New Norm

Jon Jon Rufino lives by a mod­ern out­look as he brings up his brood

Red Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - Jon Jon, Lilith, and Lu­cian Rufino

We catch Jon Jon Rufino on a cloudy af­ter­noon just as his kids, Lilith and Lu­cian, awake from a nap. Lilith is shy at first, al­most de­mure, but af­ter the photo shoot ends and the sun has set, she is handed a mi­cro­phone and trans­forms into a lit­tle songstress, tak­ing cen­ter stage in the pi­ano room. She ban­ters with her brother Lu­cian over the ac­com­pa­ny­ing dance to the Ta­ga­log lilt she sings. The twins, equally ex­u­ber­ant and sweet, were born via donor and sur­ro­gate on Fa­ther’s Day five years ago. And the rest, as they say, is his­tory.

If there’s one thing uni­ver­sally agree­able around this time of year, it’s that the hol­i­days are a time to spend with good com­pany. Fam­ily: It’s a word that rings true for any­one, though its def­i­ni­tion may vary de­pend­ing on whom you ask. For Rufino, a pro­gres­sive thinker, an en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist, and a proud mem­ber of the LGBT com­mu­nity, his trea­sures are his twins and his part­ner, mu­si­cal di­rec­tor Rony For­tich.

How do you ex­plain your ad­vo­ca­cies to your kids?

I have taken them to Pride Pa­rades since they were six months old. I take them hik­ing and swim­ming. I en­cour­age them to think on their own. I haven’t gone into the deeper con­cepts of what each of those things mean, though—maybe soon. Maybe when they’re seven.

How would you de­fine your fam­ily dy­namic as a solo par­ent of two kids, and now with a part­ner?

I didn’t have kids un­til I was 37. This means that I was able do a lot of other things first, which has put me in a great frame of mind with the kids. They are the pri­or­ity in my life. I chose this. So I have to plan ev­ery­thing for them, es­pe­cially at this age. But liv­ing in this coun­try, I have amaz­ing help. First of all, both my par­ents love the twins like their own chil­dren, and they spend time with them prac­ti­cally ev­ery day. And then I’m so lucky that we have good nan­nies, thanks to my sis­ter Kris, who asked her daugh­ter’s nanny Dia to work for me. She’s so trust­wor­thy. I love tak­ing care of the kids on my own, but what a load off of my shoul­ders that I’m able to plan adult ac­tiv­i­ties, know­ing that my kids are in safe hands with their nanny or their grand­par­ents.

And then I met Rony [For­tich], who’s fan­tas­tic with the kids. It was a chal­lenge bal­anc­ing a re­la­tion­ship with be­ing a par­ent be­fore, but Rony and I are gen­er­ally on the same page. We are still in the process of find­ing what “nor­mal ev­ery­day” means, but isn’t every­body? I love that he sees and pri­or­i­tizes ed­u­cat­ing the kids in cer­tain ways that I might have not fo­cused on, like teach­ing them about kind­ness. With­out him, I might have just fo­cused on po­lite­ness.

What are the twins like?

Lu­cian is a bun­dle of joy. He smiled to me on the first day. Our nanny saw him when I brought him home from the hospi­tal a week later, and she con­firmed that he [also] smiled to her then. He’s also very at­tached to me; I’m his fa­vorite bed. He

makes friends eas­ily in school, and since the age of three, he has been turn­ing any­thing into a sword or a gun to “fight the bad guys.”

Lilith is mas­ter­ing her pow­ers as a woman. She does not give her af­fec­tion away eas­ily, even to me, but when she does, she can make you feel as if you’re on top of the world. She also loves singing and watch­ing mu­si­cals. And she en­joys ten­nis and is de­vel­op­ing pretty well for a five-yearold—al­ready on the road to ful­fill­ing my fan­tasy. She loves ba­bies. She loves pre­tend­ing to be a baby some­times, then other times, she loves play­ing at be­ing the older sis­ter or the mother, ex­cept she’s both­ered by the idea of child­birth. At this point, she prefers to adopt, ha ha!

What are you get­ting the twins for Christ­mas?

Lu­cian is ob­sessed with Nin­jago right now while Lilith is ob­sessed with Matilda the Mu­si­cal.

How do you em­power your kids?

I made a prom­ise to my chil­dren dur­ing their nam­ing cer­e­mony, when I in­vited their guide par­ents to share words or a quote from a book or a line from a song with them, that I would never lie to them. My main mo­ti­va­tion for hav­ing kids ini­tially was to share my cu­rios­ity of the world with them. So that’s my pri­or­ity: to im­ple­ment that de­sire to learn.

I also promised that I would al­low them to solve prob­lems in their own way. If I tell them that they need to do some­thing, I will ex­plain to them why. And if they come up with a better way of do­ing it, we can do that in­stead. Now that they’re five, we are fi­nally able to start im­ple­ment­ing this, lit­tle by lit­tle.

I’m also on board with the idea that they don’t have to kiss all of my friends or my par­ents’ friends if they are not feel­ing it. They need to know that their bod­ies are their own.

How are you cel­e­brat­ing the hol­i­days with your fam­ily?

Rony’s a mu­si­cal di­rec­tor, and he has a con­cert in Dakak just be­fore Christ­mas, and a New Year's Eve con­cert in Dubai, so we are watch­ing him on both shows. Ac­tu­ally, I’m tak­ing one kid to one and the other to the other, be­cause I value in­di­vid­ual time with the twins. It al­lows them to fur­ther de­velop their unique re­la­tion­ships with me; oth­er­wise they de­mand the same thing from me at the same time. Also, my par­ents so ap­pre­ci­ate hav­ing one child with them with­out me around, ha ha!

Rony and I have even started hav­ing in­di­vid­ual dates with the kids, which I highly rec­om­mend to other par­ents. Go to a dif­fer­ent restau­rant with one kid while your part­ner goes some­where else with another kid.

Any spe­cial hol­i­day tra­di­tions?

None yet, but we’ll in­vent some along the way. I’d like the kids to in­vent them.

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