Life In Baltimore: Honoring hands-on dads

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Father’s Day is an occasion to mark and celebrate the contributions that fathers and father figures make for their children’s lives. Father’s Day is a relatively modern holiday with families having a wide range of traditions.

In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers, designating the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day. Six years later, the day was made a permanent national holiday when President Richard Nixon signed into law in 1972.

Fathers have a challenging and awesome task of rearing children during this time of reality mania and social media. Our society tends to draw much unwarranted attention on absentee fathers rather than focus any time at all on the fathers who impact the lives of their children daily. Let’s salute all Fathers!

The fathers being honored in this article are examples of the many men who are hands-on dads. These men are at different stages of child development but share a common thread, which is the love of their children, the love of family, and the establishment of core values.

John Bullock, a new father, states that fatherhood has completely changed his life. Everything he does and all decisions are for his family. He now plans week days and weekends to include his wife and daughter. As soon as he awakes, he sees his little smiling angel. Bullock says “seeing my daughter’s smile daily, helps to maintain my ambition to better my life so that I can be a better father to my child. She makes me want to stay healthy physically, mentally, and spiritually. I want my daughter to be proud of her parents.”

Bullock has begun a great relationship with his daughter. He assists with the daily routine of feeding, changing and playing with his little daughter. Child-rearing is something that comes naturally but improvements can always be made. My wife and I agreed to take classes during her pregnancy to learn things we would need to know as new parents. Education was very important in the childhoods of both my wife and myself. Therefore, we are making education top priority in our daughter’s life. We want to dwell on positivity and let it be apparent that we are her support system,” Bullock said.

Vinson McKennie and son Vinson Jr.

Vinson McKennie and son Vinson Jr.

Fatherhood has changed Vinson McKennie ‘s outlook on life in many ways including becoming more focused and determined to be financially successful. The responsibility of being a father has strengthened his faith. He says that his actions and decisions today can impact future grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

McKennie and his wife Nuria have three children, two girls and one boy. He has a close relationship with his children because they spend quality time together including family reunions and a Disney World trip, and coaching his son’s baseball and basketball teams. Of course there is family night when they watch movies and play their favorite games. In addition, he takes his daughter who is interested in the arts, to auditions in New York and D.C.

McKennie says he teaches his children to strive to be the best at whatever they do. They are taught to prioritize what is important in their lives.

“Going to college is critical to building a quality of life and their success.” McKennie said. “The advice I give my children is that to be successful they need to love God with all their heart, mind and strength.”

Harry Holt Jr.

Harry Holt Jr.

“Being responsible for my children is the most important job I have,” said Harry Holt, Jr., who sees his children as his gift to the world so he wants to get it right. “I don’t want them to have the same challenges and struggles as me.”

Being a father has changed the way he looks at life in many ways. First, having a daughter has made him more sensitive to how the world tries to marginalize women and what they are capable of doing. Often men can be rude, disrespectful and mistreat women— consciously or unconsciously. Being a father of a black son has also made him extra sensitive to how the world looks at you based on your physical characteristics.

“It makes me want him to be prepared, not fit the stereotypes and be the best that he can,” Holt said.

Holt has always tried to be attuned to his daughter’s activities and interests including hosting themed birthday parties when she was younger and her dancing and track and field events in high school. He says proudly that she is on track to graduate from Brown University in May 2016.

Holt’s journey with his son has been quite different. His son likes to operate mechanical things and has an interest in computers and environmental science. He plays the drums just like his dad.

“I recall during his rights of passage experience enjoying having him work with the various men who were selected as his mentors to teach him about finance, religion, history, respect, careers, education, heritage, politics, pride and hard work,” Holt said.

He was particularly proud of his son when he received the Presidential Award of Achievement signed by President Barack Obama for his accomplishments during his middle school career.

“My responsibility as a father is to expose my children to faith, love and God. I have tried to teach them to have faith in God first, faith in their fellow man and faith in themselves. Having this three-phased approach and understanding of faith to me is important,” Holt said. “Having a strong educational foundation is critical and once you have it, no one can take it away. Values are very important also such as being trustworthy, humble, thankful and honest. Above all, you must be disciplined to accomplish anything in life. Expect a lot of yourself and expect a lot of others. Remember, to whom much is given, much is expected.”