Mark was only 19 when he became a dad. In all honesty, I expected a lot of adjustments that would come his way and I thought I had to suffer the pain of that adjustment. I have always prayed, “Lord, thank you for giving me a man who is willing to learn so much and submit to you. But please prepare my heart for all the molding you are going to do to the both of us.” I expected deep attachments to friends. I expected struggle in letting go of night outs. I expected painful chain breaking when it comes to letting go of his bad habits and addictions- computer games, regular weekend beer with his friends, etc. However, God made things a lot smoother for us. There were struggles but it wasn’t as bad as I thought. In fact, Mark’s process was painfully beautiful. Painful because all molding require pressure and breaking. Beautiful because each phase he overcomes, he blooms with so much strength and wisdom.
One night, we were taking a walk and I asked him. “Hon, how did you do it? How did you get rid of all your bad habits? I mean, it obviously took time, but you made it slowly. How?” He gave me the most touching answer ever, “You know what, I always kept in mind that who I am today will be who our daughter will marry in the future. I realized my responsibility of being a model to her- of what she should look for in a man and how she is meant to be loved and treated. I can’t tell her to marry a responsible, good, and Christ-centered man if I am not one”
Since God has blessed us to be able to reach out to many people, specifically the youth and young parents, we thought it would be great to be able to share Mark’s struggles and how he dealt with them. After all, no matter what age, being a parent will always demand a big adjustment. We’re just here to let you know that we have not been exempted from all the responsibilities and lessons that came with the choice we made- to have Taziana early. A very beautiful blessing that came with a heavy responsibility. It wasn’t “natural” for Mark to automatically be a good father. I think being a parent is natural when we choose to have kids, but being an intentional parent is an every day choice. Mark made the choice to submit himself to the Lord.
Mark first acknowledged the weight and responsibilities of the choices he made
Our daughter, Taziana, will always be our most beautiful blessing. However, because we made the choice to have her really early, Mark and I had to face its consequences. When we found out I was pregnant, we knew things are about to change and we needed to prepare for it.
He immediately dropped the “I’m too young, I’m just a guy” card. Sometimes, people would encourage him to pursue a certain path because “he’s still young after all”. I am really proud of my husband for being able to draw the line and through his actions say, “I am young but I am a man. I am a father and I am a husband”. He is really careful with his choices and always thinks, “will this be good for my family?”
He really didn’t give us a hard time in making him realize the big things that lies in his hands. He knew it and kept it in his heart.
Then, he recognized that he needed to break his bad habits
We often talked about how he should start breaking these habits after I give birth. It’s not good for our baby’s health if he barely gets soaked in the smoke of cigarette (even if the smoke comes from peers and he just sat in a room enclosed with smoke) and he starts hugging and kissing her. We did the research. Hehe. Personally, this wasn’t a big deal for me, but it had to be when I thought of our baby’s health. It was a process I was willing to patiently go through with him. But he decided to slowly drift away from all bad habits- computer games, swearing, regular beer nights, etc., before I even gave birth. He wasn’t able to completely change in a snap, but day by day he did.
I remember a time in our relationship when Mark went out for beer with his friends for four days straight. We’re best friends and he’s not really forbidden to do anything. I love giving him the freedom to choose. But this made me sad because first, he would call when he was already there. “Hi honey. I’m at the bar chilling with my friends right now”. And second, I began thinking if it was something that was going to happen a lot in the future. I trust him and I know how he behaves when he’s outside- I’ve been there with him when we were still friends. But I didn’t feel peace thinking that I might have to live with it. I was caught in surprise for 4 days straight and with the same scenario. I prayed hard for it because I didn’t want to nag him into it. I wanted to challenge him in a good way. So after final beer night I said, “Is this something you would consider normal?”. He asked, “What is?”. I replied, “Well, days of consecutive beer nights and without any heads up. I was just thinking if this is a set up I would want for me and our daughter”. I’m not someone who easily gets upset so he knows this was something serious. Those simple words were enough to make Mark travel 13 hours from Bicol to Manila with flowers and say, “I’m sorry honey. I’ll be a better partner to you and a better dad to our baby. I realized I wouldn’t want our baby to see me like this, too”.
That was the first and last time we encountered that problem. He remained true to his words. Ladies, men are very wise and simple and short words are enough to make them realize where they have gone wrong.
