Justin Lay Says “For starters, being a father is a commitment”

Name: Justin Lay City: Little Elm TX | Instagram: @the_running_que

What does being a father mean to you?

For starters, being a father is a commitment. You can’t just hold that title and not put in the work. Being a father means that you’re committed to showing your children the way of life, and how to navigate through life no matter the obstacle. Whether it’s through action or daily communication, a father is always teaching
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Describe your experience with your father growing up and how that impacted you today.

My early memories with father are exactly what they should’ve been. There were fun times, family vacations and warranted discipline of course. My father was educated, athletic, served in the military, and got along with everyone, so I always looked at him as being a well-rounded man. At a young age, he was without a doubt a man that any young man could look up to. This was my experience with my father until the age of 9. Unfortunately, he ended up leaving the house when I was 9 to pursue another relationship (to be with the woman he’s currently married to). I was only 9 at the time, so there’s so much I didn’t see, know, or understand. One thing is for sure though. He left and basically never looked back. There may have been a few phone calls early on, but eventually years would go by without a word. Not sure what happened, but when I was 13, he came back to stay with us for a few months but left again shortly after we brought in the new year. This began the next phase of his absence. From age 13 -18 he was basically non-existent again. When my father was around, I got a little bit of everything. Discipline, love, and laughter. As I continue to raise my kids, I try my best to carry those same characteristics to maintain some balance. I want to always show my kids love, make them laugh and if necessary, discipline them as well. Discipline in my house always come with a follow-up discussion. I have no doubt in my mind that my kids will tell you I’m the coolest and funniest parent, and in the same breath tell you that I’m not the parent to test. In my opinion, that’s exactly how it should be. My kids need to know that I’m their parent, not their friend. Old School? Maybe. Effective? Definitely!

What things did you take from your experience growing up into your own fatherhood journey?

One of the biggest things I carry with me through my fatherhood journey is respect. Both of my parents were in the military, so respect in the house was mandatory growing up, and my father was the enforcer. He ensured we respected all of our elders and authority figures. I took the exact same approach with my kids. Some of their first words were Yes sir/No sir and Yes ma’am/No ma’am. By age 5, it was basically a habit that they built that they couldn’t break. Of course, respect and manners go much further than sir and ma’am, but these are just manners you don’t see as often as you used to. A lot of people don’t agree with that approach, but when people give my wife and I compliments on how well-mannered our kids are, I get the reassurance that my wife and I are taking the correct approach. A little respect can go a long way. Growing up, I played a lot of sports. Soccer and baseball were the two sports that took most of my time. When my father left, he left us in a terrible financial. This forced my mother to have to work two jobs and therefore miss a lot of my sport activities. She definitely showed up whenever she could, but if my father was around, I’m positive I would have always had at least one parent in the stands watching me. This has a huge impact on how I parent now and has become a negative at times. I try to be at every single event my kids have. Practice, games, spelling bee, school function, etc. I now know that being at everything is impossible, but early on, I put so much pressure on myself to be perfect in that aspect and put so much guilt on myself if I missed anything. My mindset was that I never wanted my kids to look up and not see me in the audience. I know how it feels, and it hurts. I’m so determined to not make the same mistakes as my father, that I want to be perfect in every way. It’s a lot of pressure and it’s not healthy at all.

Have you had any obstacles on your fatherhood journey?

I’ve had many obstacles on this fatherhood journey and it’s during those obstacles that I learn the most. One of the biggest obstacles I can remember has to deal with expectations. I had to understand that the expectations I set for myself, are structured for me based on the kind of person that I am. Therefore, I can’t expect anyone else (child or adult) to operate the way I do. For a while my son and I would bump heads because what I was expecting from him was the exact same as what I would expect from myself. I was basically looking for him to attack things and move exactly like I do. Two problems here. One, there’s a pretty big age gap. Two, we’re different people. I have to let him reach do things in a way that fits him and makes him most comfortable. I had to learn that his path to any endpoint may not look like my path, but what’s important is that he reaches the endpoint the best way he knows how. I’m currently in the middle of another obstacle. My son is currently 15, and these next few years are critical. Distractions will increase. Girls, activities, driving, friends, and etc. My son is going to do so much growing mentally and physically over the next few years, and my biggest fear is that I don’t give him everything he needs as a father before he leaves our house for college and enters the real world. For me, ages 14-18 were rough. I turned into a rebel and became a bit disobedient. Looking back, I believe it was simply due to too much freedom, and not having the appropriate male guidance all the time. I learned so much from my peers who were out running the streets, and they also didn’t have any guidance. It’s what you always hear about. The blind leading the blind. I believe my son will be fine because I’m doing everything I can to help him along the way. My fear comes from not having an example to look back on to help guide me to guide him. Personal experience and leaning on other fathers will help guide me in the years to come.

What advice would you give others new on their fatherhood journey?

There’s so much advice I can give, so I’ll hit a few key things here. * Give yourself a lot of grace because you’re going to make mistakes. Every father does. * Remember how you were as a toddler, kid, teenager, and a young man. You had to grow into who you are today. So does your child. * Patience….Patience…Patience….You’ll need a lot of it. * It’s ok to be emotional around your kids. Our kids need to see us in every form. * Lastly! ENJOY and CHERISH every moment. Before you know it you’ll be just a few years away from your child leaving the house.

If you could write a quick letter to your father, starting with “Dear Father,” what would you say?

Dear Father, Let me start by saying that I love you, and I forgive you for the past as you already know. The past was rough, but I wouldn’t be the man and father I am today if I hadn’t experienced your absence when I was child. Your absence lit a fire under me at a very young age. I knew that when I had kids, I was going to pour my all into being the best father I could be. I made a promise to myself that I would never let my kids experience what I experienced. Again, I forgive you. I just want you to know that even though you weren’t present, your actions still pushed me to be GREAT! I’m beyond grateful that we’ve been able to rebuild our relationship during my adult years and get to where we are now. We talk often about life, and I can hear how proud you are of me and the father I am in your voice, and it makes me smile. Even as an adult, I still have the desire to make you proud, and I’m glad that I have. I still find it amazing that we’re so similar! From our habits, looks, interests, and professional drive. We missed out on so much valuable time, but I somehow still ended up with so many of your qualities. Some things are just meant to be. I love you dad! Looking forward to what the future holds for us.

List 5 fathers you cosign. (Add their IG names)

Chad Alfred @XXchad314XX

Michael Jones @thefreerootsproject

Reginal Moore @reggiebthe3

Deon Douglas @1bearded_dad

Skylar Lewis @skybroski

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