Finding joy in others’ happiness is a blessing. It’s why one of the best days of my life the past three years had absolutely nothing to do with me. It had nothing to do with moving back to DC, getting a new job, Stuart Scott being moved to tears by something I wrote or LeBron getting a ring. Instead, it involved a friend and his son.
The concept of fatherhood has always been a foreign, yet beautiful challenge. My parents divorced before I was three and the only communication I’ve had with my pops since are two birthday cards and a random e-mail. Still, the goal of pulling off the job better than my predecessor has always been the biggest goal I’ve placed upon myself in life. It was only until recently that a soul-cleansing appreciation for the art of being a father truly revealed itself to me. Before getting into that, take these two lessons I’ve come to understand over the years.
1. No man truly knows how to be a father, especially a first-time one. You pray and pray to make all the right decisions and have this storybook image of what the “perfect dad” looks, sounds and acts like. Yet, the entire process is trial and error. There’s no manual on how to raise a son or daughter properly. No amount of Cosby re-runs or babysitting missions truly describes what it’s like to be a father until being placed under that microscope.
2. Any man can be in their kid(s) life, but being a part of their lives is the longest-lasting testament of a true father.
The story of my friend is an extremely personal account. To be honest, I can’t remember when I met him, only that his fiancé and myself have been close for a little over two years (obviously, not in that fashion). She’d always speak highly of him and how great of a father he was; pretty much all the things a then-girlfriend should say in regards to her significant other. I later came to meet dude and he was exactly how my homegirl had described. He was cool as a fan, an awesome pops to his son – whom he had in a previous relationship and looks just like him – and a huge basketball fan.
Through several interactions and conversations, I soon learned the situation with his son came with its fair share of baggage. Everything I saw from a distance had more of a story. The love for his son was indefinite, that much I knew. But the fight to have him in his life full-time was something I’d later come to understand. To be fair, I don’t know the full story; hell, I barely know a fourth. I still don’t. Speaking ill on any party involved isn’t in my mission. What I can speak in confidence of, however, is that his world revolved around his son.
The fight for full custody of a person he was half responsible for creating took more of a toll on him than anything I could conceive. I thought about the court dates. I thought about nights where he likely didn’t get any sleep out of fear. I thought about him looking his son in his eyes and wondering if it’d be the last time he’d get a chance to teach him how to dribble with his left hand or operate in a three-point stance. I thought about him not directly trying to hurt his son’s mother because a child’s first and usually strongest connection is with their mom. And when mom’s hurting, the child’s hurting. I thought about myself and the troubles at my job and compared mine to his.
The thing about life is it’s undefeated in developing new ways to humble us. Regardless of tax bracket, regardless of how affluent we are, regardless of how picture perfect things appear on the outside, life is just as much about the moments you spend praying change as the moments we spend rejoicing they did.
Such was the reason earlier this year learning he received full-custody of his son was a powerful moment for me. It was proof great things do happen to even greater people. My homie’s victory provided an invaluable lesson, too. Fatherhood is more than just saying “I’m here” or me proving to myself I can alter the generations of missteps the men in my family have.
It’s not about me; it’s about that little boy or girl you bring into the world. They aren’t aware of the bullshit that came before them, nor should they be at that time. It’s a part of the innocence in being a kid and no one should take that away gift away from them, even if it means going to the proverbial end of the Earth to protect it.
This story along with knowing the Crew’s own David, Gotty and Sinclair’s personal accounts of the ups, downs, highs and lows of fatherhood stick to my ribs like Thanksgiving dinner. Coming across a similar account last week of Dwyane Wade’s conversation with Lisa Salter for ESPN E:60 and the fight for his sons spoke volumes as well. Leave personal feelings aside for a moment about Wade or the Heat because whether you’re invested in a second consecutive title or their demise is irrelevant at this particular point. The clip reveals more of a personal side to D-Wade the vulnerable father, not the man partially responsible for the greatest free agent triumvirate in modern sports history.
So many similarities Wade shares with my homie are present. To an extent, they lead parallel lives with basketball serving as a source of unbridled happiness between both. The only difference is one’s slightly more financially safe and more famous than the other. Still, being a good father has not nor will it ever be a job valued in dollar signs. Instead, it’s felt in impact.
As lame and as corny as it may sound, this is true. Sometimes, life’s most important title and most important assist happen far away from a basketball court.
Previously: Remembering Dwyane Wade’s March Madness Run