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Ray and Kellie’s family act

Sherie Holder-Olutayo

Ray and Kellie’s family act

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After more than 18 years of marriage, Kerrie Armstrong is embarking on what she playfully dubs as “a new adventure”.  Oh don’t get me wrong . . . she hasn’t decided to go bungee jumping, or trek up the sides of the Himalayas, but her life has endured a major change, and in some instances upheaval, thanks in large part to older son T-Ray, who, as part of the group Cover Drive has recently inked a major record deal in the United Kingdom.
While Kerrie is ecstatic both as a parent and as the group’s manager, the experience has bought major changes to her life and her family. For a sample of this change, look no further than their toy store business that she co-owned with her husband Ray, which had to be dissolved because of the constant travel.
“We had this toy store but we had to give it up and try it on a more seasonal approach,” Kerrie revealed. “Then Ray gave up his fitness training. Now our lives revolve around the band.”
What makes Kerrie and Ray’s story even more remarkable is that she’s doing this inter-continental living while raising three children, the youngest being her eight-month-old son. Juggling three kids and a marriage, managing a musical band comprised of teenagers in a relatively foreign environment where she acts both as a manager and surrogate parent, and handling the demands of her own life are enough to make the most organized person feel somewhat frazzled.
“I’ve learnt to deal with one thing at a time. I left Barbados on May 31 and have been in the UK until recently and that has been hard at times,” she said.
Kerrie has been particularly feeling these pangs of guilt since she has had to leave her youngest sons, ten-year-old Chase and eight-month-old Steele.
“Sometimes I don’t think this baby really knows me,” says Kerrie. “Sometimes I’ll tell Ray why does he say Mama and Dada and look at you. But Ray assures me that he knows me, but there is that guilt.”
For Kerrie though she credits Ray who has been instrumental in keeping their family going and working with their younger boys, ten-year-old Chase and eight-month-old Steele.
“It has been extremely challenging but wonderful,” Ray says of the experience he’s had over the past few months playing Mr Mum.  “You have an eight-month-old that needs attention and a ten-year-old that needs attention too. It’s cooking, playing with them, doing laundry, doing the school drop-off and pick-ups. When my son is at school and the baby is sleeping, I cook so that when Chase comes home there is food. So it has been a major adjustment.”
Ray admits that the biggest challenge he faced was travelling with the boys to New York and England alone.
“I went online and Googled travelling with a baby so that I would know all the things that I needed to take with me. I was ready with my Ziploc bags,” Ray admitted laughing. “I got lots of compliments which were amazing from people who marvelled at seeing a man with young kids on his own.”
While this role reversal may seem strange, Ray revealed that he has always been very hands-on with all of his sons as babies.
“Kerrie’s really scared to hold them when they’re this little, so I have taken care of all the babies,” Ray said. “But when they get to one and two they head to mummy.”
To hear Ray speak of the changes his life has taken is with a measure of pride, especially as it relates to his oldest son, T-Ray.
“You have parents who want their kids to be doctors and lawyers,  but then here is a kid whose dream is it to be a musician, but you know that music doesn’t pay that much in Barbados,” Ray said.
“But as a parent watching your son desire that, work at it and achieve what they have is an amazing thing. A lot of parents don’t get to see their kids living their dreams. He turned 18 today [last Tuesday] and he’s an internationally signed artiste and it makes me extremely proud.”
But Ray’s pride is tempered by making sure his son stays grounded as he embarks on his musical journey.
“Obviously it’s most important to keep him grounded. This music industry can often bring a lot of ‘yes people’ in your corner and you can get lost, and be in a place where you are a product to these labels,” he said.  “It’s important to have all of them remain who they are. But T-Ray’s a good kid. He listens.”
So while the family is together at the moment, the Armstrongs are enjoying some much needed quality time before school starts again.
“Kerrie is going to go back over with them in the UK, and I’ll take the lead again, doing the homework and taking care of the baby,” Ray said. “It’s almost like making major sacrifices for him to live his dream, but that’s what parents do. Luckily with the grace of God it looks great so far and we will continue to support the dreams not only of him but Chase and Steele as well.”
Like Ray, Kerrie is making up the rules as she goes along and trying to do the best for everyone involved.
“With all the travel and time apart, you definitely miss when you’re away from your partner, but thank God for Skype,” Kerrie says. “This new adventure though is adding so much spice to our life. It’s keeping our lives busy but we’re so thankful.”