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How I’m Trying To Be A Good Dad Even Though I Grew Up Without One
PHOTO BY Courtesy of Julius Bayoneta
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    I was abandoned by my biological parents when I was three years old. Their landlady took me in, but I was not legally adopted, and I was only told of my real identity when I was around five years old.

    My foster family did their best to guide me, though they are financially challenged, too. I started working at a very young age so I could at least help with my baon and some school needs. I worked as a tennis ball boy, car wash boy, errand boy, and fast-food service crew.

    I had a difficult childhood. I was teased and called ampon when I was in grade school. I never had new shoes or school uniforms or new toys.

    Most of my stuff were preloved from my foster family’s relatives and neighbors. I remember joining Sunday catechesis in a private Catholic school in Rockwell, Makati because they give used clothes, toys, and books to attendees.

    I attended public schools in my elementary and high school years. My foster family challenged me to do well in school despite our circumstance, so I studied hard, received several academic awards and won school competitions.

    I got a scholarship at the Meralco Foundation Institute in Pasig. I also attended seminary schools in the hope of becoming a missionary priest.


    Meeting my biological father

    Julius with his daughter, Juliana.
    PHOTO BY Courtesy of Julius Bayoneta

    In 1997, when I was 20 years old, I finally met my biological father. And I learned one side of the story of why I was abandoned.

    An early marriage turned into an unhealthy relationship. One decided to leave, and the other decided to follow. No one came back. Just like in any form of separation, the usual casualties are the children.

    I suppose my father and I were able to forge a relationship — we had already started planning how I can be part of their family. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time because I was studying in Manila and he was based in Iloilo.

    My father passed away in 1999. I was devastated. My life went downhill after that. It was too much grief.

    What got me by was work. I focused on work in order to survive. Meeting my wife and becoming a parent was also a big help.

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    My turn to be ‘dad’

    Julius' wife Jean, and their children Julian and Juliana.
    PHOTO BY Courtesy of Julius Bayoneta

    I thought I would not be capable of loving another person because of my tough childhood. I was afraid to start a family, but I met and got married to Jean in my 30s, which I considered a miracle.

    We hit rock bottom early into our marriage. A day before our first wedding anniversary, Jean had a miscarriage.

    But once you are in the bottom, there is nowhere to go but up. We were blessed with our son two years later and just last year, a daughter.

    Truth be told, I was scared to become a father. But I had to face my fears and my wife helped and inspired me to look at things from a different perspective.

    Julius with his eldest son, Julian.
    PHOTO BY Courtesy of Julius Bayoneta

    I am an authoritative parent. Though I grew up with only a foster mother and foster siblings, I was fortunate to have several sound father figures in my life, which includes my foster brothers and priests in parishes and seminary schools.

    It was from them that I learned how to enforce rules and give consequences but to also take my children’s feelings into consideration. Parents are ultimately in charge, but I explain the reasons behind the rules.

    I try to use productive discipline strategies to reinforce good behavior, like praise and rewards systems with the goal to raise responsible children who feel comfortable expressing their opinions. I want my kids to be good at making decisions and evaluating safety risks on their own.

    I am also a hands-on father. Not only because I need to, but because I want to because of my experiences growing up. I am a hands-on dad because it makes me happy.

    Learning to be a good father

    Julius is a hands-on dad to their kids, especially to Juliana who recently went through heart surgery.
    PHOTO BY Courtesy of Julius Bayoneta

    I didn’t know what unconditional love was until I held my child. He looked up at me with complete adoration that I never thought was possible. That’s when I knew I wanted to protect them — make them feel secure, healthy, and happy.

    Every now and then, my fears creep up on me. The knowledge that parents are always one mistake away from catastrophe makes me constantly fearful. I now have an 8-year-old son and an 8-month-old daughter and yet I still have these endless concerns.

    I can only hope that I am able to raise content and confident children. I hope that life is fair to them.

    It is easy to be grateful when things are going well, but that was not the case for me when I was young. However, my experiences allowed me to appreciate that all the more we need to be grateful during the tough times.

    I’ve had my share of mistakes along the way and I am sorry for it. I am still learning and trying to be a good father. I’m a work in progress, so to speak. But I’ve realized that becoming a father is my sole purpose in life. When you become one, that is when you will get it.

    Julius Bayoneta is a hands-on dad of two and husband to Jean. Apart from his work in a BPO company, he occasionally writes in his personal blog, Dear Julian (facebook.com/dearjulianvincent).

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