0620_IHW_KSmith
In His Words: Keith Smith
'That’s the one thing I want her and all my kids to understand ... I will never judge you' 
By Keith Smith Jun 21, 2020
Photographs By The Atlanta Falcons

Aubrey.

She's just a little ball of energy, man. Just a true blessing.

She's such a sweetheart and just a lover at her core. Something that I'm really happy and excited about as her dad, especially with all the things going on right now, it's good to know that she has a good heart.

She's really compassionate, but she's like a little boy in that she's super tough. Nothing phases her.

It's funny because something bad will happen, she will fall and scrape her knee or something, and her instant reaction is making sure everyone knows she's OK. She's like, "I'm good, I'm good!"

It's really cool just knowing that she's a tough one at heart, but she's still a little princess.

She's all into her princess stuff and all girly stuff. She is a cheerleader, she loves that.

She's learning back handsprings and I think they're called back-overs? I'm trying to learn that terminology myself.

She's good at it because she's really expressive. Her social cues are ahead of her time.

She has a funny sense of humor. I talk to her about how everybody has their own superpowers, and everyone is special in their own ways. I'm like, you have your own superpower.

I asked her to name her own and she said, "My superpower is that I am SUPER funny. I am really, really funny."

I'm like there you go, that's an awesome superpower. She loves making people laugh and laughing herself.

It's fun being around her. Me and her just have a telepathic understanding of each other. We just get each other, energy wise.

She knows she's going to get good energy from me. She knows that's what I love most about her.



Fatherhood

Being a father means everything to me. From my own experience, I didn't grow up with that solid, consistent father figure in my life.

My dad, he was around at his convenience, but not really when I had wished that he was. Looking back, I feel like I needed him there.

I know he made his efforts and that's something that I have come to understand now. He was probably doing as much as he could, and I know he probably has his own regrets.

Those are things that he has to deal with himself. But I think inversely, it taught me a lot about being a father. Everything I wanted in a dad, that's what I try to be for my daughter and my future kids.

I think just being a father, I'm still learning. It's such a learning process. My fatherhood was dropped on my doorstep, literally.

I didn't have the choice to choose to be there for my daughter when she was born. I didn't meet her until she was almost one and a half.

That was really upsetting for me. It was really a hard time for me mentally, because it was actually my second year in the league and the stress of the league itself is enough. Just throwing that on top of it is just a whirlwind of thoughts and emotions.

God really spoke to me and eased my mind. I think the fact that you do have choices in life.

That's kind of what God spoke to me, it was just like, "Look. It is what is it. You have a whole child here. Regardless of how messed up the situation was."

It didn't matter how unfair it was to me, because my daughter was with me. She was alive. She's my little twin. God really spoke to me and he was like, "Look, all of that has happened, it is what it is. The circumstances are what it is."

Putting myself in those shoes as a child and how I needed my dad to be there for me, I would never leave my child like that.

I have so many sisters, I have so many nieces and nephews, I'm pretty much the only uncle in my family with my sisters. I'm just getting bombarded all day every day. Up to that point, I was just the best uncle there ever was.

Now I have the opportunity, as much as I love my nieces and nephews, I get to shower my love on my own child. Just leaning into that thought process, I let it go, all of my indifferences on the situation.

It was like, I get to step up to the plate and be accountable and responsible because she needs a father. I would never let my child be fatherless.

It's the choice of choosing love and prosperity over holding grudge and resentment. I could've done that against her mom, but that would've trickled into Aubrey's life. That's not going to create the life I want for my kid.

It was like, do I sit here and dwell on the negativity and the bad stuff that's happened in this situation? Or do I really put all my positivity, my love and my effort into creating an unbreakable bond between me and my daughter?

Just understanding that it was a choice and I get to do this now and I'm moving forward. I get to know this child and I get to fill this child with all my values and all my love and everything that I believe in.

That's what I've chosen to operate from. To this day, we are really close. She is my little ball of energy. My little love light.

She has an amazing relationship with me. She has an amazing relationship with my girlfriend, which is such a blessing to me.

It means the world to me, just being a father. It excites me, especially in the future, when I get to do it on my own terms, the right now.

It's dope because my girlfriend, her name is Amanda, she's been doing these summits. She interviews family experts and all these parent coaches and all of these experts who are experts on connection and relationships and everything. It's really brilliant work.

Even just the blessing of having her in my life and who she is to my daughter is pretty dope. Aside from that, what I'm saying is all that I'm learning from being a father from all of these experts is that parenting is what is going to be the biggest change in society that we need.

I think what's going on in this world right now is all learned judgements and learned everything in experiences and how people have been raised. They're operating through what they've been around.

One of the experts Amanda interviewed called it "front-end parenting" versus "back-end parenting." Our society is conditioned to back-end parenting. Your kid does this, they get in trouble, so now you get to teach them.

Where society needs to go is to have these difficult conversations and these difficult topics beforehand so they know how to approach things when they experience them. It cuts out the chance of things happening, the possibility of bad things happening.

Behavior wise, Amanda sent me a meme the other day that was pretty dope. It said, "It's easier to build a solid strong man instead of fixing a broken one." It's the whole premise of that front-end parenting.

Meeting it before it happens. I think if we all start operating from that perspective, we can have those conversations of social injustice and racism and everything and kids are able to interact and operate from love and compassion and empathy, rather than what they're used to.

