What My Great Dad Taught Me

Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center President and CEO

Growing up, my dad frequently shared with my sister and me that he had essentially grown up without a dad, and therefore, didn’t have a role model to inform how he would father us. Yet, today, as the father of two young boys, I strive to be as great of a dad as my dad was to us. The truth is, my dad set the bar unbelievably high. Unlike him, I know exactly what it looks like to be a great dad because I had the best one.

Grady, 8, and Cody, 4, brighten our lives each and every day. My wife, Erica, and I are constantly in awe of their curiosity, thirst for fun and learning, athletic interests and obliviousness to time because they are totally in the moment. Even during the most difficult times with our boys, we couldn’t be prouder parents. They motivate us every day to be the best parents we can be. As a father, that means looking back at the incredible job my dad did and trying to pass some of it on to my sons.

My dad would do anything for me. To this very day, my dad will be completely selfless when it comes to my sister and me. There’s no favor or request we can ask of him that he wouldn’t try to make happen for us. I want my kids to know they can always count on me.

Show up and participate. My dad was at just about every one of my practices and games growing up, and, until I got older, always offered to be an assistant coach. I do my best to not only be there for my kid’s various activities but to join in. Some of my best times as a dad have been on the baseball field with Grady and his friends, believing I was a kid again (and paying for it the next morning). Both of my sons also attended SARRC’s inclusive preschool, so I’ve had the benefit of seeing them at work every day. Today, when other dads’ breaks during the workday are spent getting coffee, I can go hang out with Cody and his friends in his classroom.

Be personable. My dad valued people tremendously, especially friends of mine, who were personable and easy to talk to. I try to pass this on to our boys by ensuring they stop to say hello to people and letting them know how I proud I am when they are so engaging with others.

Have special father-son rituals. Whenever my mom had to travel for business, my dad brought sugary cereal into the house. When he made our lunches, he always wrote a note and slipped it into my lunch box. While I don’t do sugary cereals, when my wife is out of town I always leave a note in my kids’ lunch—and a small piece of candy. They look forward to this in the same way I did.

Spend time together as a family. Father-son time is great, but my dad also emphasized the importance of us spending time together as a family. That’s one of the reasons you’ll often find our family having dinner together at Los Dos Molinos or watching the D-backs at Chase Field.

Hopefully, I’ll become the model for Grady and Cody that my dad was for me. And they’ll be lucky if they enjoy being a father half as much as I enjoy being theirs.