On being a dad

Jaeson May says he feels that years of coaching swimming and teaching middle schoolers have prepared him for fatherhood.

"Any man can be a father. It takes someone special to be a dad." -- Unknown

But as any man may tell you, it's his life experiences that form him from a man into a father.

As Father's Day approaches, we asked three ordinary men how their lots in life

played a role in their parenting philosophy.

Jaeson May

Although Jaeson May was not a dad at press time, he may very well be by the time you read this.

His first child, a boy, was due Sunday.

Not optimal timing for a summer league swim coach with a competition season that started Tuesday and runs through July 20, but perfect timing for a teacher who is out of school until August.

Although May has limited experience with newborns, he says he is ready for his son's arrival.

He has taught art at DuBose Middle School in Dorchester School

District 2 for 15 years.

And for half the year, he can be found poolside at Coosaw Creek Country Club, where he coaches more than 130 swimmers ages 5 to 18 on the Crocodiles summer league team May through July and 50 or so teens on the Fort Dorchester High School boys and girls swim teams August through October.

"I think I'm ready to be a dad because I know through teaching and coaching that every single day is a new adventure," he says with a laugh.

However, he's never had to wake up in the middle of the night to feed or change any of his swimmers as he and his wife, Angela, expect to do with their new son.

May prepared for fatherhood by reading lots of books and talking to the parents of his swimmers and students, he says.

"I have listened well to all the advice give to me," he says. "Some of it is great and some not, but I have taken it all in."

Still, although he can turn just about any child into a swimmer, he has no idea what to expect from a baby.

"It may be an eye-opening experience," he says. "But I am looking forward to the challenges and praying for the rewards of being a parent."

Frank Antonelli

They affectionately call their home the "frat house."

It is, after all, inhabited by four males and a mom who, thankfully, can hold her own with them when she's home. Unfortunately, she's also out of town a lot with her job as a national basketball analyst for CBS, ESPN and Fox Sports Net.

"I take it day by day," Frank Antonelli says of running the household while his wife, Debbie, is away.

They are the parents of Joey, 15; Frankie, 12; and Patrick, 8. "I don't look too far out. They all play sports and are involved in different activities, so when Mom is gone, we eat a lot of pizza and fast food because we are running from field to field, but our kids come first to us, and that's the main thing."

But Antonelli is not just a dad to three boys. His middle son, Frankie, has Down syndrome.

"He is very funny," Antonelli says. "Very entertaining and loving. He has affected our whole family. As a dad, he teaches me patience. If I have a bad day, he always has a smile and a hug for me. He's a very special child. You don't have to say 'needs.' He's just special."

Antonelli's job running the sports/golf/entertainment company called Empire Sports Management, provides him with flexibility when he needs to be with the boys.

"I have a very understanding work environment," he says. "That makes it easier for me."

He also gets help from a neighbor who is there when the boys get out of school and gets them going on their homework.

"We have fun," he says. "We love sports and playing games. It's probably easier for me having all boys. People sometimes ask if it would be different or the same if I had daughters. I don't want to think about that. We've got a good thing going. We definitely consider ourselves a team, and we've got a great team."

James Yarsiah

James Yarsiah is a father who is ... well, a father. And a doctor, too.

The Rev. James T. Yarsiah, vicar of St. Andrews Mission Church in West Ashley, received a Doctor of Ministry degree from the University of the South School of Theology in May.

In addition, he is the father of daughters Wede, 16, Temah, 14, and son Kenneth, 3 1/2, and the husband of Ophelia.

"I am a father who plays a real father role," says Yarsiah, who came to the United States from Liberia. "I care for both the church family and my personal family."

Although his job requires him to work Sundays and many nights, he is able to get away during the day to do things such as driving his son to day care or his daughters to after-school activities.

"I make a lot of pastoral visits, but I also adjust the schedule to meet my family's needs," he says. "I make sure it all gets done. I enjoy doing that."

He also has a lot of crossover between his professional life and his personal life.

"What it's done is make me want to make sure my children and my family are a good example for others to follow," he says. "What I tell my children is, I am the pastor, priest, whatever, and that means a lot because people will look at you and say, 'Your father is a priest.'

"At the same time, I don't hold them too high. I let them be who they are and let them make their choices. I tell them, 'Do not follow your peers. If you feel it's right, do it. If not, don't do it.' And you will have to live with the consequences."

He hopes that he has been a good example to his congregation.

"(The book of) Timothy says that to be a good pastor, you should be a good husband and take care of your family," he says. "You have to be able to take care of your home first. The best way for me to instill my ministry is by living a wholesome, prayerful life.

"We aren't perfect, but we do the best we can. And I hope people will see me with my family and other parents will also give their children some time."

Dads by the numbers

--67.8 million: Estimated number of fathers in the nation.

--25.8 million: Number of fathers who were part of married-couple families with children younger than 18 in 2009.

--1.7 million: Number of single fathers in 2009; 15 percent of single parents were men. (About 47 percent were divorced, 29 percent were never married, 18 percent were separated and 5 percent were widowed.)

--158,000: Estimated number of stay-at-home dads in 2009. These married fathers with children younger than 15 have remained out of the labor force for at least one year primarily so they can care for the family while their wives work outside the home. These fathers cared for 290,000 children.

--$2.8 billion: Amount of child support received by custodial fathers in 2007; they were due $4.3 billion. In contrast, custodial mothers received $18.6 billion of the $29.8 billion in support that was due.

--53 percent and 71 percent: Percentages of children younger than 6 who ate breakfast and dinner, respectively, with their father every day in 2006. The corresponding percentages who ate with their mother were 58 percent and 80 percent.

--36 percent: Percentage of children younger than 6 who had 15 or more outings with their father in the last month, as of 2006.

--6: Average times children ages 3 to 5 were read to by their fathers in the past week, as of 2006.

--66 percent: Percentage of children younger than 6 who were praised three or more times a day by their fathers.

Brenda Rindge can be reached at 937-5713 or at brindge@postandcourier.com.