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Don’t waste father-and-son moments

How do you bond with your kids?

Adventures are more fun with your kid(s). PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

It was a late Sunday afternoon. My son and I had just finished a grueling, eight-hour ride/photo shoot where I’d asked him to come along to help his old man out.

The sun had come out in full force. It felt like my face was melting and my boots were on fire from all the reflected heat off the expressway, but we got the job done and made it home.

I hadn’t even finished putting my gear away when Max asked: “When is our next ride? I want to go again!

Nursing an ice-cold Coke while enjoying a shower, I realized the significance of this day.

It was his first time riding pillion on the expressway.

It was our first truly long ride—everything else had been fairly short as he was still a tween back then.

And he’d just told me he loved it, despite the ball-busting heat and the mild terror of hanging on to the bike while sitting on a pad barely larger than a hardcover book while surrounded by trucks and cars on the highway. Of course, I didn’t tell my wife about this until we were done.

Test drives and test rides are something the author and his son both look forward to. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

Ah, the cycle of life.

My father never rode motorbikes, but he loved to drive. And it’s safe to say he shared this love of cars with me when I was a child. He bought me Matchbox cars for my birthday and Christmas; my first Transformers was the original Sideswipe (the Countach); and he was mildly incredulous when one year I asked for a G.I Joe.

“Why do you want to play with dolls?” he asked.

Since he worked in the advertising industry and a major client was a car manufacturer, he got to bring home issues of Car & Driver, Road & Track, Automobile, and Motor Trend.

I read and reread these so many times that I knew the specs by heart, and Dad wished I could apply the same fervor to my studies. I cut out the ads and made these my book covers, and one of his most memorable Christmas gifts to me during my teen years was a yearlong subscription to Car & Driver.

Even a mundane drive for an errand can be delightful with your kid. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

By the time I was 17, I was raring to drive. That morning learning how to drive stick was an eye-opener in how little I knew. When I finally got the hang of it, things happened fairly quickly.

Before long, he entrusted his car to me on my first night out (which I promptly damaged, hurray!), then over the years I got to use it a lot in exchange for taking care of it and driving my parents and grandparents around.

One day, I was riding my bike home from Tagaytay when an old lady ran across the highway to get ahead of an oncoming bus, right into my path.

Both of us went flying across the road. A small crowd formed, and the lady had to be taken to a nearby hospital while the barangay captain tried to figure out what to do with me. I called up my parents, and they arrived within an hour, remarkably calm about everything as we went to the precinct and talked to the lady’s husband about what to do.

Over the next few days, Dad made several trips to the hospital and made sure she would be okay—paying for everything but keeping the bill in my personal ledger of “money I owe my father.” He didn’t forbid me from riding solo again or give me a tongue-lashing, but just let me absorb the lesson of how even a moment of bad luck can ruin everything.

Riding bicycles is something the author and his son eagerly do on weekends. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

A year later, he suffered a heart attack while jogging and had to be taken to the hospital. The night before an operation, he brought up the topic of that accident and how I had yet to pay back a single cent. He chuckled and cleared the books with me, just telling me to be a lot more careful on the road.

I went home happy and thankful for having one less payment to make—me, a stupid kid who argued with him all the time and thought he could conquer the world.

This would be the last time I would get to talk to him.

He died in his sleep that night.

That was 19 years ago, and I still remember that moment. I remind myself of this every time my kids—in their own way—want me to spend time with them. After I taught Max the safe way to ride his bike to and from school, he eventually asked when he could come ride his bike with me on a long training ride.

‘These cars are even older than you, Dada.’ PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

So, I’m gradually easing my son into it—getting him proper cycling clothes, teaching him pacing and gearing, and letting him deal with the inevitable suffering that happens on a ride. When I come home from a training ride and he asks me where I rode, I know he’s really asking when he can come along.

My younger son, Alex, also looks forward to riding with me.

On one photo shoot, I picked him up after school and proceeded to a favorite spot. It took time away from his iPad addiction, but eventually, he came around to just enjoying the drive and seeing what I do for a living while debating who would win in a real fight: Godzilla or Tanjiro.

Just another photo shoot with one of the author's sons. PHOTO BY ANDY LEUTERIO

I finished my shower and went to the kitchen for a sandwich. Max asked me if we were still going to the Moto Builds Pilipinas show just like I had promised the night before.

I was still bone-tired, the prospect of driving for another two hours this time wasn’t too appealing, but here was my son asking for still more time with me.

“Let me just take a nap; wake me up in an hour, and let’s go,” I said to him. So we went to the show, enjoyed a quiet junk-food dinner at Jollibee, and spent an hour talking about cars and bikes on the way home. There’ll be more of this, too, God willing.

Parents: Don’t waste a single moment with your kids. They can be difficult at times; they’ll stop smelling nice once they hit their tweens; and they’ll probably break your heart one day.

And yet they’re the whole point of living.

Andy Leuterio

Andy is both an avid cyclist and a car enthusiast who has finally made the shift to motorcycles. You've probably seen him on his bicycle or motorbike overtaking your crawling car. He is our motorcycle editor and the author of the ‘Quickshift’ column.