‘The best thing my Dad gave me is–he’s there’

It is counterproductive to be all about work without play. I want to be around for a long time for my girls


I always wonder if I am doing enough for my kids. As a father of two wonderful teen girls, I regularly ask myself this.

My marriage to their mother was annulled about eight years ago, but we agreed to share custody of the kids. The girls have lived with either of us, depending on the convenience of commuting to school.

Now they stay with their mother, and I give them their allowances for school, groceries, clothing, transportation, and of course, cell phone load!

I do work as a TV and movie actor, cooking show host, marketing director, corporate trainer and speaker, sports nutritionist and fitness trainer. It is a lot to do, but I think it’s because most parents want to give their kids everything.

Now in my midlife, I look toward the future. I hope to retire and take it easy, but with the resources to live comfortably and still help my kids if needed. I maintain my health through exercise, a good diet and supplements.

Still, it is counterproductive to be all about work without play. I want to be around for a long time for my girls. I want to be able to guide or help them when they need it.

The tricky part for every parent is trying to discern if we are being guides or “spoilers.” It is very easy to become the latter. It is a wonderful feeling when your child receives gifts from you, so it becomes addicting for parents to give gifts or cash.

But sometimes, it is we parents who actually experience the joy, while the child is merely entertained only for a brief period. Beware, because this can lead us to giving gifts just to show our love. Toys, clothes and gadgets are enjoyed only until they are no longer in style, or a new one comes along. So we look for the next token of our love that we can purchase. When this becomes a regular pattern, the gifts tend to have less value.

A family counselor told me that financial support should be balanced with regular servings of emotional support. Parent stuff that we do means a lot to your kids, like attending programs, helping with homework. It takes more effort to do this than the former. I try my best to do it as much as possible.

But I also think it is important not just to do it for them, but to do it with them. This way I am better aware of how they are doing in school and in other things in their lives. Being with them at these times presents moments when they open up to me and tell me things.

Opportunity to share

Their stories are usually funny, but with underlying truth. I learn about their adventures, their friends, their mishaps, their goals. I feel that I get the opportunity to enjoy the moment with them which may not happen if I simply ask them, “How are you doing?” over dinner.

When I was a kid, my parents would ask me and my siblings that very question in that way. We would simply answer with a simple “fine” or “okay.” Parents have to figure out the timing for when their kids are in the mood to share.

I am not sure if the emotional support I give is enough, but I still make the best effort. I make it a point to be consistent with financial support, but I do not spoil my girls financially. I provide for their basics.

For example, I have gotten them cell phones to stay in touch. But we don’t get the latest or trendiest model—just something that looks good and can text and make calls.

I have gotten them computers for schoolwork. They are not top-of-the-line, but they can surf the Internet, do word processing, Power Point and all that. They are enough to do the job. If my kids want a better model, they look toward earning their own money for it.

Curiously, shopping trips have turned out to be bonding time for us. At the grocery, we discuss prices and nutritional values of what they like, and I believe it has taught them to make good food choices for themselves.

In the department store they have learned about fashion choices, and how looking good does not necessarily have to be costly. My elder daughter Samantha has actually become an expert at bargain hunting for clothes. My younger girl Sachi amazes me when she makes healthy food choices in high school.

Shopping is also a time when we really chat about what is going on in our lives. This is why grocery time sometimes takes us three hours. It is so much more than just shopping. It is our time.

As a loving dad, I look at how some parents buy their kids all the latest toys, gadgets and gizmos. To each his own, but sometimes I wonder if their approach would be better for my own kids. I got my answer one day when my elder daughter Sam and I were guests on a TV talk show. The theme was, a show biz parent and their child.

We were the only father-daughter pair among mothers with daughters or sons, and fathers with sons.

The host asked the children, “What is the best thing your parent gave you?”

My daughter was the last to answer. I grew uneasy as I heard the other children give answers like a trip to Hong Kong, a car, an X-Box video game, an iPad, a Labrador Retriever. I replayed in my mind all the things I had bought my daughter, and gulped at the comparisons.

