Tony Loring, a short, stocky 54-year-old, once was an amateur boxer. Now he is living with five of his children — Tiara and her four brothers, ages 11 through 14 — in his mother’s rowhouse in Northeast Washington.
And after a long time as a selfish “knucklehead,” Loring’s working to be a father.
It is a little before 8 on a humid overcast morning recently. He is rushing to get everybody ready for the fifth-grade promotion ceremony at Kenilworth Elementary School, where his twins Tavon and Tyrus, 11, are advancing with honors.
There is talk of haircuts, but it’s too late. They have to catch the V-7 bus down the hill on Minnesota Avenue in about an hour.
The children have made themselves ham and mayonnaise sandwiches for breakfast at the dining-room table, which sits beneath the gold-framed picture of “The Last Supper” on the wall.
But nobody’s dressed. The phone is ringing. And Loring’s hollered instructions echo through the house: “Brush your teeth! . . . Everybody’s got five minutes! . . . We’re running behind!”
Loring had no guidance on fatherhood as a younger man. He says his father was not in the picture, and Loring was enthralled by the fraternity of the street. Drugs, crime and prison were all part of his rearing.
Along the way, there were also children. Ten altogether. Five are grown and gone, with lives lessintertwined with their father’s: “A telephone daddy,” his eldest daughter, Akira, 33, called him.
Later, Loring says, he was married for 13 years to the mother of the five younger children. But the marriage grew troubled, the couple divorced and he moved to his mother’s with the kids three years ago.
Their mother, who sees them regularly, said Loring is doing a good job with them but declined to say more about him.
Last week, as Father’s Day approached, Loring spoke at length about his belated fatherhood, about his mistakes and successes, as he hurried to get the children, and himself, washed, dressed and out the door of their home in Marshall Heights.
In a way, he said, the children have changed him as he has reared them — their needs gradually supplanting his flaws and making him into a parent.
‘My way, my way, my way’
In his black shorts, sleeveless white T-shirt, with his bulky arms, Loring resembled a boxer as he stood at the ironing board in the dim light of the cluttered basement.
“I used to be straight militant,” he said of his parenting technique. “I was always ‘my way, my way, my way.’ ”
“They come home from school, there’s five different attitudes, five different problems,” he said. “It can be overwhelming. . . . I see what a lot of single ladies go through.”