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Being a good dad starts before fatherhood begins

Every night before my first child Celine was born, we played classical music before retiring for bed.

Celine kicked and moved around in my wife’s stomach. We’d read that playing classical music for an unborn child stimulates the mind. Celine must have heard the music because she began kicking and moving around in my wife Adrienne’s stomach like dancing a jig.

When the music finished, I leaned close to my wife’s stomach and began talking to Celine.

“We can’t wait for you to join the world,” I’d say to her. “Mommy and daddy already love you, and you are going to do great things when you join us.”

More kicking, and finally, Celine fell asleep.

Celine, like most babies, came into the world crying. I was in the delivery room, and my job was to wheel Celine into the hospital room.

“Welcome to the world, little baby,” I said. “Mommy and daddy love you so much.”

Celine stopped crying and gave me a look as if to say, “So you are the guy who has been talking to me all these weeks.”

Those were my first moments of fatherhood, and I still cherish them today. That’s when I began celebrating fatherhood. That was more than 22 years ago, and that unborn baby is an adult now. In a few weeks, she will start her first job at Boston Consulting Group in Chicago, weeks after graduating from Stanford University, where she served as class president, president of her sorority chapter and left with a 3.8-grade point average.

I am a proud poppa on this Father’s Day. My son Brandon finished his freshman year at Michigan State University with a 3.5-grade point average.

People often ask me the key to raising these children. I really can’t tell you the correct way to raise a child. You can raise them with tough love, raise them with tender love or raise them with silly love. The keyword is love.

Let love be your guide, and chances are you will be a successful father or mother.

I’m not much of a singer, but I made sure to fill our household with songs. Some had messages within the song. Some did not. I cannot tell you how many songs I made up about my kids.

Some of the hits included the Education song, X Marks the Spot, and Celine E Girl, and Trumbull.

I’d also tell lies to my children. On days they did not want to go to school, I’d tell them I’d rather walk through a blizzard to get to school rather than stay home and eat pizza and ice cream. They’d roll their eyes and scream, “Oh, dad. Stop it.”

One day Celine had a play date with a niece of former Pistons owner Bill Davidson, a massive house that included an elevator. She came home and complained that our four-bedroom, 2,700 square foot home with a finished basement was too small for four people.

She needed a life lesson. I took her to visit old friends in my old west side neighborhood. Eight people lived inside an 800-foot shack with no basement.

But they were happy and content. That was home.

Celine never complained about the size of our house again.

I wasn’t happy with Brandon’s effort in the classroom when he was in middle school. I felt another life lesson was in order. As we walked from Comerica Park after a Tigers game, I gave money to a dirty street beggar. I warned Brandon that he could be in the streets someday if he didn’t pick it up in school. He did and is now an MSU sophomore.

When we brought our bundles of joy home for the first time, I joked with my wife.

They forgot to give us a manual on how to raise them. The next thing I knew I was putting on diapers the wrong way, nearly dropping my children down the steps and making all kinds of mistakes. But I learned and got better.

I questioned every decision I made. But the one thing I never forgot was to include the key ingredient called love in every decision.

Happy Father’s Day Dads.

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