As we celebrate Father’s Day we can’t forget those men who stand in the gaps to care for children who aren’t theirs biologically. These men are cherished, but unsung heroes in our communities. Three men from different walks of life share their stories of fatherhood with EBONY.com.
In 1993, NBA star Trent Tucker retired wearing a championship ring and holding the title as the highest 3-point shooter for the Chicago Bulls, but he still hadn’t conquered his greatest accomplishment.
At 35-years-old, working as a broadcast analyst for the Minnesota Timberwolves, he took on a new role as father to 13-year-old twins, India and Illiana whose mother he’d been longtime friends.
“God gives you a calling to sometimes step outside of your comfort zone and do something different. I felt like at that stage in my life, this was the right thing to do.”
Tucker didn’t have children, but took full responsibility as a father, moving them in with him in Minnesota. There was a transition taking on teen girls. “All of sudden, I had to restructure my way of doing things, my life and also my way of thinking. Everything now was all about them first.”
India, now 30, agrees. “It was an adjustment, I think, for all of us, to know he wasn’t going to go anywhere and that he was taking on that role honestly,” she says. “He never thought twice about what he was doing. He just dived right into it.”
Tucker’s experience as a father has taught him unselfishness that couldn’t be taught on the court. He has since added to his family, now a father of infant sons. “Being able to be a part of their (his daughters) lives in a father-type role has really taught me a whole lot what it means to be a father to my two boys.”
India and Illiana have always had a close relationship with their mother, but India says the father-daughter relationship is especially vital. “We understood that he genuinely only wanted great things for us,” she says. “He wanted to show us that there are men out there who want to take care of their children and see their children do great things.”
Jimmy Brown was 19-years-old and working as a part-time counselor for the Big Buddy Program when he met 10 year-old brothers, Ron and Deron Clark. A few overnight stays in his off-campus apartment turned into a permanent stay when their mother could no longer care for them. “They really didn’t have anywhere else to go, and my (living) situation, in her eyes, was better than hers,” he says.
Brown, then a sophomore, learned the art of school- life balance, becoming a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., graduating from Southern University and securing employment all while raising two boys. “I was able to do it by the grace of God. I worked three jobs at one time to make sure we had food and the bills were paid.”
Those things didn’t happen without sacrifice. “There were a lot of things I couldn’t do because I had two boys I was raising to become productive young men.”
Brown provided a stable home for them, teaching them everything from hygiene habits to how to perform household chores. Deron was enrolled in a private high school where he excelled academically and served as class president and homecoming king. He will enter college this fall.
Welcomed Responsibility and Extended Family
What does it take to care for children who aren’t biologically yours? Patience is required, according to Terrell Stanley.
The 31-year-old acts as father to his girlfriend’s three children, as well as his ex-wife’s daughter. He also has three of his own children (two are with his ex-wife).
When he entered a relationship with Adreena Thomas, he didn’t know her son, whom he coached in track, didn’t have an active father in his life. “When I see kids when I’m out there coaching, it bothers me to see how many men won’t take care of their own children. So what I do is I open the door.”
Stanley, whose own father wasn’t present, has managed to seamlessly fuse his families together, teaching them the importance of family and success. Each of them calls him “Dad.”
“It takes a stronger person to just step up, especially in the world we live in today because a lot of people are going to talk nonsense to you about you taking care of another man’s child,” he says.
Stanley is working to make sure his children attend the best schools and are ultimately happy. “I want them to know that there are other options and opportunities out there for them, so that’s what I’m here for right now.”