As a father figure to five kids — his four children and the nephew he helped raise — Dwyane Wade undoubtedly has plenty of fatherly wisdom to share with his millions of fans around the globe. But in a new interview with People, the NBA star admits that his own childhood, including watching his parents struggle with substance addiction, helped to shape the way he wants to parent his own kids.
Wade now co-parents Zaire, Zaya, and Xavier, along with his nephew Dahveon with his wife, Gabrielle Union, and the two are parents to Kaavia, but he told the magazine that when he was growing up, he “missed family,” and hopes he can do things differently as a father.
Of his childhood, Wade says he “missed structure,” adding, “Of course it impacted me, my parents going through addictions in life, and their addictions took them down a path that was solely for them and about them. When that happens, you kind of lose yourself, and lose place of what’s of importance, and a lot of times, if you have kids, that should be what’s of importance.”
“So I missed a lot of that,” he continues. “I missed family. Besides my sister, I missed structure from parents. I missed the ability to be able to call my dad when I go through something. I missed a lot of important moments that I try to make sure I give my kids, but also throughout that journey, I learned a lot.”
Wade says he doesn’t “blame” his parents, and he’s “proud” of his mom for staying sober for the past 20 years. “I learned a lot about what I didn’t want, and what I did want. [But] at the same time, I never blame. I understand that we all have our own lives. We all have our own journey,” he shares. “My son Zaire, I’m able to tell him, ‘Zaire, don’t go left, go right.’ My parents didn’t have anybody to tell them that. They just went left, and sometimes you take a bad step and that bad step leaves you down a long road. But they found themselves back, and that’s what I’m proud of.”
The pro athlete says that he’s got one powerful plan as his kids grow up: to “lead with love.” He says, “I want to be somebody who my kids always understand, that can adapt, and that is willing to grow and is willing to learn. Also, someone that they can come to for advice about this, that or the third, and that will not be judgmental about it… I’m always going to lead with love. So that’s what I try to be for my kids.”
And for his many fans, that means being candid and honest about his family’s experiences, such as supporting his transgender daughter, Zaya, every step of the way, as well as Union’s pregnancy struggles and surrogacy journey to welcome their daughter Kaavia. Calling Zaya the “bravest” person he knows, he told the magazine, “For her to have the confidence, for her to look at herself in the mirror and say, ‘I don’t want to live this life where I’m not going to be myself.’ Everybody can’t do that. You got grown-ass adults that are 50, 60 that still are not doing that. So I love her fearlessness. I love her confidence, and her vulnerability to be able to share something that is so personal — not only with our family but allow it to be shared with the world.”
Of Union’s bravery, he said, “Going through surrogacy, to be able to bring our daughter into this world, was a big responsibility for us, and we wanted to share because we know that families out there are having trouble conceiving.”
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