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Doting dads

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Lots of laughs: Richie Lathan with his sons Zachary, left, and Adrian

Children have a way of pushing their dad’s buttons.

Take four-year-old Nyah Bean, for example.

Sometimes she laughs when her father Reuben is trying to tell her something important.

And when he does start to lose his cool, she gives him strong advice: “Relax, breathe through your belly.”

It wins the martial arts instructor over every time, because it’s the exact same thing he tells her.

In honour of Father’s Day on Sunday, Lifestyle spoke with Reuben and other dads who are making a difference in their children’s lives.

The hardest thing about being a dad for Richie Lathan is knowing when to step in, and when to step back.

He admits that he hasn’t always got the formula right with his four children: Adrian, 34, Katrina, 32, Zachary, 20 and Mickaela, 19. Take the time Zachary went kayaking in Ely’s Harbour with a friend.

“He weighed a lot less than he does now,” said Richie, 59. “Suddenly all these reports were coming in saying gale force winds were rolling in. All I could think was that he wouldn’t be able to control the kayak.”

He ran to Ely’s Harbour and began yelling and waving his arms.

“Until that point we were just chilling,” said Zachary. “When we saw dad waving his arms and yelling we just lost it. My friend fell out of his kayak and I was like, ‘every man for himself’. I started frantically paddling. But I didn’t realise I was paddling in circles.”

Laughed Richie: “I didn’t realise I was making that much of a fuss.”

It’s a frequent joke between them.

“He and my mom are my best friends,” said Zachary. “Dad is always laughing and joking. A lot of his jokes I can’t repeat in this forum. He’s very calm. There are times when I think this guy should be exploding right now.”

Richie married Kathy Kawaley 26 years ago.

She had two children at the time, Adrian, 8, and Katrina, 7.

“When I married I married three people,” Richie said.

He adopted Adrian and Katrina and then Zachary and Mickaela came along.

Adrian, owner of entertainment company Rockfire Productions, said having Richie around changed his life.

“A lot of people won’t believe this, but I used to be a shy, quiet kid,” he said. “I read a lot. I think I became rambunctious because of Richie. Having him in our lives made such a difference.”

Richie has a passion for show tunes and has “infected” his children with it. They love to drive with the music cranked up and usually arrive wherever they’re going, singing or goofing around.

Everyone in the house also has a passion for the stage.

Katrina teaches drama; Kathy writes plays; Richie once performed a bit, but nowadays prefers to be backstage. Zachary loves singing and finished a tour with Up With People last year; Mickaela, who finished a tour with the international group last week, sings, dances and plays the ukulele.

“I think if I was to describe my family in one word, it would be ‘happy’,” Richie said.

He plans to spend Sunday hanging out with his children, and maybe doing some kayaking.

When his children were young, life was a bit tough for Wendell “Shine” Hayward.

He felt he missed out on so much because they weren’t living together.

“That was challenging for me,” the popular musician said. “I would have liked to have been the one who tucked them in at night and had breakfast with them in the morning, but you still have to be the best dad you can be with the situation you’re in.”

His fears were misplaced as far as his children are concerned.

Nadanja Bailey has fond memories of his dad fishing and swimming with him and his sister Nashanthi, 32.

The one drawback, the comedian said, was that he initially felt caught in the saxophonist’s shadow.

“Everyone called me ‘Shine’s bye’,” said the 40-year-old. “It’s nice at first, but eventually you think, I’m an individual. “I took private piano lessons and I played the trumpet. There was one time I did want a saxophone for my birthday and I didn’t get it. I was really upset by that.

“I think it was from that point that I said, ‘You know what, forget it. I’m not doing this’. My feelings were really hurt. Once I found out I was a class clown, I veered more to becoming a comedian. When I started hosting gigs and I sang a bit I started to become Nadanja, not Shine’s son.”

When he first started performing, his father was often the only one not laughing.

“I could see how he was doing it like Eddie Murphy or being someone else,” Shine said. “Now he is coming into his own. He has found his own voice. Now I will chuckle at his events. Now I’m known as ‘Nadanja’s dad.’”

