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Raising Christian Sons

A Christian dad shares the three powerful life lessons that turned him into a better dad, strengthened his faith, and help him raise his two sons.


Edwil Antolin: Wouldn’t it be nice? Wouldn’t it be nice if fatherhood came with a handbook? I wish it did. Especially on my first day as a father, which happened on December 9, 1996. When my wife Gail gave birth to our firstborn Nathan at Kaiser Hospital in Vallejo. I forgot how I looked with dark hair. It’s been a while. And then four years later, our second son arrived. Elijah, November 2nd, 2000. So our biggest challenge then, we have two boys. What now? How do we raise two boys correctly? Properly? At the beginning of the 21st century? Like I said no handbook right? What we leaned on, one is the lesson my mom and dad taught me. Lessons on how to say thank you and how to say please. But beyond that, we lean on our faith. In God. Our faith that God would help us as long as we trusted Him, our faith that God would tell us what to do, and teach us what to say.

So, fast forward to 2018. I’ve been a dad for 22 years now. There’s my family– 22 years. And here’s the thing we realized that as we were teaching the boys, we also learned some very important life lessons along the way. Lessons that help us with peace, lessons that have resulted in our happiness. And tonight, I would like to share three of those very valuable, very important life lessons with you.

So lesson number one. Lesson number one stems from our tendency as parents to live our dreams through our children. So for example, if we wanted to play the piano, but never got the chance, well, when we have kids there’s piano lessons. I’m guilty of that too. But for me, it wasn’t the piano. For me, it was baseball. Baseball was my first love. Unfortunately, I wasn’t very good at it. So what next? The next best thing as soon as the boys got of age, signed him up for little league. I was hoping that either one or two of these boys would be the baseball player that I never was. Well, we soon found out quickly enough they were not interested in the game. Well, how do we know? Well, Elijah–this one right here with the blue, Elijah would play right field like this: he’d be picking at the grass, looking for bugs and then a ball would come bouncing his way. Way after, “Oh, there’s a baseball game going on.” So we [yell] “Elijah get the ball!” So he gets the ball, he’d run over here, get the ball, throw it back to the infield and come back his position. Next inning, same thing. So after a couple of years, we gave it up. The dream with me died. Was I disappointed? Absolutely. Absolutely. No major leagues for dad. But you know what, I didn’t let that disappointment get in the way with my relationship with the boys. I still love them. And after all baseball, it’s just a game. But I did learn something. I did learn the important lesson of not living my life through my boys. I’m going to love them for who they are, love them for what they become. And that is lesson number one. Love people for who they are.

And me and my wife decided that as long as they don’t break any laws of man, as long as they don’t break any laws of God, then within that framework, we were going to raise them to be the best version of themselves, that God will allow them to be.

So that’s lesson number one and what I learned from that is also this, we are all very different. All of us. And because we’re very different, we have different likes and dislikes, we should really respect and try to understand one another. And that has helped me in my life. And I hope it helps you with yours. So that’s lesson number one. Love people for who they are.

So for lesson number two, we’re going to go from little league, we’re going to go to high school. And when Nathan, my firstborn was in high school, he joined the water polo team. Which is great. The only problem was one thing. Nathan didn’t know how to swim. I don’t know, it’s such a Nathan thing to do, right? For those of you who know him, right? And when you get to know him, you’ll know what I mean. So whoever convinced him maybe forgot to tell him that water polo–the water, maybe it has to be in a pool. So we encouraged him to do it. Go ahead. But our advice to him was this, “Son, pray, do your best. And don’t be afraid to fail.” So he takes us up on it. And when he comes home from practice, he tells us that, you know, he’s having such a hard time catching up with the rest of the team because the team already knows how to swim, they’re there at this end of the pool. And Nathan is on the other end by himself. And they’re just trying to learn the basics of floating. He’s got his hands up in the air, he’s doing what they call, egg beating, they would throw their legs like that just just to float. So he’s by himself and the rest of the team is already moving forward. Our advice remain the same; Nathan, pray, do your best. And don’t be afraid to fail. So he actually takes up the advice, believe it or not. And at the end of the year, he receives the Most Improved Player Award. Actually, he ends up being in that team for all four of his high school years.

