Father’s Day is a time to express appreciation to dads. But this year, we wanted to hear from fathers themselves. Here, four Washington area men share what fatherhood means to them. Their words are humorous, vulnerable and uplifting. And be sure to check out our photo gallery of local dads.

I wouldn’t believe my story if it was an HBO original documentary by Spike Lee. You might not either.

Three years ago, I was in a fight for my life when a few children unknowingly saved it. I had lost my relationship with their mom, my job, my sanity and was on the verge of losing my house. I contemplated taking the ultimate flight and ending it all, but I refused to lose my family.

Mike Tucker Jr., middle, with his twins Nya Tucker, left, and Arin Tucker, right. (Erin Martin/Erin Martin)

I’m a single dad with physical custody of 6-year-old twins and an 8-year-old girl. That’s three kids, if you’re counting at home.

Although I almost missed it, fatherhood called, and I answered.

I was raised in a single-parent home. My mom, on drugs at the time, abandoned me when I was 14 months, and my dad was in prison most of my childhood. My grandmother, who came to America from Bermuda, raised me. She would always say, “There is nothing more important than family.” Her sacrifice left a lasting impression.

Once my children were born, I knew I needed them as much as they needed me. After participating in every form of therapy in the book to salvage a broken relationship with the mother of my children, I realized how real my grandmother’s words had become to me.

It ended up being the single most important thing I’ve done in my life. There is a satisfaction and gratification in watering their hearts and minds, then watching them grow. It’s made me the man I am today. It’s increased my faith in God, in people and in myself. It’s made me more sensitive and more driven.

Believe me, it’s been no cupcake walk. Actually it’s a walk on a tightrope-over-Niagara Falls. It’s cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s ironing, cleaning and washing self-generating mounds of clothes. For me it’s mastering the art of multiples; three times the love, attention and attitudes. Were you waiting for me to say, “three times the fun?” Wait for it.

It’s creating new facial expressions and scare tactics to keep them in line. It’s staying on top of studies and activities. It’s bed by 8 p.m. It’s trying to find time for myself somewhere in my schedule before I pass out. Oh, and not to mention trying to jumpstart a social life.

I’m preaching to the choir for many moms, but there are dads getting it done as well. Man, woman and child need to know.

It’s been well documented that many African American men take flight when it comes to parenting. Maybe being an active dad threatens their free will to do and go as they please. Maybe it threatens their single life. Maybe it threatens their emotions and their finances. Maybe it heightens their stress level and blood pressure. They now have to deal with the mother of their kids who may very well be the most threatening of all.

All these things are true, but what makes us men is looking fear in the eye. Your rightful place is teaching your son how to be a man and your daughter what to expect out of one. Your duty is to love, nurture and provide for them. It’s your right and your duty.

When fatherhood is calling, don’t click the “ringer off” button. When fatherhood is calling, don’t check the caller I.D. When fatherhood is calling, don’t pick up and not say anything.

Fatherhood is calling! Answer the call!

Mike Tucker is a D.C. native and journalist.  He is a single dad of three who believes in unique sneakers, great tunes, delicious food and GOD. He has a blog called www.daddyscool.com.

More essays on fatherhood:

Life lessons taught

A father’s joy

The power of one

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