hearing about what just dreamed about or what is the first thought that crosses your mind. Although you like to think that you are nothing like me the way we both are in the mornings says otherwise. Your mother is not a morning person, we on the other hand could talk up a storm before our eyelids fully open. It might not seem like much to some but I feel like I miss out on so much while I am at work.

Long hours.

Depending on the day I might have a lot of free time to think at work or I might not even have time to eat. I miss you dearly when I don't see you! It breaks my heart when I hear that you have been asking about me, saying that you miss me. I wish I could spend my days with you and that work was optional not a necessity. Life requires work. One day you will have to decide and figure out how to balance your family and work life. We work to facilitate life and not live to work. It is a lesson that some people do not learn early enough and spend years amassing material wealth and yet miss out on the priceless moments life has to offer.

The best part.

I love walking into our home and being greeted by my girls as I was yesterday. You latched on to me and would not let go. You were hell bent on having a tea party with me and were not letting go until I had that pink teacup in my hand. As I struggled to get out of my jacket with you clutching to my finger I felt the day's stress melting away. It didn't matter what had happened throughout my day, I was now in a world where worries did not exist. I love playing games with you, especially games that you come up with. Seeing you, interacting with you, listening to you talk, it's all a magical experience. I pray that more of my days end like last night did.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Few Thoughts on Fatherhood

Fatherhood.


It is the single most important club that I will ever be a member of. It is a club whose responsibilities are endless, the hours are long, tears are guaranteed, and yet the blessings it brings are priceless. There is nothing in the world like being a father. Nothing. Some see it as something that defines your life, I believe that it is something that brings out the best of who you are. Stay with me and I will explain what I mean by that.


I am a teacher.


I have never been shy about sharing my knowledge with others. I have taught kids to speak Spanish, I have tutored others in Math, I have introduced people to tinkering with their gadgets, I taught song-writing and music-making to a few. I can go on forever about the things I have been lucky to learn and have happily shared with others. Being around me will lead you to learn something, I can't seem to keep my mouth closed for more than a few seconds; whether it is something useful or something you care about it another story.


Being a father has allowed me the opportunity to take everything I know, from my beliefs in a higher power to what the color bands in a resistor mean, and pass it on to the next generation. It makes me feel like a Fortune 500 CEO prepping my successor, teaching my daughter all the tricks of the trade. I get to show you everything that I love and help you discover what will make the wheels in your brain spin out of control. I have found discovery and knowledge to be one of my guilty pleasures and I hope that you can share that love with me.


I am a friend.


I have been lucky throughout my life. I have found people with whom I have shared some great experiences with, people who would take a bullet for me as I would for them. That has become something that is rare to find these days; those 3475 "friends" online just take away from the true meaning of the word. The people who call me a friend will tell you that I am always there for them. I am a ear to listen to their troubles, a mind that will give advice and direction when needed or a shoulder they can lean on.


Although I am your father first and foremost, I am also your friend. That distinction will sure become muddled as you become a teenager and things get more complicated. I want you to know from now that I will always be here for you. I am here to listen to you talk about school, how you enjoy playing with your American Girl doll, or whatever random Disney princess you are pretending to be this week. I will be there to cheer you on in your pursuits, to be the rock that supports you in your every desire and also that belt in case you need to get back on track.


I am a father.


Those words have a certain seriousness to them. I can understand what Obama must have felt the first time he said "I am the President of the United States". It is that first time you say it out loud when it starts to sink in just how important your position is. Raising a child is like leading a country, I have to make some tough choices at times; unpopular decisions. I have to make sure that I don't just think about the next few years when you will be under my care but rather help build the foundation that will guide you when I am no longer sitting in that chair and you have moved on.


Every moment that I spend with you in my life feels monumental. It is as if God has given me the opportunity to play this big role in a movie that is sure to be a Hollywood blockbuster. I worry every day about how I am doing in this role, not for my own sake, but because I know just how important the way I handle my role will be to your story which is yet to be written.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Time with You

Amazing.

That describes every moment that I spend with you. You're an interesting kid full of energy and excitement. Whether we are watching a movie together (Astro Boy seems to be one of our favorites as of late) to playing hide and seek I can't help but feel elated. If salt is the spice that makes food go from bland to savory then you are the salt to my life. It takes a special person to wake me up at 5 AM to get tissues and for me not to be upset about having my sleep interrupted. I enjoy reading with you, watching you learn. The look on your face when you learn something is priceless.

Since I can't stop time.

Time is unforgiving and stubborn. It goes forward whether or not we are ready to continue in that direction. I try to take in every moment, every memory, every experience and enjoy it because I know that before I am ready you will be waving goodbye on your way off to college. Your mother and I talk about just how much you change month to month, week to week, it is scary how fast you are growing. Seeing you now it's like having a preview of whom you will eventually become and it is fascinating.

Thankful.

I am happy to be able to spend so much time with you, to be able to see you grow. The last few months have kept me at work longer than before so I don't see you as much. I promise to make the best of every little bit of time we spend together. I have seen too many father's miss out on the best experiences with their kids because they get caught up in their careers, womanizing, selfish dreams or plain stupidity. I promise I will not become of them. I want to be there with you at every step of your journey so that we may be able to look back with smiles on our faces as we reminisce.

