If you asked me to describe how I saw my Dad when I was 5 years old I would have said he was big and scary. My Dad towered over most people I knew, he was stocky and strong. Growing up in the Philippines, I barely saw anyone who looked like my Dad. Whilst my older sister resembled my Dad, my father was the only ‘white man’ I knew, it would remain that way for the first 7 years of my life.
My Dad visited us on special occasions when we lived in Manila. Sometimes he would take us on holiday to one of the Philippine islands. Wherever we went people would stare. I don’t think they meant to be rude but it was almost like they felt foreigners were so interesting. I mean despite how different our family looked, My older sister looking very ‘Western’, I looked very ‘Asian’ and my youngest sister looked very ‘mixed’ with our Asian Mum and White Dad. Despite this, our blended family was not all that uncommon. In fact, when we went on holidays together we would usually see another mixed family on their holiday too
To be honest our ‘different’ family never really had any impact on me, at least not until we moved to the UK.
When we moved to the UK, the community we were settling into was very different to the one we grew up in. People were mainly English born and bred, many didn’t really have much experience of foreign affairs, I mean sure they’d travelled on holidays but not really explored other cultures. We were outcasts without being mistreated, by that I mean, no matter what we did we always felt not quite in the community but at the same time, people were welcoming. Don’t get me wrong, I still missed how welcoming the Filipino people were to foreigners. Whilst people weren’t rude, they weren’t overly welcoming either. It was like people were afraid to make any deal about you being foreign so would just kind of not even bother asking about it.
It was once we started settling in our community in Devon that I started to notice how different my parents really were from others. I mean to start with of course we had the mixed culture/backgrounds, most of my friends came from English parentage if they had any foreign relatives it was not obvious. The main difference really was the age of my Dad compared to my friend’s Dad’s. My Dad’s naturally dark hair was a shade greyer than other parents, he was a little more wrinkled. His style, values, views and methods of parenting were a lot older fashioned than others. But I can’t even take credit for this realisation because none of this was evident to me until I witnessed an interaction my Dad had with a stranger.
My sisters and I accompanied my father to a local store one day and when we were patiently waiting for the cashier to ring up our purchases, the cashier looked sweetly at us. She smiled politely as we clung onto our Dad, giving him adoring hugs.
“You have very cute granddaughters.” The lady told my Dad pointing at us.
I know she didn’t mean what she said as an insult, but I could see how it hurt my Dad.
Over the years he’s had to face comments like that often. People back then didn’t really understand that a man his age could have daughters our age. I think part of their confusion is that they see us being foreign and immediately think my Dad is too old to have a foreign wife. I don’t know, I guess back then having a mixed race family wasn’t as common as it is now. Isn’t that so crazy to believe that a matter of 10 years ago, mixed-race couples was still relatively surprising to see?
My Dad was always a good sport about it and just laugh at the comments but deep down I could see how upset it made him that people thought his daughters were his granddaughters. We were never ashamed of him, he would never deny him and would proudly tell the world he is our father.
The thing is my parent’s were older parents. That’s just the choice they made. I mean, my Dad has kids from a previous marriage, I guess he had them at the time most people have kids, then he had us much later. Most of my friend’s parents are probably 10-15 years younger but to be honest I don’t think that that made them any better at parenting.
Whilst my Dad was old fashioned in a lot of the ways he parented, he also accepted the changes in traditions and norms. Whilst he instilled the good old fashioned values of family, loyalty and education, he was also hip enough to know that our generation was living in a different time of mobiles, internet, partying. He kept a watchful eye but allowed us to learn for ourselves rather than making us settle for cautions and stories.
Whilst my Dad was older than other parents, we found he and my Mum were more relatable than the ‘younger’ parents. All the staring we faced whenever we were in public never bothered me. I figured let them stare; we’ve got nothing to prove to them. I think my sister’s and I’s approach to those starers helped ease my Dad, if it didn’t bother us, then it shouldn’t bother him.
I think that was such an important thing for us all to learn. We were all happy and therefore we didn’t need to care about how other people were looking at us. I didn’t care that my Dad was older than other Dad’s, it didn’t make him any slower, less cool or embarrassing, he was just a Dad with all the qualities you’d expect of a Dad.
It makes me think of my life now, how despite how our society has changed the way people look at older parents is still the same. Like if you’re having a kid after you’re 30 it’s like you’re weird. I mean I consider that still very young but somehow it’s hip to start your family in your 20’s.
I’m 24 now, soon to be 25 and the thought of having kids within the next 5 years makes me feel so nauseated. I just don’t see it happening for me or my partner in that timeline and that’s how we want it to be.
But then we see friends, at least older friends with kids, or even on TV/Movies of kids being so embarrassed of their older parents. It makes me so sad because I can’t help but think how differently my Dad would have felt on those occasions where we could have easily been embarrassed by him. I just don’t see how age can factor in how well you do as a parent (within reason) whilst I do not agree with teen parenthood (such a bold statement to make on a Friday morning), I do not believe that age can identify how you will perform as a parent. My best friend was 17 when she had her baby and she makes a wonderful Mum, my cousin had a baby in her late 20’s and I think she makes a terrible mother. So I don’t know, I guess it’s just your prerogative. Some people make better parents than others.
I know that my partner will try his very hardest but I will be a better parent, scandalous? Maybe but it’s only because my partner will want to be a friend much more than a parent, he has pre-warned me already.
Anyway, here is my thought for today, the only way we can change the way the world sees things, is to be the change we want to see in others. On those occasions that my Dad was complimented on his ‘beautiful granddaughters’ we could have easily been distraught and caused a scene, my Dad could, as a result have felt completely flustered and even more embarrassed, instead we all chose to correct these people and give them a smile to show them that we are happy. Happiness is the best revenge (I’m not saying we were seeking revenge). I think the way you approach a situation can have a lasting impact on how you see things. Positivity can often help you move forward with difficult things.
I hope that society can move so far forward that old parents aren’t frowned upon, there’s nothing wrong with starting your family older, it gives you that much more of an opportunity to live out the ‘selfish’ and independent part of your life, you know before you have to put a more vulnerable human being before yourself.
I hope that my sister’s and I have reached a stage in our lives where people are no longer wondering how we’re related to our father. Because I’ve answered it so many times, but I will never tire of correcting someone of it.
So yes, that old man is my Daddy and I’m so glad he is.
Do something to make your parents proud today, your kids proud someday but most importantly, you proud every day!
Peace and Love