Raising three boys has had its challenges but Raul Orantes feels he’s got it dialed in now — just in time for a new granddaughter.
Raul and his wife Flor met when they were teenagers in El Salvador and had their first child, Javier, when Raul was 20. Javier is now 24 and lives on Orcas with his wife Emma.
While Raul was “very happy and ready” for the surprise baby, the news shocked the couple’s traditional families. Raul was raised by his grandfather, who he says was “my support, my everything.”
According to Flor, Raul was a bit of a partier but once Javier was born, all of that changed.
“He’s been very responsible from the beginning,” she said.
The Orantes family immigrated to the United States, settling in California when Javier was two. Three years after their big move, Flor gave birth to Raul, Jr.
“It was hard because we came to the United States with different ideas and traditions,” Flor said. “We had to learn different ways of raising the kids — like talking about drugs and sex — which you wouldn’t do in El Salvador.”
In 2010, they fell in love with the Orcas community after visiting Raul’s dad on the island. Six months later they had relocated.
Raul owns a home improvement business and Flor is the housekeeping supervisor for Camp Orkila. They make time every year for family travel, going to places like California, Vegas and Utah. The Orantes are celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary on June 27 and will commemorate the occasion with a motorcycle trip to Lake Chelan.
The couple says that while raising Javier, they were more strict and demanding.
“I didn’t get a tattoo because I wanted to be a good example to him,” Raul said. “But when he was 20, Javier got one anyway! So then I decided it was okay for me to get one too.”
In 2014, they welcomed their son Gerard, who is 8. Now, with their two younger boys, the parents have learned to be flexible.
“We initially tried to be more like our parents,” Flor said. “But our parents made mistakes. We’ve learned a lot with Javier. I feel like our kids teach us more than we’ve taught them.”
Raul says he enjoys spending time with his two oldest boys as equals.
“I see them as friends and they see me that way too,” he said. “They are more comfortable talking about anything with me.”
Javier says that he is looking forward to having children because of his positive relationship with his father.
“I can proudly say that thanks to my dad, I know we will all have the proper tools to be great dads,” he said.
Raul, Jr. — who is now 19 and a recent graduate of Orcas Island High School — welcomed his daughter Lydia 15 months ago. With her arrival, the Orantes family became even more lively.
“She’s our first little girl in the house,” Raul said with a big grin. “We are very happy.”
Added Flor with a laugh: “The baby LOVES Raul.”
Javier said his father is the most “hardworking and skilled” person he knows and that’s he’s continually improving their family home.
“It’s rare to find something he can’t do,” he said. “Thanks to him, I’ve learned to have a great work ethic, and I learned to be understanding, thoughtful, loving and respectful. He’s always been so loving and supportive. Seeing my younger brothers grow up and seeing how he’s grown as a father as well has shown me the kind of father I strive to be soon.”
Javier says he also admires his younger brother for stepping into a new and unexpected role.
“He is growing to be an amazing father thanks to all the support from family and the tools given by my dad,” said Javier. “My brother Raul went from being a normal teenager in high school focusing on school and sports to a responsible, hardworking father. I look forward to seeing my family continue to grow and have my own kids and make my parents into proud grandparents soon. Seeing the love they give to my niece Lydia only gets me more excited to have my own kids. I love my dad very much and I’m so thankful for everything he is.”
Raul, Jr. agrees that becoming a young dad has been demanding.
“But it’s taught me that life itself is challenging, meaning I have to learn how to adapt and learn,” he said. “My favorite part of being a father is being able to see my daughter grow and create an amazing bond. My dad has always been a huge role model to me, always teaching me no matter how hard things get, life is still beautiful.”