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Why I Love Being Dad

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Throughout my life, I've never been at a loss for nicknames. There's D-Wade and Flash. I love them both, but to be honest, no label sounds as good to me as Daddy.

Fatherhood has been a life-changing experience for me. While no one is perfect, I think we all have an idea of what the perfect father would look like. I strive to be a better father every day. I want to foster a friendship with my sons and have them grow up feeling close enough to me to talk to me about anything.

It's probably no surprise that one of the main ways I connect with my sons is through sports. However, because of what I do and how competitive I am, I make a point to never get too hard on my sons about sports. Instead, I try to have fun with them. Basketball is an obvious favorite. My younger one is three and doesn't have the attention span yet for long sessions, but my older son, who is eight, can play full out for three hours or so. He's got a lot of energy and that's a great way to burn it off. I try to keep it light when I play with them -- we'll work on some basic skills and play one-on-one, and I'll even let them both beat me sometimes to get their confidence up. My oldest son has an ever-revolving list of top NBA players, and as he often reminds me, my reign at number one is never guaranteed. LeBron and Kobe are his other favorites, and in the past, when my game has been a little off, I've settled for the number three spot.

There's more to our relationship than just basketball. In general, it's really the small things I do with my sons that are the most fun. One thing I really enjoy doing is taking them to the bookstore and seeing what books they like. I also enjoy taking them to the movies. We also have a lot of fun just eating together, having pillow fights and playing video games. If they're with me on the road, I love watching them order breakfast at the hotel. They can run up the bill higher then I can! I also love giving them bubble baths. I remember from my own childhood that it was always small moments that mattered most, so I try to do those things, have those goofy moments with my kids where we really laugh and let loose.

It's no secret that my father was strict and very tough on me and my step-brothers. He wasn't the type to give hugs, but instead made us do push-ups. But I respect him for what he tried to instill in us. Now that I'm a father I can see what he was trying to do by teaching us discipline. At this point in my life I can accept who he is. We all go through a time when we wish our parents were different, but now I must say I understand him a lot more.

Being a parent makes you more forgiving of your own parents. And for me, family has always come first. For instance, my mother went down a tough road and my siblings and I went down it with her, but now, she's the mother I always wanted. We can hang out, eat, and laugh, and we have a great relationship.

I'm very aware of the importance of making memories, and the importance of being really present when I'm with them. I'm constantly taking photos with them and capturing key moments on the flipcam. The great thing is, when I'm with my kids, I'm just a father. I hope people understand that when I'm with my kids, I don't take pictures and I don't give out autographs. I'm trying to make them my sole focus.

And even though they get to experience a lot of the fun involved with having a father who's a professional athlete, it's important to me that they see the importance of giving back as well. I have a Foundation, Wade's World, and I make sure they're with me as much as possible when I'm involved with activities for the Foundation. I want them to learn the same thing my mother taught me when I was growing up: To whom much has been given much is required. The motto for my foundation is "Every Child Deserves a Shot" and I truly believe that if we can touch one child, or one family, we can start to make a real difference.

Parenting can be challenging at times, and unlike the game of basketball, there aren't any playbooks or scouting reports for quick reference. All I can do is be the best parent and person that I can, and hope that the old sport saying proves true, and that practice really does make perfect.

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