Tell us about your family.
I am married to the love of my life, Dawntoya. We celebrated nine years this past April. We have two children—a 7-year-old daughter, Zipporah, and 4-year-old son, Zayne-Baltimore. My wife is from Texas. I’m from Detroit. We now live in Phoenix.
What’s it like raising kids in Arizona, where 100 degree heat is more normal than it’s not?
Yes, during the summertime, you have to do stuff really early or really late in the day. But, it truly feels like a dream nine months of the year. You can always be outside, side-by-side with your kids, exploring the world. It’s utopian.
On Saturdays, I especially try and “be exhausted” toward them. We kick the soccer ball and run around. We make breakfast together. We use sidewalk chalk. It’s all about fun in the sun. Saturday is my wife’s day off. And my day on.
You have a strongly held belief that fathers are responsible to be brothers to one another. What do you mean by that?
Guys need to ask more straightforward questions to fellow dads. We need to ask more questions about the moments we have with our kids. We have to fight for each other. We can’t check-out now. Our kids need us.
We need to stand up for each other. I know a guy who recently had a human moment. His family had a number of children. They thought they were done. They were at their max. And then they got pregnant. They thought there was no way they could have another child. And, they planned to not go through with the pregnancy. From a human standpoint, I get it.
But, my wife and I have been talking what it means to bear each other’s burdens. We went to them and said, “You can do it. You give nine months to this baby, and we’ll step up. We’ll help you parent. We’ll co-parent. We’ll adopt.”
As dads, we are brother and keeper for each other.
They went through with the pregnancy and now they have another child and they have been able to do it. All they needed was someone to say they would shoulder that burden with them.
We always ask: What’s one thing you’ve learned from your father?
I learned about leaving. He left our home when he was 13. He left because he said he was tired of parenting, and he wanted love. I understand why he left. Nobody taught him that fathering is about endurance.
We always ask: What do you believe is your finest fathering skill?
I let my kids be whimsical and express themselves. I don’t put railings on them. I let them explore. I enter into their exploration.
My son wanted to wear socks up to his knees, with his jeans tucked into them. I said, “OK.” If that’s what he wants to do. If my daughter wants to wear leopard skirt and pink shirts, great. I let them explore and express themselves.
They love to dance. We try and do dance parties every night. We just let them dance crazy.
We always ask: How has becoming a dad made you a better person?
I had my daughter first. I was a hard man. Detroit was tough. If I had had a boy first, I would have been too tough on him. I grew up in a forceful environment. There, results came by fighting for it. You had to bully your way out. Having a daughter has softened me to life. It has shown me what true patience is.
We always ask: What is your favorite activity to do with your kids?
Talking to them. I don’t think we realize that having a child is the only relationship that comes with a clean slate. We are drawing on their canvas. It’s so fun. I created a language for my daughter. I’ve always been impressed that J.R.R. Tolkien created a language. And, now my daughter and I have a special language.
Fathering is worth it. Any race is worth it. There are days when I want to drive and not come back. There are days when I’m tired and want to disappear. If you stop running, if you quit on them, that’s where their story stops. What stride are we going to take today? It’s always worth it.
We have to fight for the moments with our kids. To draw on the canvas of our children’s souls. Fatherhood is a gift. We’re painting a masterpiece. You’re never prepared to do it. But, prayer and community, and patience make it possible. Each day, there is a win we can have. We’re fathers for life.