Published in Nov. 13, 2007, this has to be my favorite of all the articles I’ve written…
One of my most fulfilling roles in life is being a dad. I love being a father. I love the moments when I hold my daughter’s hand and take her out to a date, when we sit on the floor and play Korean jackstones, when we have breakfast at 6:30 a.m. and I tell her stories about World War II. Yes, no misprint there: our topics range from her Grade 3 quiz on Math to her Bright Academy football practice to why Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.
I love my daughter.
We do a lot of things together. We read her collection of Arthur books, act and play Pictionary with her mom Jasmin, watch “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” and listen to music… like the band “America.” (She memorizes “Tin Man” and will watch the concert with us on Dec.1.) But what is the one activity that I love doing most with Jana? Sports…..
To those who’ve followed this column, you’ve probably heard this from me countless times since my first article saw print on September 21, 1994. Good. So I’ll say it again: The best moments I experience with Jana are while playing sports. That’s true. And I’m not saying that because this is the sports page. No experiences can rival those when you and your child are playing.
Jana and I have played almost every sport there is. OK, we haven’t done what Miguel Cotto and Shane Mosley did last Sunday: boxing. (Although one time we wore red boxing gloves, faced each other with dagger eyes, and posed for the camera.)
We both love sports. You see, I’ve “sports brainwashed” my daughter. A few hours after she was born, on her crib I whispered, “The women’s no.1 tennis player is Martina Hingis.” (Not that I’d mention those words again after the recent cocaine-sniffing allegations.) When she was two years old, I read aloud—repeatedly until she memorized the words herself—the Disney book called “Goofy Shapes Up,” the story of Goofy running a race.
So yes, you can conclude, she’s grown up in a sports-crazy home. Here’s more… Last Sunday, we swam. An hour before that, we played tennis. Wall-climbing the 22-foot structure at Metro Sports? That’s one of her most enjoyable activities. On weekends, we often take out a foam ball: I act as pitcher, throw her the orange ball while she swings and attempts a home run. As she connects with the ball, I run to retrieve it while she circles the bases. Do we go to a baseball diamond to play softball? No. We do that in our house parking lot.
And just like hundreds of other parents in Cebu, I cherish moments watching Jana play football. Hasn’t this sport given our city a kick? It has. I’ve said this before and I’ll mention it again: Among the primary and secondary levels, football is Cebu’s no.1 game.
Jana loves football. And who said football isn’t for girls? In events like the Mizuno and Thirsty Football Festivals, girls scramble after the rubber ball, they sprint, slide, jump, do a header, and score. Just like the boys. And when you watch the eight-and-under category, why, the girls can tackle just as tough as the boys.
What’s my point in all this? Do sports. With your child.
We often think of ideas to draw closer to our children. We buy them toys they don’t need, take them to Timezone, “go malling.” Nothing wrong with those. But nothing compares to the connection you both experience while playing sports.
Bonding. Yes, that’s the word. You bond. Connect. After you play badminton together—just as I saw last Sunday at the Casino Espanol with the father-and-son duo of Roy and Rjay Gopuco—you’re able to do a high-five. You laugh together, win together, lose as a team or as opponents, you sweat, dirty your socks, wipe the dust off your shoes if you bike together—it doesn’t matter what sport or game, what matters is you’re one team.
So, here’s a message to Jana: Thank you for being God’s gift to me and your mom, for being everything we can hope for in a child. Pray often, study hard, be respectful of your elders and, in all that you do, don’t give your best… give your very, very best. Happy 9th Birthday, Jan!!!