FORT WAYNE — When the school bus came to a slow stop on Rudisill Boulevard and the double yellow doors swung open, 6-year-old Ethaun Thomas was waiting with his dad, Chris, and 4-year-old brother, Gavaun.
“Give me a kiss,” Thomas leans over Ethaun, who also hugs his brother goodbye on the last day of school.
Through sunglasses and the morning light, Thomas watches his little man climb aboard but first reminded his son he’ll be right there, at the same spot, waiting for him.
After the bus pulls away, before he and Gavaun walk back home, Thomas says: “I’m a single dad, and I do it all by myself. On the flip side, I’ve seen what the single mothers go through.”
A few days before today – Father’s Day – we asked a few fathers, including Thomas, what being a father meant. Here are some of their replies:
Children: Ella Marie, 8; Hezekiah, 5; Adeline, 3
“Actually, it’s pretty tough to be a dad nowadays. There are so many people pulling for your time. It’s just making time for them between work and family and volunteering. I coach T-ball, and I coach football.
“I think it’s very important for them to see me active in their lives. The male role model, they need someone to do it. That’s something I said that I would be in their lives – in school and extracurricular activities.”
Children: Jocelyn, 13; Maggie, 2
“To me, (being a father) is shaping and being a role model – somebody for your kids to look up to. When you move on and do other things in life, at least you can say you tried your best and led them down the right path; always being there for them.
“You roll with the punches. There are going to be a lot of ups and downs. There will be tough times and really good times. You just got to try to keep an even keel and not get too overexcited or not get too down.”
Child: Arnold III, 4
“It means everything in the world to me. I just have one little boy, and I want to enjoy every moment I can with him.
“(Being a father) is someone who is supportive, and sharing any endeavors with him. He’s a bundle of joy.
“He’s added happiness and joy. There’s nothing like it, just watching him grow up and enjoying life.
“I want to be a dad that will encourage his son to do his best and to go for it. He can do anything he wants in life.”
Children: Jim, 39; Vickie, 37
“There was the responsibility, and also it was an opportunity to take care of a couple of blessings that the Lord gave to me. The Bible says if you raise a child he goes away when he’s old, he won’t depart from that. Both of my children serve Jesus today and they’re good citizens and have good families, so that’s a blessing. They say the proof is in the pudding. They turned out real good.
“A father is someone who protects and guides and directs his children in the right direction.”
Children: Halle, 14; Mia, 11; Josie, 4
“It’s awesome. What I love about it is you can see the mistakes that your parents made. I know my mom and dad loved me, but I know they made mistakes with me, and being able to talk about it with them and not make those same mistakes with your kids. What did my parents drop the ball on? Education. So I make sure education comes No. 1 with my kids. Everything else is No. 2. If they want to play softball, they’ve got to have A’s and B’s. My mom and dad just wanted me to be happy. I was not the best of students.
“You can’t take it overboard, but it’s like those small moments where you can almost relive your childhood through them and see it through their eyes and know what they’re experiencing. That’s just special when they do something. All these kids, really – not just my kids. When you see a kid out here (on a softball diamond) who has a game-winning play or a game-winning catch, to know what that means to them, that’s fun to be a part of.
“I don’t think you can define in any certain number of terms what a father is. A father has to be No. 1, a role model. He has to be a friend at times; a shoulder to cry on; an enforcer. You’ve got to be able to do everything.”
Children: Chris, 24; Jackie, 19; Chrishanique, 16; Ethaun, 6; Gavaun, 4
“First of all, a real father, which is a higher power, puts his God first and lets everything else fall in place with kids. I guess the best definition of a father is the spiritual leader of his children and his family. That’s the true definition I can think of. Life throws you for loops at times. You can have the same principles and raise the kids, but when you go through certain things in life, you get wiser. The children that come into your life or are born into your life when you’re wiser, they kind of get the better part of you, because you look at the world totally different. As opposed to my children back when, I was still the same person, in a way, but I looked at the world a little differently.”
Children: Joshua, 9; Sarah, 7; Katie, 6
“It’s everything. It’s amazing to be able to see and influence young lives and be able to watch them grow and how they learn in the process. It’s one of the most amazing feelings in the world. If you haven’t done it, it’s indescribable.
On being a father to three and not one: “A lot more prioritization of time; a lot more of not spending more time with one than the others. There’s a lot more mediation between them, that’s for sure. Each one has its own rewards that way.
“I would say the basic definition is the influence; of being someone they can look up to; someone they can come and talk to; someone to train, as well as discipline when needed. But being that person in their life that helps sculpt and mold their morals of what they’re going to be when they get older.”