1. The Gift of Parents
Having a parent is a gift. Having a great parent is a gift and a blessing.
I am both gifted and blessed, having been born into a nurturing family with two wonderful parents and four amazing siblings. My parents gave me what I needed to become a loving father, a caring and compassionate son and brother, a genuine friend, a reliable and ethical colleague, and a contributing member of my community.
My father taught me how to be self-reliant, resilient, and to be disciplined. He is why I know how to do what it takes to get the job done. My father’s gift to me was his work ethic.
My mother taught me to be humble, to give back without looking for anything in return. She modeled how to live a value-centered life. My mother’s gift to me was understanding what a privilege it is to put your principles at the center of everything you do.
These values, instilled in me from childhood, are the reason I am who I am.
2. The Gift of Children
Why do people choose to have children?
For many, it’s the social norm, for others it’s because their partner wants a family. For me, it was the day my niece, Ayah, was born. I was eighteen. I was bowled over by the level of love I felt the first time I held her, which just kept growing, at the same pace she did! Over and over I thought: if I love my little niece so incredibly much, how much more am I going to love my own children? I could hardly wait to find out.
When I was 30, I laid my eyes on my first son, my own flesh and blood.
I held Sky Maximilian against my chest and sang to him, counting my blessings. A helpless seven pounds and thirteen ounces, he literally brought me to my knees. I felt unconditional love for the first time in my life. And, also for the first time in my life, I had a profound purpose, a deeper calling: to take the best possible care of this innocent and pure being.
Three years later I was blessed with my second son. I held Ford Kingsman while the nurses ran his vitals, sweet talking to him while he grabbed my finger tightly, gazing into my eyes as if he understood every single word I was saying. For the first time I understood what my mother meant when she said: “I love you five all equally.”
3. The Gift of Loving Unconditionally
Any time and every time I hold my boys, everything else takes a backseat.
The highlight of my day used to be around half-past five, as I’d begin to wrap up at the office so that I could rush home to see my children. I’d drive home, turn onto the street and then stop just before the driveway. Then I would do my daily ritual of gathering my day into a little bundle to leave outside before entering our home. Then, I’d roll down the window so I could hear the boys yelling “Daddy!” as I pulled in.
The first one to greet me was always Sky, running as fast as he could. I’d learned to prep for his jump into my arms. Holding him tight and stealing kisses and hugs, we’d walk toward the house. And there would come Ford, scooting down the stairs one at a time, saying “Dada, Dada!” I loved his wobbly walk towards me once he got to the bottom.
Sky always protested at being put down so I could hug Ford. He’d say: “Daddy! Give me some attention. I need some of your attention. I haven’t gotten any attention.” At the beginning, when Ford first started being able to climb downstairs to meet me, I tried rational explanations. I’d tell Sky that I had just held him and now I needed to give his brother equal time. But a few weeks into it I suddenly realized that a five-year-old boy could not process or understand sharing when what he wanted was my undivided love.
So, we had a conversation.
Me: “What if instead of Daddy alone, you got love and attention from Daddy & Ford?”
Sky (smiling): “That would be a lot of love and attention.”
Me: “Wouldn’t you like that?”
Sky: “That’s the best idea EVER!”
Me: “And you and I will also give Ford that-much-more-love.”
4. The Gift of Faith
It’s close to 22 months since this highlight of my day has been taken from me. Twenty two months since my day and theirs included time to talk and play and share that sense of accomplishment you can almost reach out and feel, that amazing witnessing of a child’s joy and excitement overflowing. I can’t think of anything more satisfying than my boys’ eager looks, waiting for my nod to tell them: “Yes! I saw that, I saw what you just did.”
When your life revolves around your children, when your children become your world, when everything else becomes irrelevant—and when all that is unjustly taken away, that’s when I’ve been reminded to turn to my faith in God. When I pray, I remember that hardship is transitory, that anything that in the moment feels like a misfortune will in the end prove to have been serving a higher purpose.
5. The Gift of Self-Knowledge
What energizes me, what gives me hope and vigor is the belief that I will be seen for what and who I am. I am an involved, loving and caring, hands-on father who wants nothing more than to be with his children. I want to love them, nurture them, comfort them, educate them—just as my parents did for me.
It’s not always easy to follow the simple yet important principle of good thoughts, good words, good deeds. It’s a choice that requires courage and discipline. That’s why I want to be there, teaching my children the values, principles and skills that will guide and empower them. I want them to have the foundation that will mean they, also, will know the difference between what’s right, and what’s easy.