Now, Elijah on the other hand, my second son also joins the water polo team. But this time for a different reason. He wanted to join the basketball team. He used the water polo as a way to get in shape so he can try out for the basketball team. Same advice to Elijah. But the thing was, the odds were really stacked against Elijah because number one, there were already a lot of good players at American Canyon High School. Number two, he wasn’t that good. Son, I love you, but I felt I had to say that. And number three, Elijah was diagnosed with scoliosis, and he still has it today. Scoliosis  is an abnormal curvature of the spine. But he got the medical clearance to play so we encourage them.

Same advice. Pray, do your best. And don’t be afraid to fail. So he tries out his freshman year and as expected, he didn’t make it. No surprise there. And he tries out his sophomore year. Still didn’t make the team. Now his junior year, guess what? No, he wasn’t part of the team.

But each and every time he tried and failed, we actually went out to celebrate. And the reason we celebrated is not because he failed, but because he wasn’t afraid to fail. And that was what we wanted to teach our children. And so what I’ve learned from that is whenever the odds are stacked against me, I remember these two young men who are trying for something that the odds were really stacked against them. And I take the advice I gave them. Which is pray, do my best. And what lesson number two is, do not be afraid to fail.

So for lesson number three, we were in High School right? So we’re going to go back in time past little league to when Nathan, my son was a toddler all the way back there. So when Nathan was a toddler, he was actually very, very difficult to raise, Very difficult. Number one for the first two years of his life, Nathan didn’t talk. Also, once he finally got to talk, he didn’t make sense. So he had his own little language no one could understand, you know. Also, he couldn’t process language, it was hard for us to have just a small conversation. And lastly, Nathan had a tough time focusing, so much so that he was labeled as a special needs child. And for the first few years in his schooling that’s what he was labeled as, a special needs child. So we did what we always do, which is ask God for help, pray for his guidance, pray for his health. And so I know we didn’t pray for anything specific I don’t remember that. But we did just pray. God let your will be done.

So one day, we were actually here in Sacramento. On Arden way. We were stuck in traffic. And there was just me and Nathan in the car. Nathan was about three or four years old. I was driving. Just want to make that clear. So I was driving Nathan was in the back and I hear him. I heard him say the following, I heard him say, “Sac. Ra. Men. To. Bank.” He said that. And I thought, Okay, well, maybe he heard something on the radio that he just repeated. But as I was saying, we were stuck in traffic and I looked. I glanced to my right and there was a sign. There was a big sign that said, Sacramento bank. He just read the sign. You know, I did one of those Hollywood double takes. You know, when you go like this. And I looked around, but there was no witnesses. And it was just me and Nathan. So as it turns out, God had given him a gift. A gift to look at letters and kind of decode letters and put words together so he could read. He just couldn’t understand what he was reading. But the thing was he could read. And Nathan as a preschooler had the reading level of a fourth grader. So we just, we just focused on his strength, started giving him books to read. And so by the time he was in fourth grade, they said Mr. and Mrs. Antolin, it’s time for your son to get out of the program. They exited him from the program. And after that his grades went just through the roof. It just skyrocketed. Fast forward to his senior year, Nathan graduates as one of 11 valedictorians in his graduating class.

And so here we have a young man who couldn’t talk, finally could talk, but didn’t make any sense, couldn’t focus, was a special needs child, and then at the end is a valedictorian. I mean, how is that possible? How is that possible? Well, it is because of lesson number three. In Lesson number three, it says, with God, nothing is impossible. With God, nothing is impossible.

So those are the three lessons we’ve learned. And I’d like to recap those lessons. Number one, love people for who they are. Number two, do not be afraid to fail. And number three, with God, nothing is impossible.

And here is the whole irony of this whole experience. So as Gail and I were teaching the boys all along. All along it was God who was teaching us. That was the irony of it all. And you know, God wants to teach all of us every day. And as parents, and as older people, we have to realize that learning never stops. Learning never stops, because God wants to teach us every single day. The key is we have to realize that and we have to want to learn, we have to want to learn. And God is teaching us every day, especially in our worship services. And for those of our guests that are here. I invite you to our worship services, because it is in those worship services that God gives us the manual. God teaches us what to say. He teaches us the path that we must follow. God bless you all. Thank you.

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Raising Christian Sons