Many view the commencement of parenthood as being the moment in which you discover that you will become a parent. While that is a clear milestone and moment in time that captures that you will be a parent, it’s not mutually exclusive and the same as you being committed to parenthood. Being a parent and being committed to parenthood are two very different things. Just because you are a parent, doesn’t mean that 1) you are good at it, and 2) you have fully embraced the position. The unfortunate reality is that most are not prepared for parenthood and, even worse, many are bad at being a good parent.
I am no different than most. I do not believe my true commencement into parenthood was at the moment of finding out we were expecting or even at birth. Again, I am no different than most: I was a parent, yet not fully committed to parenthood. I like to believe that I was at least a good parent up until the time I became fully committed to parenthood. I know I did a lot of good things amidst the chaos of becoming a new parent and even was told often that I was a great dad. That may be an overstatement, but I always referred back to my buddy Steve’s assessment of my parenting skills, “You are a suspect human being, but you really are an amazing dad.” Quite frankly, I can live with that. However, even though I was doing good things as a parent, I didn’t fully embrace parenthood until I left my position at the New England Patriots.
My daughter was six and my son was almost four when I decided to leave the team. My wife and partner in parenting, Patricia, and I had discussions on the confines of the job and how being the Chief Marketing Officer of the Patriots and Gillette Stadium, while being the Chief Operation Officer of the New England Revolution was a lifestyle and not merely a job. A lifestyle that prevented me from seeing my kids play sports, and now that they were in school, getting home when they were already in bed. When they were younger and prior to attending school, it was much easier. Patricia was a stay-at-home mom and structured the kids schedule around me. She would manage naps to make sure the kids got up when I was getting home, so we could play for a while together and eat dinner as a family. Patricia was diligent and relentless in making sure the four of us spent this time together and no matter what time I came home from the stadium the kids were ready for me. I still remember that feeling of walking up from the garage and the kids running to the door screaming; “Daddy!” It was the best moment of my day.
With the kids getting older and bound for school in the mornings, scheduling their days around me was not only unpractical, it was unreasonable. The kids needed to sleep and be ready for school. Getting home at 8pm or later just wasn’t conducive to having dinner as a family. So, the discussions about the lifestyle and balancing my job with my family were often and, quite frankly, initiated by me. Patricia was truly amazing; she never put any pressure on me or my schedule. She never once complained or said I was spending too much time focused on my job and not enough time on the family. When I was home and on the phone, she was equally as understanding. She knew I served at the pleasure of the Kraft’s and that I embraced that to its fullest extent. I felt that I made a commitment to them and they compensated me fairly to generously and I owed them my focus.
I was the one bringing up the conversations. I came from a tight knit, Italian family where family always came first. A concept I not only lived, but also believed in. Even though my mother and father were divorced, my dad made it to every one of my games. I ate dinner with my family every night. Albeit it was in my grandparent’s house, with my grandfather being the only male role model at the table. Just the same, it was dinner every night as a family. As much as I put into the kids, the circumstances were preventing me from giving them my all, and as Patricia and I discussed, “Something’s got to give.” I, too, made a commitment to them by assisting in bringing them into the world, yet my focus was not as dedicated as it was to my career. Because that was the norm in most families I was not blamed, but that was not the norm I wanted for my family and I need to accept the blame, and I did.
It took almost two years, but I put together a plan to leave the team and start my own company. Not an easy feat when you are pushing seven figures and the likelihood of retaining that and working “normal hours” were slim. But I made the leap just the same, and started my own company with the help of an Angel Investor, Jack Blais. The commencement of my parenthood began with that leap and Jack made the move extremely easy. I could never repay Jack directly for him being that Angel, as his assistance was more valuable than money, but I hope my kids and the time he afforded me to invest in them will yield dividends that are bigger than the both of us. Jack, I can’t thank you enough.
Starting my own company, although busy and time consuming, afforded me the opportunity to balance my schedule to spend more time with my kids, Victoria, now eight and Antonio, almost six. A buddy of mine, and new colleague at the time, Matt Ryan, provided some life changing advice while I was planning to depart from the team. It’s probably among the best advice I have received for parenthood. Matt’s recommendation was to put every activity the kids had in my calendar, as if it was a meeting, and schedule other meetings around them and treat them like any other scheduled work event. He said, “You don’t miss work meetings that are in your calendar, so don’t miss your kids scheduled events either.” Not only was it great advice, it also changed my way of looking at things, as well as my approach. I can say with great confidence this advice (and the complete follow through on it) has made a significant impact in fulfilling our lives as a family and it was truly my first step in transitioning from being just a parent to fully embracing parenthood. It just made me think of things differently in all areas.