But Sam’s answer brought a tear to my eye. My child said, “The best thing my Dad gave me is, he’s there.”

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  • JX Peron

    Quite refreshing to learn that Richard Cepeda is a good father to his kids — and that he can write well.

  • picker_blend

    thank you for this story mr. richard. this has been my greatest worry also, as i and my partner are going through a rocky period. we are doing our best to patch it up; but if the worst happens, i want to be there for my son as he grows. may be not everyday, but in a way that he can proudly say i am there when he needs me.
    thank you again!

  • pangittalagaako

    same anxiety that i have but the last part of the article gave me teary eyes…Good luck Richard and to all fathers reading this fine piece.

  • Socorro

    I met  students who are well provided with material things, money, gadgets and everything but not the presence of their parents. Our govt. should do something to generate jobs with good salary so that less and less families will be separated. We should not be blinded by the title so called” bagong bayani” because of dollar remittances.The students though they are well provided are very lonely and most of them ended up misguided. Presence is the best thing that a father and mother can give.

  • Socorro

    I believe that the only reason why married couples break apart is selfishness. Once you get married there a lot of sacrifices to be made much more when children are born. As parents we have to think of our children’s welfare sans our own welfare.We have to really, really be prepared before  getting married and indulging into sex, kasi ang consequence ng sexual act is always LIFE.. Sex is not just for pleasure or to prove you love each other it is more than that.

  • Marivir Modesto

    I wish my kids can say the same thing to their dad… how lucky your kids are with you as their father. Good luck and God bless. May your tribe thrives.. 

  • Iggy Ramirez

    I remember Ricardo Cepeda as a villain in all of the films he’s been in that I have seen. And it is very easy to judge someone based on the roles they’ve played not being the lead or not being good.

    When I saw the title I felt compelled to read because it pulled some of my own strings; my father was never there for me. So I thought I could somehow imagine what it would be like if my father were there by reading this article. Then I saw the name Ricardo Cepeda Go, which made me look twice and look away. But there was nothing more interesting to read that I could find, so I thought I should give it a try; I’ve already managed somehow to read a sentence or two.

    While I was reading through, all the words seemed like garbage on a conveyor belt rolling towards the crusher. My mind was hovering over the words and I didn’t realize I was skimming most of the paragraphs. I felt I needed to focus on the last 5. When I read the last paragraph, I do not know what came over me but it felt like I was impaled by a stake that went through my back. I could not explain why I was hurt, pained, or deprived. All I ever knew was that a tear was being pulled from my eye.

    Ricardo must have been very proud of Sam. I bet that those were the greatest words he’s ever heard and this is the best story he’s ever written. 

    I never really knew that he could write so well, but I know that it must have taken him so much to write this piece. 

    Theirs is not a perfect family, and they did not need to pretend to be. But to hear those words from Sam only confirmed to him that you don’t need to be perfect to be a good father. And I think it was all what he needed to hear.

    I’m sorry I judged you. I judged the book by its cover, so to speak. And Sam, you probably have the best dad in the world.

  • Mang Teban

    Certainly it is good to know how Ricardo was able to handle his “single fatherhood” and give everything that he could and his daughter said it from her heart – the best gift a father could give is being there for the child.

    I saw the other day about Snooky, Ricardo’s former wife, on TV featuring her present life. According to her, the Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) was instrumental to her return to normal life. She commutes by public transportation and has a small shop selling a variety of things. I was, of course, shocked to see Snooky being an ordinary person with no frills on her appearance and spoke in a serene tone. The TV program’s host, Rhea Santos, had also brought the interview to the the old days that Snooky was a child star and rose to be the most bankable actress until her marriage with Ricardo Cepeda (Go) came but apparently there were “misunderstandings”.

    Well, it is a sad and happy story for both of them. I wish them both happiness for the rest of their lives!

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