Johnny Gill on His Journey to Fatherhood and Co-Parenting

Photo by Johnny Gill
In honor of Father's Day, the singer reflects on his journey to becoming a father, the struggles of co-parenting and what famous dads he looks to for inspiration.

As I reflect on my journey into fatherhood, I am blessed that I had some great examples to follow. As a young child, I was fortunate to be raised by both parents, who nurtured me and my three brothers and instilled family and Christian values. 

I have many children in my life, and I’m affectionately known by my nieces and nephews as "Uncle Johnny." I have 12 godchildren, mostly girls. So, prior to the birth of my son, Isaiah, who is now nine years old, I had a lot of practice before I was officially called to fatherhood.

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It's not a coincidence when God places children in our lives. I believe God calls on us to be leaders. Some of us don't take the calling seriously and some of us don't understand that it's a gift and a blessing. To become a parent and to lead by example is an awesome experience. To plant seeds in a child’s life and watch that child grow is a huge responsibility and one that I take very seriously. Children come onto this earth with a clean slate and they are programmed through us, through our eyes, through our truths, and we have an opportunity to help mold and shape their lives.

Currently, I am co-parenting bi-coastal and it definitely comes with its challenges, but one that I have endured and embraced with great enthusiasm. I live in Los Angeles, and my son lives in Washington, D.C. At times, it's difficult to navigate the day-to-day process of parenting. My son is my greatest gift and my greatest blessing.

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For me, co-parenting is not the most optimum way of raising children. My one and only regret is that Isaiah's mother and I were never together in a relationship. There have been times when I dropped him off at the airport and he would reach out his arms and cry "Daddy," and it made me feel horrible. Or I would get calls from the school faculty and he would say to them, "I just want my Daddy." It would rip my heart out.

After a few of those incidents, I've said to myself, "I will never, ever have a co-parenting situation again. Never." I do want more kids, but it will be with a mother and father in one home, under one roof. Thankfully, I am in a good place with Isaiah’s mother, and through the years, we’ve watched each other grow. She's been an incredible mother.

Over the years, I watched and learned a great deal from several of my friends and associates who are committed to being great dads and they have exhibited excellent parenting skills. I have watched my friend and mentor Stevie Wonder, who is one of the most devoted fathers I ever seen. He loves his children so much, and he stays on top of everything that's going on with them.

Another man I deeply admire is Ken Wilson. He works with my team and he has two kids. I've watched him juggle business meetings in between driving the children to and from soccer practice and other extra curriculum activities. Like me, this is a guy who works in a business that requires so much of his time and yet he finds a way to balance it all.

I am also inspired by my dear friend, Sugar Ray Leonard whom I've known since I was sixteen years old, and I've watched evolve and come full circle. He had a second chance, which is what I refer to as "A do-over chance," and it simply means that during his first marriage, at the height of his boxing career, he was constantly away from home. And now, with his second marriage, he had "a do-over chance" to make things better as he raised his other two children.

During that process, I watched him become the most incredible father. And as a testament, his daughter and my niece graduated from college recently and I listened to her talk about how she appreciates her parents and how much she has learned from them. What an awesome reward!

Johnny Gill’s album, Game Changer, is out now.

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