On Fatherhood

Kevin Sheilley, the president and CEO of the Ocala Metro Chamber & Economic Partnership, reflects on parenting by taking an approach that is sensitive to each child’s individual needs.

David, Trae and Rachel Sheilley

Every child is different. They each have their unique abilities.

As a twin, I am so appreciative that my parents recognized us as individuals. I am one of four children and we were four very different personalities. We were raised four different ways to reflect who we were as people. 

Being a father is really fun and we laugh often. I’ve really tried to focus on each of my three children and what they need to help them be successful. 

One of the things my wife Lisa and I committed to early on was that, from the time they came into our home, we wanted to prepare our children for independence. Every step of the way, it’s been about how we can help them become independent adults. Each of our kids, and what they’re going to need, is different. How I father Trae is different than how I father David than how I father Rachel.

Nothing in my mind differentiates Trae, who came into our family at age 4 through fostering then adoption, versus David and Rachel, who were born into our family. I can’t figure out how to separate that—they’re all my kids.  

I’ve loved them at every age—as babies, as preschoolers, as school age. But I really love them as adult children. Trae is 28, David is 20 and in college and Rachel is 17 and just finished her junior year at Forest High School. One of the things I’m proud of is they’ve each been willing to do their thing and to take responsibility for their choices and who they are—to recognize that, at the end of the day, they’re responsible for their decisions and for making things happen. We talked a lot about leadership around the dining room table, and that was a carryover from my dad, who was a great CEO.

“Don’t get upset about the little stuff,” he’d say. “Let’s talk about the big things—the things you can impact, the things you can influence.”

Now Trae is a father to 3-year-old Remy. This pop’s advice: Recognize that he’s an individual and you’re going to have to father him as he is. You’re going to have to change your style to meet him; don’t expect him to change to meet you.

Fatherhood really makes you think long-term, about how each decision is going to impact your kids not just today but for the future.

Each of my kids is pretty cool. They’re different. They’re unique. And I am very proud of who each of them is—and who they’re becoming. 

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