Dwyane Wade goes hard, on and off the court. When he’s not helping his Miami Heat teammates win their way right to game six of the NBA finals, he’s devoted to being there 100 percent for his two boys.

After a very public divorce and a vicious custody battle with his ex wife, Dwyane was awarded full custody of his two sons in a Cook County courthouse. He’s so happy to have them around full-time. We caught up with him to chat about what he has in store for his kids as they settle into their new Miami home. In addition to getting used to being a full-time dad, Dwyane is also working closely with President Obama on his Fatherhood Initiative.

Here’s what he had to say about fatherhood, raising boys, and keeping a level head.

ESSENCE: What does fatherhood mean to you?

Dwyane Wade: Every time, every morning, every night, I look into my boys’ eyes I’m proud, and I see the future. I see what they can learn from me and what they can learn from the world. I just try to make sure that their lives are in a better position than mine will be or ever was, and to understand how hard it is. You know to be a father and a role model you have to work at it, it doesn’t just come naturally. You have to work at it every day. I make sure I stay in constant communication with my boys.

ESSENCE: How do you communicate with your kids when you’re on the road?

Wade: Yeah, we have a lot of different [types of] communication. If my boys are at a game we have this little chest thing we do, then we throw the three fingers up to God. But when I’m on the road… I’ve got a nine-year-old and now a four-year-old, so when I’m on the road the nine-year-old is more into the communication. We talk via phone and via BBM. We talk a lot. And my four-year-old, he doesn’t really wanna talk a lot. But in person, we do communicate. One thing we do is that I make sure we have our father-son time. With my nine-year-old, I will go to certain things, like when he’s playing basketball, or I’ll take him to get some ice cream or take him to the park and just have conversations with him, just to talk to him, you know, as a father and also as a friend. I let him know that he can come to me and talk to me anytime. I try to do things that I kind of wanted growing up, in a sense, and stuff I think that they want.

ESSENCE: How do the three of you spend quality time together?

Wade: It’s all about them. I was awarded custody almost two months ago, so it’s all about finding a schedule and finding something they’re comfortable doing. I have the days set up. I know that Mondays are swimming lessons for my kids at the house, so the instructor comes and they do swimming lessons. Tuesday is karate for my oldest. I make sure that I go home so I can do karate with him. You know I got it all planned. It’s a running clock, you know, we got ‘til 8 o’clock to do it. They get out of school at three and there’s a five-hour window to get their homework done, to do our activities, and then to also have fun. So I’ve got it all planned out.

My kids are doing well in school. There’s this things we do, it’s called gold stars. We give ‘em. They get to use them as passes to maybe play the video game for an hour a day or you know let a friend come over or go over a friend’s house for a half an hour to an hour or so. [It’s} to make sure that they can still work for certain things that they want.

ESSENCE: Do you have a message for other Black fathers out there?

Wade: To me it’s as simple as this — and this is the most important thing I’ve learned –- and I actually learned this from my mother. Always hug your kids, always tell your kids you love them, and always tell your kids that you’re proud of them, because that goes a long way. Because we don’t hear people say it enough and they don’t hear it enough. So that’s the most important thing to me when it comes to my kids, the look on their faces, the way I can tell that they needed it at the time is priceless. They never have to second-guess, and they don’t have to look for it from someone else, and if you have a daughter, she doesn’t have to look for that anywhere else. She gets it from the man that she wants it from and that’s important.

ESSENCE: Have the boys noticed yet that their dad’s the man?

Wade: I have one rule. If I’m having a Father’s Day and I’m out with my kids, my one rule is that I don’t take pictures [while] out with them. First of all, I don’t want to turn my back while I’m with them, and I want to give them all my attention. When we’re out sometimes, my son will be like “Dad, dad, they want your picture” or “Dad, dad, they want your autograph,” and I’m like, “No, son, this is about you and this is your time” or “No, it’s about you guys.” I know that he gets annoyed with it sometimes because we can be out eating somewhere and someone will come up and he’ll be in the middle of conversation. But I let him know that the reason why people do that is because this is an opportunity for them. I might be their favorite player or their son’s favorite player and this is an opportunity for them to come and express that. So I try to break it down as much as possible.

Photo: Bob Metelus

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