So, my oldest nephew is graduating from the 8th grade today, and only three words keep running through my mind. I'M GETTING OLD! This natural growth is a love-hate thing because Derek (DB as he likes to call himself) is progressing into an amazing young man which is great, but it’s hard because with every passing year, your young bull is getting older! Derek was born in 2003, 4 days before my own birthday. I have my own special bond with all three of my nephews individually. So, me and Derek's bond stem from me being so young when he was born and us living in the same house for most of my teenage years. It has been a fun ride along the way. With everything we’ve done from the bike rides, to hooping, to the beach days, to this super funny video of Derek, Denver, and I rapping outside my house!
I know what your thinking............. WE NEED A DEAL ASAP!
It has been a very fun 14 years so far! I can say some of the best times of my life were at the court, bike riding, and just hanging with Derek, Denver, and Deacon! But on this road we have also encountered many bumps along the way. From the times where I had to be the “bad cop” uncle and come down hard on of them about something, to the time where I accidently punched Derek too hard ( even though I didn’t) and made him cry, and countless times where we didn’t see eye to eye. Through the good and bad times, I wouldn’t trade this for anything. I’ve learned so much about myself, parenting/uncle-ing, and about you three ( Derek, Denver, and Deacon)! Over the years, you three boys have helped me grow into a better man and father by letting me be in your lives and I am thankful for that blessing. Seriously! I am thankful for you three letting me coach you, letting me be your mentor, and letting me be someone you all can depend on! When Pop’s died, I promised myself I would try my hardest to love and care about you three as much as he did. Though the way I show my love and compassion for you three may not be the same as my Pop’s method, but I can honestly say that I do love and care for you guys just as much! He would be proud of you three.
You guys have taught me so much, and I am proud to call myself your uncle! The countless talks about life after childhood, girls, parents, basketball, racism and the million other conversations we had wasn’t just for you, it was also for me. Through those conversations I got a chance to help you and get to know you guys better. You let me “put you on game” about a plethora of things. Derek, I am so proud of the dialect we create about being black in America, it makes me proud that you not only care about that but you want to strengthen your understanding to equip yourself for the future.
Yesterday morning while I was on my way to work, I thought long and hard about the reasons why I love being an uncle. Being the uncle to the three best nephews any man could ask for has tremendously helped me in this thing we call life. As countless reasons flooded my brain, three stuck with me throughout the day.
1. PushingThe Narrative of Black Excellence
Black Excellence: Someone that is black and portrays great qualities and abilities that make the black community proud.
The quote, “It takes a village to raise a child” is an old African proverb that has been around for many years. So, being apart of that village to help turn these boys into men is a blessing. Helping them reach their full potential by teaching them, helping them learn from their mistakes and also helping them learn from my own mistakes from time to time. Helping them find their talents and enhance their abilities to become better men is tough, but if it were easy would it be called black excellence? I used the term black excellence because that is what I thrive to be, and I want them to do the same thing! Not only thriving to make their family proud, but thriving to empower and uplift the communities they came from by being the best they can be. To achieve black excellence really does take a village! We (the village) are pushing the narrative of black excellence by not only being here, but recognizing that we all play an important part in the uplifting of these young men! The village you are a part of should breed black excellence and I am more than thankful to be another resource these young men can tap into.
2. Holding Me Accountable
Accountability: an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one's actions
This is very important for any type of father figure. With my nephews, I understand that I cannot post just anything on my social media! I’m all for being who you are at all times, but you have to practice what you preach! I can’t preach compassion and love when I’m on the gram posting hate and lies. I can’t preach hard work and focus when all I do is complain on Facebook. I also move differently when I am with my nephews. Though it’s hard, I try my hardest to set the best example. When you set a good example when they are watching, it’s easier to do it when they are not watching. It becomes second nature to watch how you speak to others, to work as hard as you can, and to lead by example even when there is no one watching you at that specific time! The example you set when they are around will continue to positively affect your character when they are not around.
3. Fatherhood In Training
Yes! There is a big difference between being an uncle and being father. Being that a father is (should) always be there and an uncle can pick and choose when he wants to show up. Being an uncle in the unique situation I am in is helping me become a better father! When I have to come down hard on Denver for posting trash on Snapchat or IG, or when I have to comfort Deacon after losing a soccer game, and even when I get to praise Derek for his stellar report card; all of these things are prepping me for when those same situations happen with my own son! Leveraging those situations for the growth of my own “fatherhood bag” is a major key. Gaining that experience early is like LeBron in the 2007 NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs. He leveraged that horrible loss in that Finals appearance to learn from it and enhance his "championship bag"!
Putting "bag" at the end of a word automatically makes the word cooler. Don't judge me!
Derek, congratulations! Only great things from here on out! I thank God every day for you, as being a role model to you has made me a better man! Continue to lead by example for your two brothers and continue to grow into the man we all know you will be!
I love you nephew!
-Uncle Ben aka Uncle Bugatti aka Uncle “You will never beat me in 1 on 1 “