MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Dwyane Wade is getting used to being a father. And a son.
This is a Father's Day weekend like none other for the Miami Heat star. Instead of lamenting over the NBA finals loss to the Dallas Mavericks — yes, it still hurts, to the point where he's still avoiding television in case replays pop up — he was spending Saturday flanked by his two sons and their once-estranged grandfather at a jam-packed South Florida water park, enduring long lines because it's what his kids wanted.
Three generations of family, together.
It wasn't long ago when Wade feared he wouldn't have any of them as mainstays in his life. Not anymore.
"It makes me feel whole," Wade said.
This is the Heat star's new normal: 6:45 a.m. alarm clocks in the house because his kids like to rise early, schedules posted everywhere to coordinate where everyone is, reviewing daily logs from the nanny when he's traveling, karate lessons and Spanish classes and carpooling and video games and birthday parties.
He could have spent his days in clubs surrounded by bottles of bubbly; instead, on his kitchen counter these days, there's a bottle of bubbles.
He's never been happier.
The financial aspects of his divorce from Siohvaughn Funches Wade may not be complete until fall, but the marriage is officially dissolved and he now controls custody of his children — 9-year-old Zaire and 4-year-old Zion. On Father's Day, that's enough to at least soothe the small matter of getting to the NBA finals and seeing someone else hoist the trophy.
"Every day, I'm constantly learning how different they are, which is crazy," Wade said during in an interview with The Associated Press at his gated home. "Zaire, his personality is starting to come out. He's always on the move. He's into girls now. He's always busy. He's into everything. Zion is all about him. Zaire will share. Zion, he knows everything's about him. I learn more every day."
As he's saying this, Wade is sitting in a room with a U-shaped couch that could probably sit 20 people comfortably, with a dark hardwood floor and view of his backyard pool. Among the many pieces of artwork on the walls is a signed photo of himself and Heat teammates LeBron James and Chris Bosh, which isn't far from a painting of Wade in his Marquette uniform.
Yet on the television, in a constant loop? Alvin and The Chipmunks.
"That's Zion," Wade said, just shaking his head and laughing as he reaches for the mute button on the remote.
The kids seem completely comfortable in their surroundings. Zaire answered the door for a visitor on Friday, hand outstretched with a big "How are you?" Zion nodded and waved, then went back to playing immediately, undeterred by the half-dozen or so adults milling about in the family kitchen. The adjustment of moving in with their dad has been relatively seamless.
Dwyane Wade is quick to point out that as a father, he's still learning many things and needs plenty of help — a nanny, his mother Jolinda, his sister Tragil and others — to make sure there's no missteps. But his efforts are getting noticed. Wade recently was honored by the National Fatherhood Initiative, for "his dedication to his two sons" given the demands of being a professional athlete and single father.
"He gives dads everywhere a great example," said NFI President Roland C. Warren.
In Wade's mind, one of the most interesting aspects of getting custody of his sons is that parts of their stories are incredibly similar to his own.
There are wild differences, of course: Instead of growing up in rundown apartments and always being broke in Chicago, Wade's sons are getting settled into posh new South Florida digs, with a dad who makes, by some estimates, around $40 million annually.
Take all that away, and the fundamental roots are evident.
— Dwyane Wade was 9 when he starting living with his father after a divorce. Zaire is 9.
— Dwyane was about 4 months old when his parents split up. Zion was about 4 months old when his parents split up.
"It's crazy when you think about it," Wade said.
About five years ago, Wade was entering the realm of NBA superstardom after Miami won the 2006 title, with him the finals MVP. Around the same time, Wade and his father began mending their fences, after years of strained relations. His father remains largely out of the public eye, though he's been in Miami for much of the past half-decade.
Having his dad around, Wade said, is helping him be a better father for his own boys.
"A lot of things that happened in my life are some of the same steps that he went through," Wade said. "A lot of steps I've taken in my life are like my dad's, and I tried so hard not to be like him growing up."
The one thing Wade has learned since gaining custody: His kids really don't care if the Heat win or lose.
The day after Miami's season ended with the Game 6 loss in the finals to Dallas, Wade was ill and ailing. Everything ached, and he remained hidden from the world and in his bedroom until nearly 6 p.m. Monday, one day after the loss to the Mavericks.
Then he heard the kids downstairs.
"Carrying on like nothing happened," Wade said. "So I got up. I went outside with them. Shot a few baskets. It still hurts. But I had to be out there for them."
His entire offseason is built around the kids' schedules. While he controls custody, part of that court-ordered agreement stipulates that the boys will spend two weeks with their father, then two with their mother, and repeating until school resumes in late summer.
So during the times when Zaire and Zion are in Chicago, their father goes to work.
He leaves Sunday night for Europe, a trip built mainly around his interests in the fashion world. When the kids return in early July, he'll host a basketball camp for kids in Miami for a few days. When the boys go back to Chicago later that month, Wade will depart on a nearly two-week trip to China for countless meetings involving his work with Jordan Brand, Gatorade, Hublot watches and other deals.
"There's a lot to do this summer, me trying to keep building my brand," Wade said. "We're using the time wisely. I'm doing it for them."
Wade pauses for a moment, listening to the chatter from the other room, where his kids are enthralled by a basketball video game — starring, of course, himself.
"You have a choice to make," Wade said. "You're either going to be in your kids' lives or not. At the end of the day, this is what I wanted. I chose to fight to be in my kids' lives."
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