With the launch of our blog, we’ve started Local Dad in the Spotlight, a re-occurring series in which we will interview a dad in the DFW area and let him tell his story. First up is Josh Graziani, an active dad with a story we love.
Dallas Dads Group: Introduce yourself, Josh.
Josh Graziani: My name is Josh Graziani. I’m 32, and I moved to Dallas two years ago. I spent the first 30 years of my life in southern California and went to San Diego State University. I was raised by a single mom and am the middle of three boys. I had a happy childhood despite the adversities that we faced.
DDG: How well did you know your dad?
JG: Not at all. My father was born in Israel. He came to the United States in the late 70’s, met my mom, they dated for a while, got married, and had my older brother and then me. Then they divorced, then got remarried, had my younger brother, and then got divorced again. This all happened by the time I was 5 years old. My father, unfortunately, was extremely abusive physically, mentally, and sexually to my mother, and she just made a decision to break that cycle. My dad has been involved in criminal activity. He has been in prison my whole life, and has been deported three times back to Israel. As far as I know, he’s in Israel now. I cut off all communication for our safety and my mother’s safety. When I was 17 or 18, I chose to write letters to him while he was in prison, because I felt like it was my obligation to forgive and reach out to him, but it wasn’t going well. At that moment I realized the fantasy of reuniting and having a relationship with my father may not be the healthiest thing for me, my brothers, and my mother. I just lost all interest in pursuing a relationship with him, and it was like a million bricks off my shoulders.
DDG: My memory of you joining Dallas Dads Group was that you messaged us and the gist was “Hey, I’m here, but my son is still in California, and he’s not really my son yet. Can I come to the meetup?” Of course, our answer was “yes,” but tell me more about that.
JG: [My partner] Valery and I met when she was about eight months pregnant. We worked together, and shortly after I started the job she went on maternity leave. Within two months after she gave birth to Grant, his father died. When she came back, we became friends. One thing led to another, and we started dating when Grant was 7 months old. I told her immediately that in 10 months I was going to be moving to Dallas. We kept going strong and then did a long distance relationship for about 15 months before Valery moved here. I think I found Dallas Dads Group after about a year in Dallas. I was just seeking friendships, and looking for other people like me. I never turn down an opportunity to make new friends, and thought Dallas Dads Group would be a great avenue for me to get to know other dads and learn from them, because I was looking for strength as a father myself.
DDG: How much does Grant know about the situation with his biological father and with you?
JG: It’s really important to me that there’s no surprises later on in life. I didn’t replace his biological father, but I want to be best father to him that I can be. He’s three and a half now, and we’ve entertained the idea that his daddy is in heaven, and that he did have a dad. He knows there was somebody else, he just doesn’t really know who he is. There are other family members like Grant’s grandfather that have told him there was a father in his life before me. So I ask him funny questions like “You know, I’m your second dad. Do you want me to be your dad?” and he goes “Yeah! I like you as my dad!” So we try to make it fun, but I want him to get used to the idea, so that when he’s older and we can have more serious conversations, it won’t be a new concept to him.
DDG: You mentioned his paternal family. Does Grant have consistent contact with them?
JG: Yeah, it’s funny you mentioned that. I just dropped them off at the airport this morning. They’ve become very good friends of mine. I call them my family, and we stay in contact with them. They love us and we love them. I know these types of things can be challenging for some households, but for us it’s a huge blessing that they are so supportive.
DDG: How does the circumstance of not having a consistent father in your life impact how you choose to approach fatherhood?
JG: I think I dealt with it very well as a kid and as a young adult. I would always pursue relationships with male role models that I wanted to see as my own father. So in essence, I got to pick my fathers in my life. For me, I embrace Jesus as my father and my Lord, my heavenly father and also as my role model here on Earth. I would attach to people like my uncle Leo Medina, who was a great role model for me growing up. I had a really good relationship with Pete Johnson, my youth director when I was in junior high and high school. I had a strong relationship with my senior pastor John Soyster, and my youth pastor Eric Goehner. But to answer your question, I know what it’s like to not have a good father, so it’s motivating for me to make up for what I was looking for as a kid and to provide that to Grant.
DDG: What’s your favorite part of fatherhood?
JG: You know what, it’s funny, but sometimes discipline. I study parents, and have been in youth ministry for 11 years now. I didn’t do it just because I wanted to teach kids, I did it because I wanted to be a good parent. I noticed that kids sometimes don’t get disciplined the right way, and that makes all the difference. The easy answer to that question is going to play in the park, and having fun and taking him to the zoo, but I think I take the most joy in making sure that Grant gets disciplined the right way consistently, so that when he grows up he has that good foundation and knows good from bad, right from wrong, and consequences and rewards. I give him a lot of praise, recognition, love, and hugs.
DDG: What’s the most challenging part of being a dad?
JG: I had to jump right into it. Valery and I never had the luxury of having a childless relationship. From the very beginning, he was always a part of our relationship, and he was always considered in the decision making. I never had the chance to prepare. I know how to be with a kid, play with a kid, and communicate with a kid. That part wasn’t a challenge to me. I didn’t have the luxury of nine months expecting. I didn’t get to prepare or read books ahead of time. I’m definitely learning quickly as I go.