I’ve always thought Chef Len Santos-Ding’s story must be told. This woman is amazing! She’s got three kids who are practically conquering the world with their wealth of talent, and raising another, who, I’ve no doubt, will make an impact in his generation as well.
Her parenting skill is something I’ve silently observed, listened to, and try hard to imitate all these years.
Here’s Chef Len’s story. I promise you, her story is worth your while.
Who is Len Santos – Ding?
If the name seems familiar to you, it might be because you’ve come across her name in food magazines and blogs.
Len is a certified chef who had been running a catering business since she was 17, long before she enrolled at the renowned Center for Culinary Arts (CCA) in Manila.
Len’s passion is ‘real food’ and she shares her expertise and knowledge through numbers of workshops, cooking demos and private cooking lessons for both adults and kids, some of which she holds in her very own Feed 5000 kitchen in Ayala Alabang village
I can tell you so many other credentials Len has, and she has plenty, but above all that is Len, the inspiring mom, whose example I try hard to emulate in raising my own kids.
Not a perfect family!
Len was quick to tell me that they are not a perfect family. That they are just like any other family, going through their own sets of conflict and issues.
When I first started observing Len, I was new in church and she was a single mom, raising two teenagers and a pre-teen who served alongside us as a drummer for the Kids Ministry music team.
During the annual church prayer and fasting, Len was asked to lead single parents to pray and intercede for their families. What she said stayed with me since.
She said in her prayer that sometimes, they are at a loss on what to do in raising their children. That they are fully leaning on God’s guidance and wisdom.
Years later, I realised that the prayer she spoke wasn’t only for single parents, but for every parent who loves her children.
Len’s children today
Len’s three older children whom I met when she was still a single mom are now achievers in their own right: One, a Fine Arts Professional, now teaching in one of the best progressive schools in Manila, another, a film maker and director who had been nominated and awarded in several prestigious film festivals abroad, and another, a UP broadcasting student who had traveled to Russia to experience its culture and all over Europe via Red Bull’s “Can you make it?” contest.
They now have a baby brother whom they love and dote on dearly.
Len is now happily married to Dexter Ding, a talented web designer and accomplished triathlete who has been serving our church faithfully as Creative Director for several years.
But being achievers is not really the story. What draws people to this family is the quality of love and respect that they have for each other.
What clearer picture is there to show how it works within their family than to share with you what one of Len’s children have to say about his relationship with his siblings:
“Even with all the art exhibits, recitals, plaques, and awards, my siblings and I don’t feel the need to compete with each other. There is no race between the three of us. We each have our own pursuits and even when they sometimes overlap, our support for each other will not run out. The best part is there is nothing to prove. Even if we’d all gone tone deaf and all awards have been stripped away, we still have each other’s arms to wrap ourselves in.
They are my compass in the wild, and my anchor in the seas. Even when we are half a world apart, we are closer than ever. I can confide in them my fears and insecurities, and they in me. If I forget who I am, they remind me, as I would with them. It fills me with gratitude to know that I am stuck with these two until the end.” (M. Calayan, We are because/ Because we are)
How did she do that?
She didn’t, she admits. Len shared with me how she prays unceasingly for her children. She told me of days when she would go to their bedrooms and lay her hands on their beds, interceding to God for them through all these years.
Len gave her all to be the best mother for her children – teaching them, caring for them, providing for them, but ultimately, it was God’s grace and faithfulness that brought them to where they are now as a family.
“As Christians, we were growing together,” Len says.
Len developed friendships among people who share the same faith, people who encouraged them, laughed with them, cried with them, who were quick to run to their side when she and her daughter got into an accident that almost caused them their lives, people who would lead her back to the bible on confusing times; her children started doing the same.
PRACTICAL PARENTING TIPS:
I asked Len on how she could have contributed to the success of her children, and it took her a while to answer. In fact, she had to ask her children “if” she had influenced them in any way with their life choices, at all.
These are the things I’ve learned from her:
1. It’s okay to be different.
Len encouraged all of her children to embrace their uniqueness. That it’s okay to be different, you SHOULD be different.
Len shares about her daughter who won an award for her painting years ago. She says everyone else’s work were technically great, she didn’t even understand her daughter’s work, but it was her daughter’s work that got the prize.
She points out that it was because even though the other submissions were amazing, they also looked similar. Her daughter’s work stood out because her work was different.
2. No cover-ups.
For Len, awards are not important, but she taught them to take responsibility for their decisions and did not cover up for them. She raised them into understanding the value of working for your goals.
For example, if one of her children didn’t do his project, she wouldn’t do it for him. She lets them experience the consequences of these little decisions to show them that every action have a corresponding result.
3. Intentional communication.
Len says that as children grow older, they start living their own lives and at a certain point, you have to let them. But it doesn’t mean that you should just leave them on their own altogether.
She says that when she senses any of her children are going through tough times, she would sit them down and talk to them to help them sort things out.
4. Teaching them that some things are not optional.
Len reminds them that some things are not optional. Such as family.
The older children have learned to do their share in the family and take turns in looking after their baby brother.
Blended family that blends well!
The romance between Len and Dexter didn’t come as a shock to Len’s older children. They’ve known each other for a long time in church and Dexter made an effort in making them feel secure about his intention for their mother.
He spent time with their family and even traveled with them.
One of the things that Len promised her children was not to take them on an emotional roller coaster. She did not get into any relationship until she was sure that it was for keeps.
Her children threw their mom and Dexter their full support as the two wedded and started building a life together.
They’re probably the most fun family I ever see on my news feed, seriously. Once, Dexter posted in a jest that they needed an “administrative” head in the house as they are all missing appointments, being the typical creatives that all of them are. To which Len laughs and says she’s become the designated O.C. (Obsessive-Compulsive) of the family.
Len continues to hold a variety of workshops in her wonderful kitchen, Feed 5000. She advocates ‘real food’ for families and is the go-to person for healthy, natural ingredients.
If you want to know more about real food and where you can buy them here in Manila, or would like to inquire about her cooking and meal preparation workshops, you may get in touch with Len through this link: Len Santos-Ding.**
“Her children arise and call her blessed” Proverbs 31:28a.
“Teach them character, everything else will follow” – Fully Housewifed.