There was also a phase in this journey when Mark felt he couldn’t share some of his struggles with me. I didn’t understand why. Then, I discovered that he felt too pressured. He felt that I had outgrown him since I have gotten over my bad habits faster than he did. He felt it was unacceptable for him not being able to overcome his struggles that quick. Feeling down, I prayed to the Lord. With the gentlest rebuke God told me, “you have been forgetting that you are his best friend in the first place. When was the last time you asked him about his struggles and was willing to extend your hand to let him know you’ll go through this with him?” Ever since that incident, I have been more intentional in showing him that he will never lose the friend he has in me and that I am not someone who would judge and nag him. We both enjoyed going through this phase together. And now, all those bad habits are gone by the grace of the Lord. The Lord loved my husband enough to mold and discipline him. It was a tough journey for Mark and it was not as easy as ABC. But I’m really proud to say, the Lord made it happen.
They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.Hebrews 12:10-11
Then, he learned to set his priorities
When I was still in the very early stages of the wifey life (few months in it), I was worried that I might be unknowingly controlling and possessive of him. I took a break from school for two years while Mark continued to pursue studies. He went to school while I stayed home to take care of our daughter. Every lunch break, Mark would come home instead of bringing or buying his lunch at school (which will be a lot more convenient for him). On weekends, he would spend his time doing homework, playing with Taziana, taking me out on dates, and going to church with the family. I often asked him if he wanted to go out to see his friends on weekends and told him that he didn’t have to come home for lunch. I might have been so repetitive about this because I worried too much that he might feel that he lost his life and freedom, when suddenly he finally lovingly confronted me. “Hon, this is what I want to do. Right now, this is the best I can give both of you because it’s all I have- time and love. I am happy when I am with you girls. So please don’t worry about it”. I couldn’t deny him of that happiness so I stopped bugging him about going out with friends. Hehe. It was unusual for me to be the one initiating the he spends the day with friends. I was both proud of him and affirmed that I shouldn’t worry.
Now that Taziana is bigger and that I am back to studying also, Mark gets more chance to spend more time with his friends. But he knows when he should and can’t meet them. He meets his friends because he genuinely cares about their friendship and enjoys time with them. The only time he can’t meet them is if it will touch his limited time with Taziana, our date nights, or in cases of emergency. Since we are still studying, the only time we can give our daughter is Friday nights to Sunday afternoons. If we have to meet friends during this time, we just bring her with us. Hehehe. There’s just no compromise to him when it comes to family.
Mark was also very eager to learn about raising a child
I remember coming out of the operation room with Taziana. Mark was alone in the hospital room because my family were out to buy food and to get our stuff at home. He smiled so much and gently touched our daughter but he was very scared to carry her. My grandmother, as caring as ever, spent the night at the hospital with us. She taught Mark how to carry a new born. When he finally did, he just kept staring at Taziana. The doctor said I needed a few days or weeks to recover so I needed extra help with my mommy tasks. My family all worked together so I could have a full recovery. My husband was willing to assist me in all ways he can. He was trained by my lola. Hahaha! My granny taught him how to bathe newborns, change their diapers, and expose them to sunlight.
I did my part of researching how to raise babies. Hahaha! And Mark enjoyed listening to me and also applied the things he learned. He educated himself in breast feeding, too. He carefully spent a lot of time with Taziana and learned about what makes her laugh, what makes her cry, what food she likes, what hobbies she’s leaning towards. There was never a time when he would hand me Taziana and tell me that he can’t do it. He’d often ask us to teach him how to do it and learn rather than passing on the task to the “women of the house”. And honestly, it’s one of the manliest things he does. He goes all out in parenting.
Taziana is two and a half years old now. Guess what currently gets Mark excited? Parenting books. Hahaha! I find it so cute and attractive. He enjoys learning about how to raise kids and how to improve in parenting.
He established a good relationship with her
As Taziana grows older, Mark had to exert more effort in getting to know her. In reality, getting to know our children will never stop because they are growing and constantly changing. The best way for him to get to know her was to spend time with her. He’s not scared to be left alone with her. He always says, “I got this”. Because of his efforts, Taziana trusts him a lot. During the time they spend together, Mark gets to know the different sides of her.
In church, we have learned that no matter how good our intentions are, and no matter how much we want to lead her to the better, we won’t be able to do it if we don’t have a relationship with her. Rules and principles will be nothing but a list of words to her if it comes from people she doesn’t have an intimate relationship with. And sadly, it’s really common these days. To be related by blood but still have very distant hearts.
