Over the past 10 years, after my wife decided that it was better for her to migrate to the USA and find another husband, I have raised my son alone. No other woman, no girlfriends, just me and my son.
Well, we did have one very loyal Yaya and overall help who took care of many of the daily details I would have missed if it was just me and my son. But in all it was me and Robbie, my son.
Now, I will not go guilt riding here or calling myself a victim. I have long ago realized and accepted that a relationship needed the work of two people, together, in harmony, to succeed, otherwise it just won’t.
I raised my son, Robbie, with the knowledge that I and her mother are separated, but that her mother loves her very much, as much as I do, and is doing everything to help raise him to be a good man.
I try to bring my son up without the guilt and bitterness and pressures of a broken up family. It is not easy. I most time find myself wanting to blame everything on my ex-wife when things get hard. Or sometimes get the urge to send my son to his mother so I can live my own life. I have for the most part resisted both temptation and continue to try and raise my son in as loving, caring, educational and religious manner as I can.
In these 10 years I have learned a few things, as a father who raises a son without a mother physically present. Robbie is now 13-years old and these are some of the things I know:
1. Pain is enduring, but it keeps us grounded and puts us in the right direction if we but harvest the lessons it provides us everyday. I always feel the pain of being abandoned and being alone. But I immediately remind myself that my son is my companion now whenever I feel alone. I look at him and realize that I have a chance here, a chance to correct a million mistakes I made and pass on to Robbie’s generation a different outlook on this kind of life. US statistics say more than half of marriage there end up in divorce. This means my son is not alone and he will not be the last. The same study says kids from these families tend to crime more than those from regular families (The Impact of Unilateral Divorce on Crime by Julio Cáceres-Delpiano and Eugenio Giolito March 2008). And I realize that the reason is the single parent passes the pain to their children. The kids grow up with so much anger from the single parent not knowing where it is coming from, so they too are angry and take it out in society, hence the life of crime. What I try to do everyday is to take the pain when it comes crashing in (and it will always come) and turn it into love.
2. Alone is relative. While we feel that we were left behind to fend for ourselves, we are not really alone. In my case, Ate Cris, the Yaya of Robbie who has been with me long before Robbie was born, became the third figure in our lives. It was Ate Cris who took the other parts of a mother I could not deliver. She cared for the house, the bills, Robbie’s hygiene and other private needs. Another US study shows that in divorced situations, other relatives tend to take the slack a missing parent creates. Grandmothers, aunts, cousins and even loyal help take the cudgels for the child to allow them to grow with the required balance of parenting (Children and Divorce at helpguide.org.) We are never alone or wanting, we simply tend to withdraw into a cocoon of fear and hate and take our child with us to this terrible place. I have been tempted many times to be in this place. In fact, at the start of my single parent life I was on self destruct mode, picking fights with whoever crosses my road. Until the day my son came home with an injury from school and I realized someone needed me to be alive and healthy so he himself can survive. I am not alone, there is someone else here with me who needs me, more than I need to cultivate my pain.
3. Love is the potion. Until I realized this I was full of anguish. Yes, I decided that I will raise Robbie properly, that I will turn him into a proper gentleman, that he will be what I never was. But at the beginning it was mostly because of the goal and had no emotion to it. Not until I began to feel the love I was unconsciously sending my son return to me a thousand fold did I realize this truth, that love, even in its most pretentious level, will return in a full force of emotion that engulfs our hearts and conquer us. It is the real medicine to any emotional upheaval. It will burn into any barrier and salve all pain with more love.
4. Actions are copied and words are useless. I teach my son many things, morals and lessons that should shape and remind him for when he grows up. But the reality is that he barely listens to these words. Robbie acts and talks the way I act and talk to him. He imitates how I am when he sees me. Robbie has never seen me violent, though I have been terribly so, and I do not see violence in him. I talk a lot at home and when with friends, and the basic issue of Robbie’s teachers is that he talks too much, to his classmates, his friends, his teachers. I sleep before midnight when home and wake up before 5am regularly, Robbie does so too. Our children, whether from a single parent family or otherwise, will imitate their parents, they may look like they are listening to our words, but I assure you they will imitate our actions. So my best solution is to act out our words.
5. And finally – Faith will keep us focused and centered. At a crucial time in my life raising my son, just when I was about to crash and burn, I walked into a bible class led by Cito Beltran. I was angry and wanted to lash out but what I heard that night seven years ago stunned me. Cito was talking about anger management and how the Bible addresses this evil issue. That group I walked into will eventually morph into what is now the Wednesday Pit Stop bible study group. Cito has long left the group as head and I seldom attend the meetings. But I have learned many things in those weekly sessions when I was a regular. And the core of my learning was that we all need to believe in something eternal. We all need to believe in God, the Almighty being. Because all our moral compass will be useless if we had nobody to answer to. And God is the ultimate of that moral compass. It is He who created us and waits for us to follow His will so we may join him in eternity. I believe in this as much as I believe the sun will rise in the morning, as a real fact.
Now, I am not saying my son will grow up to be the best because I learned these things. He is, after all, only 13 years old and is still a work in progress. Everyday I pray that what I do are the right things for my son. Every moment I watch myself because Robbie is watching me. And as a father I can only work and hope that I am raising a man in the truest sense of the word, one who will commit his own mistakes, learn from them and not repeat mine.
— Ira V. Panganiban