A saying that's wrong.

People try to compare time to money, the popular expression is "time is money". It is their attempt to show how valuable time is. I prefer to think as time is more than money. I can lose a dollar and not fret over it because I can work and make it back. Can anyone say the same about a minute? a moment? Time is our most valuable gift. I will give you all of mine and hope that you can spare some of yours in return.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

An Ounce of Prevention

I am afraid.


There are things going on in the world, as they always have, that scare me. I have brought you into a world where malice, evil and seemingly the devil roams freely. One day you'll pickup a newspaper (if they're still around) and we'll go through the stories found in it. I will give you some background information on current stories, world stories and will try to help you make sense of the craziness that is contained within those pages. Hopefully you won't hate your mother and I for bringing you into this mess.


Recent outrage.


Lately the big headlines have had to deal with Penn State University; a tragedy that I wish not to speak on. I waited to write another post to you as I did not want my anger to distort the messages that I want to leave for you. One day you will learn that there are times when it is better to wait until you have gotten control over your emotions before you speak. Words after they are spoken/written are hard to take back and almost impossible to explain away. The one thing I will say about the recent revelations is that it makes me feel good about the decisions that your mother and I have made in the way we are raising you.


My duty.


If I am responsible for anything in life it is to protect you. I want you to get the most of out of this life; I will be the one doing the risk management. We love that you take ballet and gymnastics; it makes my heart melt seeing you enjoying these activities. Eventually you will move on to other things, maybe sports or music, and you will do so without having to fear meeting the worst of our society. Because of the world we live in I cannot "trust" that a coach, teacher, etc will not do something improper. You might hate that I am the only father driving you to school or picking you up from dances, or God forbid trying to chaperon the event. You'll understand one day.


A pound of cure.


"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure", said Benjamin Franklin. I will take every precaution to ensure that something like what happened in Penn State happens in our lives. The pound of cure might include your life destroyed, mines behind bars and your mother's filled with hatred and rage. I will then continue to be that crazy, over-protective father that you will get to know and continue to love.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Anger Management

Yes I said it.

I will rather have to spend the rest of my life paying for you to receive anger management treatment than a shrink because someone walked all over you. As a father one of my biggest fears is not being able to be there to protect you at all times. I want to teach you balance, restraint and the fine art of political maneuvering in the social sphere. If I don't get to those lessons here is an abridged version.

1. Don't take crap from anyone. I mean no one.
2. Stand up for yourself. 
3. If problems persists see above.


Some might disagree.


I can hear my mother now, "how are you going to teach her that? That is not how I raised you!" She is entitled to her own opinion. I remember some of the things that bullies tried with me; kids can be so cruel as my wife clearly points out. I have heard too many stories about kids not being able to deal with the abuse that their peers dish out, that will not be my daughter. If I am going to be wrong in my parenting style I will err on the side that she will be strong and capable of taking care of herself.


Utopia.

We don't live in a perfect world. Just last night I read that someone in NY found the severed foot of a child on the sidewalk (See Here). It makes me sick to my stomach to read stories like that. Violence is not something that only plays out in our movies, music or history books. The dark side of humanity is but an inch away from knocking on anyone's door. I pray that I can prevent my daughter from having to see and/or experience any of it before she needs to. 


My hope.


Hopefully I will have enough time with my daughter to guide her, to help her navigate this world without being neither a victim or a bully. Unlike my father I plan to be there every step of the way so long as I live. I want to be there to teach her how to deal with bullies, gossipers, idiots and lord help me, boyfriends. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

About Turning the Other Cheek

The Holy Bible.

It is written that if one offends you that you should turn the other cheek, not retaliate. I am no saint regardless of our last name is. I am here to provide you with a contemporary explanation and some guidance as to how to best put it in practice without upsetting the man upstairs or being driven to tears down here. 

The principle.

The whole idea behind turning the other cheek is to offer forgiveness or at the very least to stop the cycle of violence and/or injuries. If like the Babylonians we practiced "an eye for an eye" there would be plenty of situations where we would all be blind. Imagine that I accidentally poked out your eye, then in turn had an eye poked out; the natural progression says that two more eyes will soon be poked out. It would be a wise decision for someone to take the "higher road" and rather than repay an insult with an insult to do so with a smile. 

Cycles and grudges.

There is no greater virtue than to be able to forgive those who have wronged you and have done nothing to repent. To continue down a path where every wrong-doing is repaid with the same could lead you astray from the beliefs that we are trying to instill in you. There is no way to be genuine, loving, caring when your every action is one motivated by anger and hatred because what has been done to you. In the end carrying on in such a manner is a cancer to your soul, to your character. It cause you to rot from the inside out.

The fine print.

There is an exception for every rule. I want you to be morally responsible, not a doormat. If someone does insult you respond to them, let them know how you feel, tell them that you will not stand by that. If someone should hurt you in any way I do not want you to stand there and take it. Avoid situations and people that can put you in danger; if those situations cannot be avoided, take the higher road. 