The father and son are both working at the West End at the moment — Nadanja is hosting activities at the America’s Cup Village; Shine is busking in Dockyard.

Despite the proximity they don’t get to see each other as much as they would like.

“We’re in the same business,” Shine said. “Often when he’s having a performance, so am I.”

Nadanja has two children of his own, Sania, 14 and Sanai, 6.

He’s hoping to soon take his son fishing, the way his father once did with him.

“The best thing a father can do is spend some time with his children,” he said. “Just have a talk about your day. I guarantee it means that much to that child.”

David LaHuta feels like he has the best of both worlds.

He’s been able to stay at home with his sons, Jackson, 5, and Tyler 3, and also continue his job as a freelance travel writer.

His wife, Joy, works in reinsurance; they decided it would be easier for him to work from home.

“It was a little daunting the first day,” said the 40-year-old. “I had had some experience while she’d been on maternity leave, but it was very different being on my own with a six-month-old.”

Now that he has the hang of it, he wouldn’t change a thing.

“We take long walks on the beach,” he said. “We climb rocks. I’m teaching the boys to surf. We go boating.”

Tyler’s favourite thing to do with his father is watch baseball games; they’re huge Mets fans.

“My favourite thing to do with daddy is explore with him,” said Jackson. “I like to make sandcastles at the beach, but we don’t really have to do that. At the beach, daddy is good at throwing us in the air in the water. We get splashed.”

David and Joy grew up in New York City but met in St Croix in the US Virgin Islands. They moved here from New Jersey nine years ago.

“It was an easy choice for us as we already knew what the pace of island life was like from living in St Croix. Jackson came along two years after we moved here and Tyler two-and-a-half years after him.”

The LaHutas love the outdoors and being on the water. On the day Lifestyle met with David, he was about to take his sons to the America’s Cup Village.

“I took them out of school for the day,” he said. “We’ve taken them before and they loved it.”

He doesn’t believe the challenges of a stay-at-home dad are any different than those of a stay-at-home mom.

“I don’t think the challenges are gender specific,” he said. “My particular challenge is finding the time to research destinations, write, and travel when necessary.

“If I have a deadline, then the laundry doesn’t get folded that week; my wife is very supportive.”

Fatherhood has been everything Reuben Bean hoped for, although there was a bit of a learning curve.

He has three children Nico, 8, Nyah, 4 and Aminah, 1.

“I think the second child is probably the hardest,” said the 44-year-old. “The first one gets all the attention they need. Then the second child comes and you are having to double everything in terms of finances and energy. By the time Aminah came along I knew what to do.

“I like to know that my children are mentally, emotionally and physically strong and healthy. It’s a balancing act.”

Aminah is still too little for martial arts, but Nico and Nyah love going to the Jiketsu Centre with their dad.

“I want to be just like my dad when I grow up,” said Nico. “He’s fun and energetic. I think my dad is special because he still likes playing and stuff and he loves me a lot.”

Reuben said he loved that his children were big cuddlers.

“They like to kiss and hug a lot,” he said. “They like being close to me when they watch television. We have a structured family lifestyle, but I enjoy creative expression with them. We enjoy nature. We enjoy doing martial arts fitness, tactical gymnastics and being among friends and family.”

He described his family as loving, compassionate, understanding and forgiving.

“These are attributes that I try to live by and share with my children and those who come to us for martial arts or natural healing,” he said. “It is about being compassionate and knowing one’s self.”

When it comes down to it, being a good father requires making an active decision, Reuben said.

“You can find the time, it is just about making the decision to put aside that time. Within our foundation — whether it is a morning, afternoon or evening — we always have allotted time where we are with each other.”

Reuben, Nico and Nyah Bean (Photograph by Nadia Hall)
David LaHuta with his sons, Jackson and Tyler (Photograph by Nadia Hall)
Wendall “Shine” Hayward with his son, Nadanja Bailey (Photograph by Nadia Hall)