A Father First: How My Life Became Bigger Than Basketball by Dwyane Wade
I have been a fan of Dwyane Wade as a basketball player since his days at Marquette University and when I heard about this book I knew I had to read it. From the beginning, what drew me to Dwyane Wade was not just his prowess on the court but also the adversity he had to overcome from a young age. Also, as the lover of love that I am (Don’t you just love love?) I liked the fact that he married his childhood sweetheart and they were raising their sons together. Their marriage did not survive, unfortunately, and during their divorce, the tabloids had a field day at their expense, but throughout, what always struck me about Dwyane Wade was his absolute dedication to fatherhood. That is what this book is about.
When Dwyane and Siohvaughn had their first child they were still in college and neither was ready for parenthood but they made a commitment to each other and to that baby to make it work, someway, somehow. Dwyane Wade did not know how to be a father, then, but from the get-go, he took his new role very seriously and never looked back.
This is the story of how he became a father to his sons and to his nephew who lives with them, but it is also a story about the importance of family. Although his parents, Dwyane Sr. and Jolinda, divorced when he was a baby and they both struggled with substance abuse, he maintained a relationship with both of them. His grandma, Willie Mae, was a reassuring presence in his life when he still lived with his mother and addiction would make Jolinda disappear in the mean streets of Chicago for hours and sometimes days at a time. His siblings on both sides played important roles at different times. All helped shape him into the man he is today. Through it all, the relationship that stood out the most the most to me in Dwyane Wade’s life is the one he has with his big sister Tragil. Every step of the way, and to this day, she has been her brother’s keeper, always doing her best to protect him from the dangers of the streets, on several occasions putting her own well-being on the backburner to ensure he was safe. During the custody battle, after Dwyane and Siohvaughn divorced, Tragil did for the boys what she had done for their father since he was born.
The love they all have for one another is what has allowed them to get through the most trying times and to build even stronger bonds:
-Dwyane’s love for his mother gave him the strength to never give up on her, no matter what. Through addiction and incarceration, he loved her and waited for her.
-Tragil’s love for Dwyane gave her the strength to take him to their father’s home, under false pretenses, and leave him there for good. She knew it would be difficult, she knew he would be confused, maybe even mad at her for a while, but she also knew it was the best thing to do.
-Dwyane Sr.’s love for his son drove him to be very hard at times while giving him guidance on the basketball court and off. What he could not give him, his son his now giving to his own sons.
-Dwyane’s love for his sons gave him the strength to fight for them after the divorce and gave him the courage to look beyond the hurt and do everything he could to make sure they also maintained a healthy relationship with their mother after he won full custody, regardless of the state of his relationship with her.
The book is very well-written and gives the reader an in-depth look into the life of Dwyane Wade, the basketball player, the son, the brother, the grandson, the nephew, the friend, the man, and the father. As a youngster, he had made a promise to himself to be the best father he could be when that day would come, and when that day came, he did and continues to do everything in his power to be that father. And more.
Men, and black men in particular, are neither taught nor encouraged to express or talk about their emotions and feelings, and often don’t know how to do it. It is refreshing when someone like Dwyane Wade does not shy away from it at all, welcomes it, and raises his sons to do the same.
“Somehow, without me having to say anything, at my lowest moments, the part of Jolinda Wade that was her true self – her God self, as she would say – would let her out of her inner prison and be Mom. High or not, she’d take my hand and look right at me and ask, ‘Who’s your favorite girl?’ ‘You, Momma’ was the only answer and the only truth.”
“But Tragil had something that kept her going: the same intensity of purpose that our mother managed to reinforce in both of us. Just as I was later told to follow my sister and report back on her, Mom laid down the law as soon as I was born that all my sisters were to watch and care for me. Tragil wouldn’t let the other two come near. She would insist, ‘He’s my baby.’ holding me, cradling me in her arms, spoiling me as much as our mother did. In hindsight, Tragil admitted, ‘I went into nurturing way before my time.’”
“After the promises that I’d made as a boy that I was going to be different, Zaire was the real test. He was the son I could pledge to be there for, to be around for everything – to see him take his first step, to celebrate when his first teeth grew in, to hear him speak his first words. I wanted to be there for everything that was his first. Plus, I wanted him to be there for my firsts.”
About the author: Dwyane Wade is a New York Time bestselling author and a guard for the Chicago Bulls. A three-time NBA Champion (Finals MVP in 2006), a gold medalist at the 2008 Beijing Olympic games, and a twelve-time NBA All-Star (All-Star Game MVP in 2010). He founded the Wade’s World Foundation in 2003, which provides support to community-based organizations that promote education, health and social skills for children in at-risk situations. He is married to Gabrielle Union and is the father of three sons, Zaire, Zion and Xavier, as well as his nephew Dahveon.