I am the youngest of nine kids, raised by two incredible parents within a very close-knit family in the inner city of Chicago. My father was my best friend. He was the best man in my wedding, my role model throughout my life. He set the example that he expected all of us to follow and he showed me love when I needed it and pushed me hard when I needed that too. He was truly relentless when it came to being a father. In fact, up until the time he lost a heartbreaking battle with cancer at the age of 79, I truly believed he was invincible.
I was blessed to have him as such a strong influence. He taught me incredible lessons through his actions, as well as the words he shared with me daily. I can’t even begin to tell you how seriously my dad took his job as a father to me and my other siblings, or how much he loved and adored my mom for 54 years of their marriage. This guy was special!
By the time I came along my pops was 48 years old and had already been through this whole “having a child thing” eight other times. He could have easily put it on auto pilot and sat back and relaxed. Maybe even cut some corners with baby #9 and let me figure it all out.
Not a chance!
He was “all-in” on me and gave me every ounce of his energy from day one. I honestly think my dad loved being a father more than anything else in the world. He had served in the military, had a successful career in law enforcement for 33 years, was a former college football player at Indiana, had amazing personal experiences like having breakfast with Martin Luther King Jr., and so many other life impacting moments. Regardless of all his accomplishments, it remains clear that his commitment to being a father was what motivated him the most.
As I grew older and approached the age of being a father myself, I was determined to carry on his legacy of being a father like he was. I was going to take all that I witnessed and experienced to honor my dad by being the same type of father to my own children. I was prepared for the responsibility associated with being a father and truly embraced it from the minute God and my beautiful wife Kimberly blessed me with my first son, Trystan, and then again three years later when my youngest son, Cross, was born.
When you have a child of your own there is an incredible rush of adrenaline that takes over and literally pushes you through the early days. Exciting moments seem to happen by the minute as you observe and explore every aspect of this beautiful little bundle of joy that you have brought into the world. Until you experience it, you honestly can’t imagine it.
I found my natural instincts to protect my child were balanced with actual life lessons experienced with my own father. The love that I feel for my own boys must be the exact way my dad felt about me. These were my little guys, my buddies for life, I had big plans for them and oh yeah, the blueprint to follow. Well, at least I thought so. What I learned early on and what I continue to learn is that being a good father takes consistency.
There is truly nothing more important than me working my hardest each day to be a good role model for my boys. To teach them they way I was taught. To love them with every ounce of my energy and to guide them towards being men of great character who will hopefully one day be blessed to also be called “Dad” by their own children.
This is not an easy job! It comes with many fears, sacrifices, and emotions.
I always say that the minute you become a father, the light switch of life is always ON! You don’t just turn it off and take a break from reality. It’s ON and you need to be on your game at all times. You never stop worrying about the safety of your kids or about their development. My boys are now 22 and 19 and becoming more mature by the day, but I am steadfast in my efforts to give them quality guidance so they can avoid the pitfalls of life. That’s my job and I take it very seriously. Yes, I am a business professional and even a basketball coach who has helped develop my boys and many others I have come into contact with, but nothing is more important to me that continuing to improve as a father. I am constantly learning and trying to listen more intently to my boys so that I am aware of what they are going through at each stage of their lives.
The wisdom that my father passed to me can now be passed to them. The only difference is the pressures from society that my kids face are significantly different than what I faced growing up. Therefore, I continue to operate on the premise that my job is stay plugged into the present day society to prepare my boys for how to properly navigate this complex world when I am not there looking over their shoulder. I want them to make good choices and display a high level of character. I refuse to settle for mediocrity when it comes to my personal commitment to supporting my kids, and I am determined to hold them accountable so that some day they will strive to be great fathers themselves.
To this day, I miss being able to talk to my dad. I wish I could ask more questions and learn how he successfully navigated raising nine children the way he did. To all the young fathers out there or fathers to be, my advice is this: take the job seriously, but have fun with it every day. Remember that your kids are watching your every move and will emulate you in more ways than you can imagine. Set your own standards as a father and don’t let anyone or anything get you off track. No job or other commitment should ever allow things to get out of balance. Stay hungry to grow and to learn what it takes to be a better father today than you were yesterday.
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