By Courtney Conover –
Before my husband Scott became a father, he lived a very different life.
He was a Detroit Lions offensive lineman who blocked for Barry Sanders – and used his hands to tackle 300-plus-pound men in the process; next, he used his hands to write out plays and lesson plans while serving as a varsity head football coach and high school substitute teacher; and then, while wielding the sharpest of knives, he used his hands to chop Fuji apples as a New York City culinary student who interned at the renowned BONDST sushi restaurant.
But now Scott uses his hands to whip up his signature oatmeal for our toddler daughter (Kennedy, 1) every morning and help our preschooler son (Scotty, Jr., 3) learn how to put on his own shoes.
Here, I put Scott on the hot seat by asking him about discipline, the dreams he has for our son and daughter, and, of course, how the F-word – football – plays a role in fatherhood.
TWD: Nearly four years ago, our lives changed when our son entered the world, then our daughter arrived two years later, and you were there to witness both births. What were those experiences like? And were they what you’d thought they’d be?
CONOVER: It’s an experience that you can never quite imagine until you actually go through it…like running out on an NFL field on game day for the first time. It was amazing to finally have what we anticipated for so long.
TWD: Think back to Scotty’s homecoming and those first few nights. The sleep deprivation, the crazy schedule or lack thereof…
CONOVER: It was a relief, actually, to finally have him home with us. For me, the lack of sleep was more of an issue before he arrived. I would always hope that he would be okay and that the delivery would go smoothly for him and you. Once he was here, I was relieved. You, however, would have a different take on the sleep deprivation because you were the one up at 2 a.m. nursing him throughout the night since Scotty wasn’t ready to eat my cooking just yet.
TWD: Time has flown so fast, and I can’t believe our first child is already in preschool. What are you most looking forward to doing with him when he’s older?
CONOVER: I most look forward to playing football with him in our backyard, seeing him full of life and energy. Watching him run, jump, and play the way I did at his age.
TWD: Speaking of football, do you have any expectations for Scotty? I mean, having a former NFL player for a dad can be a bit intimidating. How do you plan to guide him without putting pressure on him?
CONOVER: First and foremost, I want him to experience all the life skills football has to offer, like teamwork, commitment, and goal-setting…all of which lead to triumph. When people think of triumph, they think of winning the game. But to me, triumph is being the best person you can be, and that’s all I expect from Scotty. Nothing more, nothing less.
TWD: Let’s switch gears for a moment and talk about Kennedy. There is often this assumption that one’s approach to parenthood differs with boys and girls. What’s your take on this?
CONOVER: I don’t think there’s really much of a difference – I just see them as my little ones, at least right now, because they’re so young. I just want to establish a solid foundation of love, respect, and honesty. But, in time, I think the differences will start to reveal themselves: Young girls have certain needs, and young boys have unique challenges as well. But right now, I’m enjoying this stage and approaching them both in the same way.
TWD: Fathers of daughters often joke about their inability to embrace the mere prospect of their daughters becoming old enough to date. But you seem unphased. Why?
CONOVER: Why fight it? You can’t stop it. I might as well embrace it and try to help her make the right decisions to find that right person. And the best way I can do that is to show both Kennedy and Scotty what a man should do, and they’ll see how I treat you, their mother. I know I have said to you – in jest – that Kennedy won’t be able to date until she’s 50 or 60. But truthfully, I’m not worried. As long as I’m there for her to provide the proper guidance and advice, and I make sure that my relationship with her is solid and strong. That’s the most important thing.
TWD: Let’s talk about what can be a hot-button issue for some parents: discipline. You’re a big softy for both of them now, but are you prepared to play the tough guy one day?
CONOVER: Absolutely. As their father, I am their life coach, and coaching is a job that forces you to practice tough love.
TWD: You are the oldest of seven and have nine nieces and nephews, so you’re seasoned when it comes to being familiar with kids. But how is it different raising your own?
CONOVER: When they’re yours you can’t sugar them up and give them back to their parents…you are the parent! Not that I condone feeding kids too much sugar.
TWD: That’s the perfect segue to my next question. How do you plan to instill in Scotty and Kennedy the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
CONOVER: As a chef and former athlete, I know firsthand that eating well and exercising leads to productivity. I plan on preparing meals that are fresh, healthy, and, of course, full of flavor – for all of us.
TWD: It’s been years since you played in the NFL, but you still remain very much involved in football at the youth level (as a USA Football Heads Up ambassador) and at the professional level (as the secretary of the Detroit chapter of the NFL Alumni Association) – and you continue to serve the community through both venues. Why do you feel this is necessary as a father?
CONOVER: I want to lead by example and demonstrate to Scotty and Kennedy the importance of giving back. I want to show them the right way to do things. I was fortunate to have played in the NFL for six years, and if I can use that to better the lives of others and help them deal with hardships and challenges – or just put a smile on someone’s face – then why not? There’s a quote from the late Frank Gansz, my special teams coach at the Detroit Lions, that I’ll never forget it – and it applies here: What you keep, you lose; but what you give will grow.”
Wayne resident Courtney Conover is a mom of two and the wife of former Detroit Lions offensive lineman Scott Conover. She is a contributing writer to the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series and USA Football and is also a certified yoga instructor. Visit her online at The Brown Girl with Long Hair blog (http://www.thebrowngirlwithlonghair.com) and on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/thebrowngirlwithlonghair).