A good relationship with her is what will engrave all our words in her heart. It’s what will make her carry all the lessons we impart to her throughout her life.
My husband models love, trust, and respect through our marriage
We often hear the saying, “the best gift a father can give his children is to love their mother”. That is one of the simplest and truest statements I have ever heard. Our daughter and future children will know how love and relationships are meant to work by seeing it through us.
Come to think of it, our own parents are the very first models of relationships to us. That’s why most children that comes from a broken family have a distorted and confusing view when it comes to relationships. I know this because I come from a broken family. And I praise the Lord for healing the pain that came from it so that I wouldn’t pass on the pain and confusion to my daughter and future children.
Like all couples, Mark and I have disagreements. One time, Mark asked me a question and he didn’t like my reply. He confronted me with an off tone. The worst part is Taziana was there. Well, she’s just two and she might not understand what just happened but we agreed to treat each other with love and respect especially in front of our daughter. Mark apologized to me in front of our daughter. Then, he apologized to Taziana. He said, “Baby, I’m sorry. You know I shouldn’t have talked to mommy like that. I should have been more loving to her. I was wrong. Can you forgive daddy?” Taziana replied, “Okay daddy”.
We’d like for Taziana grow up knowing the reality that marriages aren’t like fairy tales. That there are challenges and hardships and challenges that comes with marriage. But we also like her to know that when God is at the center of a marriage, He will be there to guard, to guide, to care, and to challenge that relationship.
The role of a man is very crucial. To a son, he models who the son should be when he grows up. To a son, he models “this is how we should love and treat women”. To a daughter, he models what kind of man she should marry. To a daughter he models, “this is how you are meant to be loved and treated”
He fills Taziana’s love tank
Even kids have love tanks. I am sure Mark is committed to filling Taziana’s love tank until she grows up through words of affirmation, quality time, physical touch, receiving gifts, and acts of service. (Read more on 5 love languages of children)
Basically, Mark works and is willing to keep working on making Taziana feel loved every day. This will give her a better discernment in choosing when to date in the future and who to date.
By experience, I was a little girl whose love tank was so dry and empty especially when it came to a father’s love. That’s why I was thirsty for whatever type of love was laid in front of me. I was willing to grab what seems to be love- even if it’s not pleasing to the Lord, even if it’s something that my family is against, and even if it’s someone who didn’t really treat me right.
Mark has been my friend since we were 11. He knows my whole story and he very well knows this part of my heart. This pushes him more to becoming a more intentional dad to our daughter. He promised me, “Taziana will never have to feel what you felt back then. I’ll always make her feel loved.”
One who is full loathes honey from the comb, but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet.
He prays to the Lord for guidance
After all, Mark is just human and he is not mistake-proof. He will learn through experiences and sometimes even through failures. That’s why he always seeks for guidance and wisdom from the Lord.
We don’t encourage teenage pregnancy. We strongly encourage for the younger generation to wait and to go slower and be wiser because we know the pain, responsibilities, and discipline that comes with this decision. But like we always say, if you are already there, it’s not the end of the line. It’s not downhill from here just because we made poor choice in our youth.
We can always keep the mindset that our yesterday may be filled with poor choices but we can start again today. That from today onward, we can be wiser. We can grow. And God will always be there to help us.
I know most of our readers are young moms. But if there is even just one young dad reading thing, we’d like to encourage you. It can get scary. It can seem like you’re about to jump into the unknown. It may seem like it’s hard to turn away from the life you had when you were just one person. It may seem a lot to have to be responsible for yourself, for the mom of your child, and your child. However, I can guarantee you that no joy and no life will ever amount to seeing your child smile because of you. There is no night out with friends that will amount to having a close relationship with your daughter/son. There is no greater freedom than having the freedom to love your child with all your heart.
One day, like Taziana did for Mark, your daughter/son will come up to you and say, “I love you daddy. Daddy loves me” and it all the blurs and fears you had will completely be diminished. There’s no life that can ever amount than being a man who can stay true to his family. Our youth will pass, and we will grow old. Then, we will realize, “this is my home. And I am glad I built it with love.”
I’m cheering for you. Like I said, it was not “natural” for Mark to be a good husband and dad. He was scared, too. But when he submitted himself to the Lord, the Lord gave him a new heart. A courageous, sincere, and devoted heart.
We hope this encourages you.