As a dad and an uncle, I have lots of stories about kids. I love hanging out with kids, mostly because I enjoy teaching them new things. It really does take a community to raise a child, so I try to contribute in this way whenever I can.
The first baby that I had the privilege of getting to know well was my nephew Phoenix. My sister, Melissa, was teaching our family all kinds of new things at the time, so I wasn’t surprised when she wanted to have the baby at my parent’s house with a midwife. My dad was pretty freaked out about it, so he didn’t stay in the room during the delivery. But I was there, and it was a true miracle to be in a room when suddenly there was a crying baby with us all. The fact that I was allowed to hold him as a tiny infant overwhelmed me with tears of joy.
I was just 17 at the time, so this experience was life changing. Phoenix quickly became my little buddy; I tried to take him everywhere. And, surprisingly, my sister let me. I brought the little bugger with me to the mall, the beach, to friends houses, and even on impromptu car trips.
By the time Phoenix was four I was working at my dad’s print shop making deliveries all over Long Island. It was really fun to take Phoenix with me on all of these trips because he was like a little sponge. I would tell him about great leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, teach him about A People’s History of the United States, or let him know about great places in the world. Whenever I would pause for a moment, Phoenix would say, “Keep talking.” He would never interrupt; he could listen to me for hours straight (back then).
Now Phoenix is a man at 22 years old. When he opened up his own little store at the age of 5 and declared that he wanted to be a senator some day, I believed him. I’ve watched as he has accomplished all that he set out to do. Today he is getting his Master’s in diplomacy at the College of Europe in Bruge, Belgium.
I’m so proud of this dreamer—this brilliant mover and shaker. I can only hope, and dream, that all of the kids in my life have the opportunity to follow their chosen paths. And I know that I’ll be here to help support them.
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