Fight for yourself.

I would be lying if I told you that all people are capable of rational thought and that every situation could be dealt with in a "adult manner". The truth of the matter is that there are some bad people in the world. Real bad apples. In the event that you should come across one of them. FIGHT BACK! Theodore Roosevelt famously said to "speak softly and carry a big stick". I want you to be respectful, to be a model citizen, and above all else to never lose your integrity. When all that doesn't work... HIT THEM WITH THE BIG STICK.

Or call your father, I will make sure that those problems go on a permanent vacation.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Big Picture

Life is not easy.


One day you will realize that life can be complicated. If it wasn't billions of people would not ask "what is the meaning of life?" but I digress. I mean there are millions of things wrong in the world, lack of clean water, starvation, diseases, hate, abuse, violence, inequality... the list is endless. Simply thinking about all the problems that there are in the world can be an exhausting and depressing activity.


The two buckets.


The key to life is being able to manage all these things so that they do not have an adverse effect on you. There are things in life that we can change/fix/improve and there are others that without some superhero powers we can't do much about. It is important to be able to sort those things into the appropriate buckets. Changeable vs Unchangeable


Then what?


The things that can be changed/fixed/improved you should address them accordingly. Some things take time, others are incredibly hard; just ask anyone trying to quit a bad habit. As long as you stay at it and give it your best in time everything will fall into place. The things that are unchangeable are a little harder to deal with. Um... honestly they are A LOT harder to deal with. I was once told that those unchangeable things are like rocks. If you were to meet a giant rock blocking your path in life there are several things you can do:


a. go around it
b. go over it
c. dig under it
d. go through it


In life there are some things are better going around them. There is no need to get into a fight if it can be avoided hence figure out another way to get to the other side of the path. Some times you have to get over things, like when Mami or Papi correct you. There is a reason why we tell you things, although you might not know the reason, eventually you will understand why we do the things we do. Some times you have to get busy and dig yourself out of situations. These are  the situations that require perseverance and dedication. 


I didn't forget about d.


The last option is what hard-headed people do, think that they can simply power themselves through a problem. While there may well be circumstances where a little elbow grease gets the job done plenty more require critical thinking, planning and finesse. Don't be hard-headed. Think. Plan. Avoid. Most important of all remember to view what you are facing at any given moment as a small part of The Big Picture. Once you have that in perspective it is easier to make the right the decisions and to analyze things properly.









Thursday, October 13, 2011

Believe in Yourself

I cannot hold your hand forever.


Although I wish that you would never grow old; I wouldn't have to talk to you about the birds and the bees, deal with your "teenage rebellion" or heaven help me, boys. If you are only going to learn one thing from your old man, please let it be the following:


Believe in yourself.


Death and taxes are the only two things guaranteed on this planet. There will come a day, hopefully a long time from now, where you will not be able to turn to me or your mother for support. So long as we are alive we will support come hell or high water; I just want you to be prepared in case something happens to us. There are many cliche phrases like "Hope for the best but prepare for the worst" and "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure".


Self-esteem.


I can take you to the doctor or give you medicine to cure physical ailments, it is not so easy with your self-esteem. I want you to know that anything and everything is possible, all it takes is hard work and perseverance. If you do those two things you will succeed in life. Eventually I will write about what the word success really means, but for now know that dreams can become reality if you do your part.


The haters.


In life you will meet people who will try to knock you down at every corner. Ignore them. As long as you believe in yourself and what you stand for you have nothing to worry about. It is those who are insecure and feel threatened by you that will give you grief. Do not let them get you down, use their hate/envy/jealousy to fuel your passion and drive. 


The objective truth.


Even if you were not my daughter I would tell you that I find you to be incredibly warm and loving, smart, sharp-eyed, witty, funny and beautiful; now that I think about it I can probably fill a book with good things about you. Even the things that drive me up a wall about you can be a positive (e.g. your lack of patience and perseverance in wanting what you want when you want it). Do not let anyone tell you otherwise, EVER. 


You are perfect just the way you are.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

So I Won't Be a Stranger

I hate my father. 

Not him as a person, but as far as him playing the role of a father, I hate him. Not because he wasn't any good at it, not at all, just for the fact that he quit on us. I grew up hating what he did and promising myself that I would one day be a better father than he ever was. I have realized that although I am named after him, look like him and from what I have been told have a lot his characteristics, personality traits and tastes--I don't know the man.

I love my daughter.

I love her as a person, I lover her as the chance I have been given to make my life mean something. Out of all the things I have missed most about my relationship with my father is the fact that I do not know who he is, what makes him tick. I don't know what team he roots for or what is his favorite song. I have not received a single piece of advice from him in the last 20 years. I will not do the same with my daughter.

This is who I am.

I will write this blog with the hopes that one day my daughter will be old enough to understand and appreciate what her old man has to say. Maybe one day we will read it together and laugh or if I am unlucky she will use it to remember me. Either way I want to leave a record for her to know who her father was through his own words. I want her to know what makes me the man I am, to understand my thoughts, opinions and motivations.