Fatherhood is an Everyday Celebration for One Dad

June 18, 2020
Ryan Imondi

The first time Greg attended a group meeting at Children’s Institute’s Project Fatherhood program, he hardly said anything. He was looking for answers on how to become a better parent to his 10 children, but he was nervous to share his own struggles and open up to the other dads.

Sunday marks Greg’s third Father’s Day as a member of Project Fatherhood where he rarely misses a meeting. He not only speaks frequently at group meetings, but he is now looked at as a mentor and leader to dads who are new to Project Fatherhood.

“We say it every week, that this is a safe place for dads to talk about their feelings and express themselves,” Greg said. “We don’t have many spaces to do this so our time together is important.”

Greg with nine of his 10 children. His oldest daughter attends college out of state and is not pictured.

The program, which connects trained CII staff with dads who want to improve their relationships with their kids, relies on fathers like Greg to use their own struggles and successes to build trust with new dads joining group meetings. Many of the dads grew up in “tough love” homes where their fathers were absent or emotionally closed off, which has led to their own parenting challenges.

With 19.7 million children nationally, or roughly one in four kids living without a father, the program focuses on dads being active participants in their kid’s lives. The program has reached more than 15,000 dads who parent 23,000 children since its founding.

David Frazier, Project Fatherhood Specialist, said Greg brings a tremendous amount of experience as a single dad to 10 kids, which makes him central to the group.

“Greg’s love and admiration for the program keeps him involved in the group on a weekly basis, and allows him to constantly evolve as a man and father for his children,” Frazier said.

Greg taking a selfie while out to dinner with his children.

Greg, who works as a barber and also home-schools his kids, said the skills he has learned from Project Fatherhood are something he uses every day with each one of his children. Prior to the marches and protests that have broken out following the murder of George Floyd, Greg said he talked to his children about what it means to be Black in America, but the last few weeks have been especially important parenting moments about opening up and speaking to his kids about race.

“I have seven boys and three of them are above 6 feet tall,” Greg said. “Even if they aren’t adults yet, that doesn’t mean they won’t be mistaken as adults and even bad things happen to people who follow orders so we have constantly been talking about this topic.”

Greg said his oldest son loves medieval history and has a replica sword. He said that last week his son was about to walk outside to grab the mail while holding the sword, and Greg had to stop him and explain how that was a potentially dangerous situation from an innocent action.

“We had to have a conversation about what it means to be a young Black man and the dangers he faces when he goes outside,” he said.

While Greg has watched the marches and protests with his children from afar, he said he will continue to educate them and support their rights to live safe and healthy lives, which has been central to his parenting approach since joining Project Fatherhood. That approach also carries through to his Father’s Day plans, which Greg said will be minimal – he said he prefers the spotlight to remain on his children.

“To me, every day is Father’s Day,” he said. “I’m working for my kids and that’s the biggest reward.”