Saturday, October 10, 2015

Against all odds: My path to being an Awesome Dad

Soccer coach, homework helper, robot builder, race track engineer & cookie baker are just some of the titles I have that, combined, make me an Awesome Dad.


Being an Awesome Dad wasn’t always in the plans. Being a dad, period, wasn’t always in the plans for me. My life, even up until recently, has been a major roller coaster ride with many trips through the pits of hell. One of my goals as a dad is to make sure that Antonio doesn’t have to go through the same hardships that I battled through so that he can have a better life than me.  Here’s my story.

Picture this. 1994. I was thirteen years old. Laval. My parents divorced and my mom took us to live with my grandparents in Ontario. All of this on about 5 minutes notice. I didn’t have time to say bye to my friends. I didn’t even pack my own things. POOF! We were gone.  Teenage life is hard enough. Now, my dad was no longer in the picture and I was ripped away from my school, my friends & my city.


Ever since that day, I was ‘on my own’. I rebelled. I won’t get into details (everyone has their own family story).  Aside from life’s basics, if I wanted anything, I had to get it on my own. For a young man to no longer have his dad in the picture is a HUGE blow. That’s a lot for a young teen. No choice. I pushed forward. At 15, I moved out on my own & into a shelter for boys.

While my friends in high school partied and did activities, I was more concerned with finding work, paying rent and making sure I had enough to eat all while attending class & making sure I got my diploma. Luckily, I got a job at Subway and was allowed a free sub per shift. I took full advantage of that. Other than that, my ‘diet’ consisted of chips and frozen pizza.

The way I saw it... my stomach was ‘full’, I had a roof over my head (despite moving at least twice a year) and a mattress to sleep on (which was on the floor) so I was ok. I was surviving. Period. It wasn’t the ideal life but I had to move forward. I gave myself no choice.

At 17, my father came back into my life. Despite trying to ‘re-connect’ and have a father –son relationship again, it wasn’t the same. We tried our best to be close but he was no longer the man I knew growing up. When I was 18, he passed away. I now lost my father for a 2nd time. I was destroyed.  I was convinced that God hated me and was using me as his own personal punching bag. I didn’t like losing and there was no way I was going to let God win this boxing match. It wasn’t easy, but I kept fighting. I kept surviving. I didn’t give myself a choice.

Already on ‘Survival’ mode for 5 years and now having lost my father for a 2nd time, I hit a low. Despite deciding to fight with God and survive, my mind played tricks on me and knocked me down to the ground. HARD. Looking back, you can definitely call it a depression. A bad one. The other ‘S’ word started popping into my mind. That’s right. Suicide. I was decided twice. I chickened out both times. Each time I decided that ‘I was going to do it’, I started thinking, ‘Have I really been in survival mode all these years to just go out this way?’ I decided to keep fighting and surviving. I gave life another try. Unfortunately, deciding to give life another try doesn’t take away the pain. Or the anger.

One night, I went to visit my boss’ night club (despite being under age). There was a fight. It was my boss’ place. I wanted to help. I jumped in. My boss was impressed. As of that night, I was a bouncer. I also found a new way to unleash stress and anger. Fighting. Over the next 4 years, working in various clubs, I got involved in close to 1,000 fights. I’m not proud of fighting but I won’t lie, without those fights, I may not be here today. During my dark times, I was often tempted by the dark forces. Alcohol, cigarettes, drugs... When you work in clubs, everything is accessible. Thanks to the fighting, I never considered any of them. Fighting was therapeutic. I’ve never even taken a puff of a cigarette. Fighting was legal. It didn’t cost me anything. I was still just trying to survive. Alcohol, cigarettes and drugs cost money. Money that I used for rent. I couldn’t risk not paying rent.  My life was still all about survival. I didn’t want to ‘survive’ all those years only to see my life end for nothing. My life had to mean something.

At 21, I moved back to Montreal. More various ups and downs. I got married a few years later. That didn’t last too long. The divorce was nasty (no details needed). The key is, I’ve been surviving for so long and beating every challenge that came my way so I was ready. It wasn’t easy but the prize I was fighting for was the greatest prize I could ever win: My son.

When Antonio was born, I made a decision to make sure that he would get to enjoy his life. I wanted to make sure that he wouldn’t have to just ‘survive’. I’ve always wanted him to enjoy life and benefit from the best it has to offer.

I never thought I’d be a father. Through all my darkest moments in life, during all the times that I wanted to give up, during all the times that I lost hope, I decided to keep fighting hoping that something better would come along.

When I look at my son, I am happy that I never gave up. I am happy that I kept fighting. My fight for survival has become a quest to be the best father possible. My fight for survival has prepared me to be the Awesome Dad that I am today.  My son will have a better life than I had. I will always be there for him. I will guide him through every stage of life. I will give him all the love, support and discipline he needs. Right now, his dream is to be an inventor AND a baker (he wants 2 careers) so on top of coaching his Soccer team, I’ll help him bake cookies, build robots and much more. I want him to learn from my experiences and use my wisdom to offer himself a better life.

All I want in return is for him to be proud of me.  I think I am on the right path.

The quest continues...

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