There's so much that I'm learning in this fatherhood process, but it really truly does mean the world to me to have that presence in her life. Always getting better.

Like in ball, you can always be a better dad. You can always be a better mom. I think when you have that willingness to get better and change things that haven't worked, there's no ceiling on what you can create. I think that's the biggest thing I'm starting to understand as a dad.



Family is family

When Amanda is around, Aubrey doesn't even want to be around me no more! It's like a bittersweet blessing. It's cool. It's so dope to me, because I'm OK with that.

You want to be around Amanda all the time? That's cool because I know Amanda is a good person and has every good intention for her and all of her best interests. It's pretty awesome to see how their relationship has evolved and the impact that she's had on her.

Just the impact that Amanda has had on my fatherhood. All the work that she's doing. It's very selfless of her to pursue. Her impact on my daughter's life and my life especially, is tremendous.

I also want Aubrey to have a grandfather that she knows and can be close to.

I think that took a lot for me to reach. Just coming to the terms of looking forward instead of backward.

I was depriving my dad of a relationship and holding energy over everything I felt as a kid and it was counterproductive. Once I started to realize that and the damage it was doing to me by avoiding that relationship and his attempts to reach out and make some type of connection, I had to really let bygones be bygones and release that energy.

It started with me and how I approached everything. I approached that relationship and once I kind of just, I was like all of that stuff happened, but what can we create now?

What can we create in the future? I didn't have my dad then, but I can have my dad now.

I have the opportunity to have my dad, so why not try to create something? Instead of holding on to just pain and resentment. That's kind of what I chose.

I'm hoping and I'm praying that that relationship is established between them two, aside from myself, but it's going to be hard. Just like anything in life, it's going to take some work, but I think it's on track to do that.



#GirlDad

I'm from LA, so Kobe has been the guy. The GOAT. The everything.

When he passed away, I think that was a big hit to the male being. Kobe was such a transformational person. He was the epitome of what a man's man is.

I say that because, if you look at Kobe, he literally went from being accused of rape and all of that stuff. Literally the worst family man you could possibly be, into now you look today, and he's the face of what fatherhood is.

He's the Girl Dad.

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You don't just put the little Men in Black thing and just make people forget about everything. He did that purely off his actions and how he walked and how he was the leader he was.

He is the epitome of being accountable and being responsible for your actions.

He created this name for himself in every aspect of life. In sports, leadership, everything you can look up to in a male figure, he was that.

I think just looking at that is amazing and the #GirlDad aspect means that much more when you look at his story and what he's created with his family. It's so heart wrenching that he lost one of his daughters with him. It's so sad, man.

I don't think anybody has had the impact that Kobe has as a male being, especially in the sports world. Even past that, Michael Jordan is an icon, but Michael Jordan didn't stand for life principles and everything that Kobe did.

Everybody can take notes and learn from Kobe. That #GirlDad is a special thing. I think that's beautiful.

Being a girl dad, you have to tap into your sensitive side. You have to tap into your emotional side, because girls need that. Women need that to be comfortable to come to you and confide in you and everything.

I think that's really important when you talk about #GirlDad, but it's definitely a blessing to be one. I'm proud to be one and I'm excited to continue to be one.



Father figures

My mother was the biggest influence on me as a father! Father figure, mother figure, every figure she did it all. She's a true superwoman the way she raised and loved me and my two sisters on her own. She taught me what unconditional love was and how to show it. She, being the most generous person that I know, gave me the gift of generosity. Being generous always wanting to help somehow which I try and pass on to Aubrey.

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I've had a lot of father-like figures. It started with my brother-in-law. I know he would look at it as more of a brother, but he was more of a male influence that really landed with me.

I took things from our relationship everything that he said with me to this day. I think that's what you do with your father. You take a lot of things from him.

He was like a father/brother role. I didn't meet him until I was in the fifth grade, but he played in the NFL for five years. He mentored me in mindset, mentality, physically and helped me train. Everything.

He was there for me. I've always been grateful for that.

Another person was my high school head coach, Big Lou. Big Lou is a legend around these parts where I'm from. He actually passed away this year.

He made his impact. He touched a lot of lives and was there for a lot of people. Just a true blessing. He just kind of was a real light of what a husband, a father and a leader was. That's what he was.

I will forever be grateful for his guidance and everything he did for me as a player, as a young man, as everything in my years that I have known him. Coach Dom, his son, was another big figure. Someone I can look to today for relationship advice, football advice, anything. People who are there for you like that as a big-time father figure.



Dear Aubrey

The whole premise behind my 3D Foundation was only doing works and service for the community and the world, but instilling that in Aubrey as well. She sees that.

Her dad is an NFL athlete, so she gets a lot more privilege than a lot of other people. She has a lot more resources than a lot of other people. I want her to understand that people come from other places and people don't all get what she has.

She gets to be generous and gets to be kind and gets to be loving to all these other people. She sees me giving back, so she can give back when she gets of age. Not even of age, she can give back now. Just growing up knowing that as well is just all a bonus to what the foundation gets to do.

I want her to know that my love is unconditional. She can never let me down.

I'll always fight for her. I'll always love her and I'll never judge her.

I think that if she's able to understand that, then she doesn't have to tip toe around me. She doesn't have to worry about anything around me.

Daddy's gone love you no matter what.

That's the one thing I want her and all my kids to understand. I can be a safe haven for you. I will never judge you.

I will always have your best interest and I will always want more for you.

I will always love you.

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