Damani’s blended family
For Damani Kirton, fatherhood is “just the greatest blessing that a man can get.”
At age 37 he is father to three sons – three-year-old Dimitri, two-year-old Zane and nine-year-old Xavier, his wife Cheryl’s first son, born before she and Damani became a couple. But never once do you hear Damani refer to Xavier as his stepson.
Happily married for a few years now, he and his wife have created a “blended family structure” in which they make sure to include Xavier’s family in their activities.
“We all have a good relationship. I have a good relationship with Xavier’s father. The same way I have embraced his son he has embraced my sons as well to the point where he has two other daughters and I have embraced them as well.”
“It is kind of like the old time extended family.” Indeed, for Xavier’s ninth birthday party just two weeks ago, the birthday party was a family get-together with all five children involved.
And Damani says the relationship has been easy.
“My wife and I always believed it was important for him (Xavier’s dad) to play a role in his son’s life because if I were in his position I would want to be offered the same courtesy. So out of mutual respect and understanding, especially because there are children involved and we all want what is best for the children in the long run, we have that good relationship.”
“It has worked out beautifully over time. We are basically like one family now and we come together and celebrate as a family from time to time.”
The birth of Damani’s first biological son three years ago reinforced his intuitive approach to fatherhood. And he says it made him more responsible. He was present at Dimitri’s birth.
Remarking on the experience he said, “I don’t think there is anything that I can really compare. There is no experience I have had that is as comparative. It tremendously increases the respect that I have for my wife because of the physical sacrifice and mental sacrifice that she had to make.
“Fatherhood opens up your heart to love in ways that other relationships tend not to, because for instance, if you are with a lady friend at some point you can say ‘I can walk away’, but when you have children, it is not something I would ever choose to ever walk away from. It is a long-term relationship that whether you are up or you are down, you have to do your best to make it work.”
Damani wants his three sons to grow up to be individuals; to learn to think for themselves and be able to make their own decisions “no matter what pressures they might be under”. Above all he wants them to be men of integrity, firm in his belief that a man with integrity “can always sleep like a king whether he is in a palace or in a one-room shack.”
Tucking in his sons every night is quality time spent just talking about anything that crosses their
minds. It is a valuable bonding experience for father and sons, particularly the nine-year-old who is often loaded with questions and might even bring up the “birds and the bees” subject. Damani believes his son’s curiosity about male-female relationships at this stage deserves a response and he gives it as best he can, careful to give only as much as he considers it necessary for his teenage son to have.
“I just try to be as truthful as possible and sometimes not to go into detail.”
As the other two boys grow older, their occasional preference may be for a bedtime story and their dad obliges, though he regrets this can sometimes “take away from the conversation.”
However there are other shared recreational activities that compensate.
“Fatherhood is definitely a learning process and I am well aware of the fact that I am learning all the time. Sometimes I learn from them and generally try to teach them. Sometimes I make mistakes, but in my interaction with other fathers they admit they make mistakes as well.”
“I want to teach them life is a constant learning process; you have to learn from your mistakes and move forward and avoid making the same mistake again.”
The lessons he learnt from his own father influence his style of discipline and the way he is bringing up his sons. Confessing to being “raised in the old school” this father employs the modern methods of discipline – time-outs and taking away toys, “but if that fails, then we have no choice but to instil the old-fashioned way. I don’t hit them like a big man. I just tap them with my hands.”
“When I was blessed with the opportunity to become a father, I knew it was a role that I would take seriously,” Damani said. “I have learnt that it is our generation’s way of impacting the future. The way we were taught is how we live now and the way they are taught is the way they will live.”
This is why he says “I try my best to speak to them; to communicate and through communication, let them know that life is not easy but there is a right way and a wrong way to do things and in the long run it is always profitable to do the right thing.”
Damani reflects on his role as father and says “I don’t think that a lot of people at this point in our generation fully understand what it means to be in a long-time relationship. All long-term relationships whether it be marriage, friendships or parents require a certain level of commitment from us and parenting requires more commitment than the rest.” For him it must be a responsibility undertaken for the long haul.
The former banker is now in the process of setting up his own business about which he is tight-lipped except to say “It is all about the kids”.
No doubt his parenting skills will be brought to bear. For him, fatherhood has been “quite a humbling experience.”