I would like to say that in the blink of an eye everything changed, and that the focus was purely on my kids, but like most things in life it was a process. There was no switch that I clicked, but it was a compass that put me in the right direction toward parenthood. I was definitely getting closer, but I still wasn’t there yet. I was now focused on building my new company, although having dinner with Patricia and the kids more often, still focused on my wins, my enjoyment, and my endeavors. Although I was more dedicated to my family, I was still missing the point. I now wasn’t missing games. I was spending more time with the kids, catching all their activities, but I still wasn’t fully present. I was not only working, but off on my own boondoggles and shenanigans. It was still all about me. Patricia and the kids were part of MYlife, on MYschedule and MYdirection, for the most part. I still wasn’t there and still needed to turn the corner to be fully committed to parenthood.
The turn was about to happen, and the crash of 2008 was the trigger. It’s funny, but probably not shocking, that it took failure in my career to get me to reset the pins and put my focus on parenthood. When you lose half of your wealth in a couple of days it makes you think and, most likely, reevaluate the direction you are going in. That, coupled with an anaphylactic shock episode that led to hospitalization, an induced coma and the doctors/nurses overdosing you into steroid psychosis, really makes you take stock in what is important. Needless to say, I did some deep soul searching in the fall of 2008.
This is the conclusion I came to, besides me needing to dedicate my focus solely to my kids: society has absolutely “screwed the pooch” when it comes to parenting and the sequence of the milestones of our lives. The way it is set up for most, is that you go to school, graduate, work your ass off, get married and have kids, while you work your ass off, the kids grow up (still working your ass off), they move on to their own life and you retire. WTF! That set up completely misses the point. When you are young, and your kids need you the most you have to work your ass off to make money to provide for your family, so you lack in money and time. Yet, when your kids move on you have plenty of money and time. It dawned on me that this is an inverted system. If society was structured properly, you would work your ass off until 40, you would dedicate the next 15 years or so to raising your kids, and once they went on their own, back to work you go. This may seem unrealistic, but wouldn’t it be amazing if you could just focus on your family when you had the time and energy?
The triggers woke me up. I basically said, “fuck it”, that’s what I’m going to strive to do. I am going to purely work around my kid’s schedule, make whatever money I can and supplement what I made with what we had saved, of course hoping that I could make enough in the process. From the moment I got out of the hospital right up until now my priority was parenthood. Victoria and Antonio never placed second with my focus. Patricia was already there. She had been there since day one. I was the one lagging behind. Her entire life was the kids; I was part-time until I made that realization. From that point on I was full-time Victoria and Antonio. Hustling to make money when they were occupied in school or sleeping and spending the time they needed me with them, even if that was just cheering them on. The key to of all this is being present in their lives always.
Don’t get me wrong, I was a very active father and I was committed to the kids happiness, growth, education, respect, character, discipline and success. I was very present in parenting. What clicked was that the kids were not just a module of my life, they were my life. My approach was to play a very active role in the strategy and execution of their upbringing, as if it was just another area of responsibility, and I was quite good at it like my other roles or jobs, as you would have it. What changed, what clicked in was that it wasn’t about raising kids; it was about fulfilling my commitment to them. I needed to think of them more than myself. I needed to focus on them more than any aspect of my life. That my role in parenthood and in the lives of Victoria and Antonio was the most important thing to focus on. Not me, not a career, not anything above them. It all clicked in when I fully embraced the true meaning of parenthood. That’s not to say I haven’t had fun and enjoyed times that they were not a part of, I have. All I am saying is that was all secondary to Victoria and Antonio. I realized this and embraced that I was to take a back seat to them. I truly needed to Be Present and more. I had to become a father who could Be Ever Present.
It’s been ten years since it all clicked in for me about parenthood. Ten years of dinners as a family almost every night. Ten years of practices, games, plays and events. Ten years of car rides and conversations. Ten years of realizing what is truly important in life. Ten years of paying attention. Ten years of being present. Ten of the best and most fulfilling years of my life.
I realize this may appear to be extreme and there probably is a hybrid to what Patricia and I did as parents and embracing parenthood. However, I feel that because we were able to pay so much attention to Victoria and Antonio we have gained a certain perspective, experience and knowledge and developed some of the best practices of embracing parenthood that allowed us to put our kids in the best position for happiness and success. It is way too soon to claim victory, but as Antonio joins Victoria in the college phase of their lives, I thought I would share our experiences in parenthood and what got us and the kids to where we are now. We have lots of stories, many lessons, laughs, tears, successes, miscues and some fuck ups. My intention is to share it all; the good, the bad and the happy and to let you take what we have learned and use it as you see fit in embracing parenthood. I hope you find our stories, philosophies and approach helpful to your method of parenting. I’m not going to write about how to be a parent, because that is unique to every family. I am just going to share my stories and experiences in the hopes that it helps you, in whichever method you choose to be the best parent you can be. I hope it also causes you to embrace the concept to Be Present.
I cherish being a dad and am blessed and fortunate that I made the commitment to parenthood. I hope you enjoy and find our journey helpful to yours.
Be Present ~ beeverpresent.com