Dwyane Wade: Single parents prepare kids for game of life

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Actress Gabrielle Union, left, and Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade arrive at the ESPY Awards on Wednesday, July 17, 2013, at Nokia Theater in Los Angeles. (Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

 

by Dwyane Wade

(CNN) — When I became a single father, I joined the increasing number of dads who value the importance of raising their children.

Last year, I wrote a book about my experience and the importance of all fathers being present in their children’s lives. Addressing the fatherlessness issue across the country, I’ve also teamed up with President Obama to support his Fatherhood & Mentoring Initiative.

Being a father is the most important and rewarding thing I will ever do, and I strongly encourage all fathers to love and take responsibility for their children.

It occurred to me that there was no guidebook out there that defined and detailed what being a great full-time single dad really was. Where was the game plan for getting this right? Well, if there wasn’t one, then I would need to draw from the past and do the legwork to create one of my own.

Fatherhood, to me, isn’t something you do for awards or acclaim. It’s a privilege and a huge responsibility. Of course, the recognition I’ve been given has been flattering — except I don’t think it makes sense to honor me for what I should be doing in the first place. That said, I do hope that by opening up in ways I haven’t in the past, I can encourage other fathers or father figures to get more involved with their kids’ lives.

Another reason I wrote this book is for my sons, Zaire and Zion. My hope is that in retracing some of my steps in life, both successful and not, I can pass on important lessons taught to me by others and that I had to pick up on my own. But I also want them to know there are no shortcuts or easy answers to being a father first, my life’s mission. I want them to know I’m learning still, sometimes on the fly.

Who really tells you how to be a dad? No one. Which is why I wanted to share my discoveries about how every child is different and you therefore have to parent each differently. I want to address the priorities I’m a stickler for — my beliefs about respect, responsibility, hard work, having dreams, and always being open to learning. Just as important, I want my boys, including my nephew Dahveon, to know they are my best teachers when it comes to being a good father.

For those men who are dads but not fully engaged as fathers, I want to urge you not to miss out on the greatest rewards and blessings that your children represent in your life. A lot of guys have approached me and asked how to become more involved when circumstances have kept you out of your kids’ lives.

Hopefully you’ll find useful suggestions in my story. Aside from an abundance of reading materials, many communities provide all kinds of classes that promote the values of coparenting, which I can’t stress enough.

My sincere hope is to inspire both fathers and mothers who may feel challenged by single parenthood or by your current situation. I’m really writing for all parents, including those foster parents or relatives who raise kids that may not be biologically their own, as well as coaches, teachers, advocates, and mentors. By investing our love and energy and time in young people and in their development, we change and heal our world.

Finally, I wanted to write this book for the kid in every single person out there so you can know the power of love and your own possibilities. If my story and the stories of my loved ones have taught me anything, it’s the simple truth that you have to play your heart out until the buzzer sounds no matter how disastrous the score may seem at times, because giving up is not an option.

I can’t promise that will always win you an NBA championship. But as my mother used to say when encouraging me to strive to do great things, to lift others as well as myself, “Your life is bigger than basketball.”

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dwyane Wade.

Editor’s note: High-profile cases of fathers seeking custody of their children through the court system have recently captured the public’s attention. NBA champion Dwyane Wade has been down that road and is the author of “A Father First: How My Life became Bigger than Basketball.” In this essay, adapted from the book, Wade explains why embracing single fatherhood has been a quiet victory.

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