Fatherhood changes you. In Genesis, Enoch lived 65 years before having his first son, Methuselah. Then he walked with God. It's irrelevant whether you believe the story to be true or not; the fact is that no matter what stage a man is in his life, fatherhood is his ultimate measuring stick. It alters a man's course forever.
At 19, Ray Milano was working as a kitchen manager and living in Vienna, Va. when he learned that he was going to be a dad. Now 33, Milano lives in the Fredericksburg area and is a successful entrepreneur, amateur bodybuilder and most important, an attentive single dad to 14-year-old Christian Avila.
Fredericksburg Parent: What went through your head when you found out you were going to be a father?
Ray Milano: When I found out I was going to be a father, I was a freaked out! At the time, taking care of myself was hard enough, so the thought of being responsible for someone else's life was overwhelming. There was never a doubt in my mind. I was going to be a great father and I would do whatever it took to accomplish that.
FP: What was it like to hold Christian for the first time?
RM: It was a surreal experience to hold Christian for the first time. I was so nervous. He was so tiny—5lbs 14oz to be exact—but nothing would have kept me from holding him in my arms. I would just stare at him, looking at all the little details in his face, and good Lord, he had a thick head of hair.
FP: What is your definition of fatherhood?
RM: Fatherhood can be put as simply as to raise a child, but for me, it is the greatest gift and it comes with the biggest responsibility life offers. Fatherhood is the most important thing in a man's life. How we raise them directly impacts society. We must lead by example, challenge them and show them that failing is part of the process to succeed.
“...our children will grow up to follow our footsteps. Be the best example you can be.”
FP: Being a single father, why is important to active in Christian's life?
RM: As a single Dad, I've always focused on strengthening the bond I have with Christian. I am not able to see him every day, so I make the most of our visits. We do things in a big way. I believe the best way I can influence Christian in a short amount of time we have together is through a very strong bond.
FP: How are your visits scheduled?
RM: Christian lives in Annandale. I drive to his house every other Friday to pick him up and bring him down for the weekend. Christian has been active in sports since he was very young. We always make arrangements for him to attend his games. Sometimes I will meet him at his games on Saturday mornings, or we will drive back up. We also spend a bunch of extra time together in the summer and on holidays.
Christian Avila: Soccer is a great part of my life and to see my dad cheering me on makes it all the better.
FP: What hobbies do you share together?
RM: We both enjoy playing sports, doing crazy looking jumps into the pool, skateboarding, video games, and of course, going to the gym to work out.
CA: I've had lots of fun experiences with my dad. We have gone parasailing, scuba diving, fishing on a boat, jet skiing and snowboarding.
FP: So what is gym time like together?
RM: Christian and I are two peas in a pod. Working out at the gym together is an awesome experience. We do all the same exercises together and we spot each other on lifts. Christian pushes himself just as hard as I do. We encourage each other when our mind starts getting weak and we want to end our reps.
CA: I am excited that my dad is a bodybuilder. I can see him excelling in bodybuilding. He is going to be known. Whenever I see him, we go to the gym and work out.
FP: What are values you instill in him?
RM: I have raised Christian to have respect for others, to always tell the truth and to do what was right even when others don't. I have taught him to always count his blessings, fight his fear and never give up.
CA: I am able to talk to my dad about anything. I'm very open with him and able to express myself. I respect him and listen to him. I follow anything he asks me to do.
FP: What kind of man do you want him to become?
RM: I want Christian to be a strong confident man with big dreams and no fear. I want him to be grateful for everything, polite to everyone and committed to his values.
FP: You recently got engaged. How has the family dynamic changed?
RM: Jody and I are so much alike. She has two children that absolutely adore Christian. Family is the most important thing to both of us. We spend time with the kids everyday and there's never a dull moment.
Jody Fisher: Ray is a very successful man, he runs his own business, he has exceeded his fitness goals, has a family that loves him very much and is motivated to grow in these areas, as well as a person. I feel Ray has instilled the important qualities needed to be successful in life in his son Christian. Ray and Christian both display a view on life that put morals and values first.
FP: Any advice you want to share with other single, non-custodial dads?
RM: I have a few thoughts on being a parent that I feel are worth sharing. No matter what, always respect the other parent, even if you don't agree with them. I have not always seen eye to eye with Christian's mother, but I am fortunate that she is indeed a great mother and loves him to pieces. Be prepared to give and take on issues. In a separated situation, don't lose sight of what is important: the child. Never involve or use the child as a tool to manipulate your position on any matter. Always keep in mind that the child had nothing to do with the separation and most certainly needs to be protected from any parental issues. Smother your child with love and support. Most important, I believe our children will grow up to follow our footsteps. Be the best example you can be. Sometimes this requires bettering yourself to better your child's future.