Sunday, June 25, 2017

Putting their education first

BY KIMBERLY BAILEY-TUREAUD

Roy Hammond, left, with Miami Heat star LeBron James.

When Roy Hammond played for the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors, he faced some of the world’s toughest competition on the court.

It is hard not to believe that the mental toughness needed to succeed at that level helped prepare him for the most significant challenge of his life: single fatherhood.

In a candid conversation, the onetime NBA star shares the lessons he has learned while raising his children (15-year-old Marcus, and 10-year-old Naomi), the unique challenges that face parents in Las Vegas and overcoming stigmas about black fathers.

How long have you been a single father?

I have been divorced over 10 years. I initially had sole custody of my two children, and now I have joint custody with my ex-wife. I received sole custody of my children when my daughter was 5-months-old and my son was 5-yearsold. I know that there were many hurdles to overcome while you were in the NBA.

How do they compare to being a single father?

I don’t consider my choice to be a single father a hurdle that had to be conquered. It was just the right thing to do. I think being a father is a privilege. My children and I have grown together. I know a lot of people consider parenthood a challenge, but I don’t. I would be lying if I said it was easy, but the right thing to do is to get up in the morning, feed them breakfast and to go to work — and do what I am supposed to do.

How old were you when you became a single father?

I am 41 years old now, and single fatherhood came upon me in my thirties.

How do you feel about some of the stigmas placed upon black fathers?

There have been some bad stigmas placed upon us because we are not known to stick around and raise our children. I was raised by my father and mother, so that is all I ever known. My father always told me, “I never left you,” so it was second nature for me to be there for my children. When my ex-wife and I split up, I told her that I appreciated how she was there throughout my college and professional basketball career, and I would take care of our children while she pursued some of her career dreams.

How is your relationship now with your ex-wife?

We really have a good relationship, and she has moved on and now has 11-month-old twins. We recently celebrated our daughter’s National Honor Society Award ceremony, and I was there holding the two twins. It’s just a happy place for me now. My stepfather raised me and my siblings, and one thing I can say about being raised by a stepfather is that he treated me like I was his biological child. I didn’t get to know my real dad until I became an adult.

Do you think some of the stigmas about black fathers are warranted?

I know that my situation is rare. I coach basketball within the Clark County schools, and I see a lot of black men not doing what they need to do for their children. Some stigmas are (based on something) real, and some fathers aren’t there for their children.

Why?

During my generation, experienced grandmas help their daughters raise their children. Now, since young men and women are having children earlier, the grandmothers are only in their thirties and fathers have gotten a hall pass.

Do you also hold single mothers accountable?

Yes, it takes two — both a mother and a father — to raise healthy children. Recently, I had to do my daughter’s hair for a … ceremony and I did a great job. I have always had a hunger to learn so that my children never felt they were missing anything. So, I learned how to do my daughter’s hair.

How do you fulfill your children emotionally?

I make sure that I spend one-on-one time with both of them. Their five-year age difference gives me an opportunity to spend special time with them individually. I take my son to school at a certain time in the morning, and I make it a point to ask him how he is doing and whether there is anything he needs. I hug and kiss both my children daily, and share one-on-one conversations with them.

What has been one of the most awkward times as a single father?

The awkward part for me in the beginning was to understand that I had to be there both physically and mentally for my children. I initially wanted to go out, date and find that significant other. I discovered that I was going in a wrong direction, and my priority had to be my children. That was the hardest part for me, because if the mother is not doing her part, and the father is not doing his part — then the children are the ones who lose. I had to be mature enough to understand that, and make sure that my two little people were good.

When did you decide to date?

I dated early on after my divorce, but decided not to let my children see it until they got older. Now they understand better because I have been able to mold them. My son is a freshman in high school with all honors classes and at the top of his class. My daughter is in the honor society, and my children are excelling because I put their education first.

Where are other parents going wrong with their children?

They are not putting the time in. Many are walking around worrying about the next concert or the next party. I hear it from people in the community, and they are just focusing on themselves. I was exposed to traveling and achieving success at an early age, and I know that it is all about my children now. Many are still trying to   find themselves and their dreams, and selfishly put that before raising their children.

What would you say to young black men in their teens about becoming a father?

I would tell them I don’t recommend it at all. Nevertheless, I see it much too often with many of the young teens I coach in basketball. It never fails — once they get out of school they have nowhere to go, because they aren’t prepared. A year later, it’s predictable that they have two children with a young lady 18 or 19 years old. They become fathers too soon, and or they are in jail with no education to survive.

Where is Vegas going wrong as it relates to our children?

Vegas is still segregated. If your child is attending school in the northwest, parts of the southwest, Summerlin or in Henderson — they have a chance. All other schools located within the inner communities are lacking and those children are suffering. It can be socioeconomic, but no one is really addressing the issues. If you tell a child, they will forget it. If you teach a child, they will remember it. If you involve a child, they will learn it.

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