Fathers Know Best: Notable Atlanta Dads
Happy Father’s Day! June is all about dads. We spoke to some notable dads in metro Atlanta about what fatherhood means to them, their advice to fellow dads and their wishes for this Father’s Day.
These notable dads include: Ben Chestnut, CEO and Co-Founder of Mailchimp; Grant Rivera, Superintendent of Marietta City Schools; Nick and Pano Koulouris, Co-Owners and Operators of Grecian Gyro; Matt Chernoff, Part of the radio duo Chuck & Chernoff on The Fan and Host of “Welcome To Mattlanta” and “The Daily 10 Podcast;” Glenn Moscoso, Blogger and Influencer at “Wheelchair Daddy;” Ford Fry, Chef/Owner and Founder of Ford Fry Restaurants; Travis Williams, Creator of the Blog “Daddy’s Hangout;” and Kenny Burns, Entrepreneur and Lifestyle Specialist.
CEO and Co-Founder of Mailchimp. Father of two boys, ages 14 and 11
Best advice from a fellow dad: Prepare the child for the road, not the road for the child. As parents, our job is to prepare them to be self-sufficient adults. My own father would help with about 60%, often leaving the toughest 40% to me. I model much of my own parenting on what he showed me.
Advice for a new dad: Give your children responsibility. I like to garden with my boys. It teaches them what it’s like to plant food, care for it, get their hands dirty, then help feed the family, which satisfies their longing to be useful.
Is there a tradition you had with your dad that you do with your children? My mother was Thai, but my taste buds preferred southern American food, so the task of cooking breakfast for me got handed to my dad. I cherish those early morning memories in the kitchen with my dad. I always take time to make breakfast and talk to my boys.
A lesson you learned from your dad: I took karate class when I was in high school, and my dad would always pick me up. One day, after the gym closed, I was waiting for my dad with a girl named Teresa. We sat and talked for a while, and when my dad pulled up, I told Teresa, “Well, I have to run! See ya!” and jumped into the car. But my dad said, “Get back over there, and talk to that girl, like a gentleman, until her father shows up.” So, I sat down with Teresa until her own dad came. Teresa and I have been happily married for 24 years.
Superintendent of Marietta City Schools. Father of Lauren, 9 and Reese, 6
Parenting daughters: Every child is unique, and no two can be parented exactly the same way. It is important to be present in their everyday lives: We make breakfast together every morning; I coach soccer; I teach gymnastics. We have secret handshakes. I also do ponytails and French braids, but admittedly need more practice. It is equally as important to love their mom, my wife Jenn. My example will be what they choose someday in a partner.
Advice for a new dad: Change diapers, do the dishes, and set up the baby monitor on your nightstand. Sleepless nights are for dads, too, not just the parent who is nursing/feeding. Although it is challenging, it is also magical as you bond with both your spouse and your newborn.
Favorite thing to do with your daughters: We ride around in my Jeep Wrangler, which the girls have nicknamed the “Fun Jeep.” Our motto is “top down, music up,” and the girls know to wave two fingers at the other Jeep Wranglers. My hope is our frequent cruising and singing remind my girls to never take life too seriously!
Co-Owner and Operator of Grecian Gyro. Father to Isabella and Niko, ages 9 and 5
Best advice from a fellow dad: My uncle told me what someone told him when his son was born: they’re going to grow up. It always resonated with me. When you realize that being a parent isn’t a perfect equation, and there is no one specific answer to the problem, you learn to stop stressing yourself out as much.
Advice for a new dad: Don’t overthink it. You will figure it out. The best advice you should take is your own. No one knows your children as well as you and your family.
On the importance of time: Always find time to be with your family. We get consumed with so many distractions it is easy to lose focus. It’s important to find a good work/life balance. Don’t let work take you away from your family. Don’t let what happens at work affect your home. Take a break from TV and social media and enjoy your family.
Part of the radio duo Chuck & Chernoff on The Fan; Host of “Welcome To Mattlanta” and “The Daily 10 Podcast.” Father of Jake, 15; Zoe, 11 and Josh, 9
Best advice from a fellow dad: Take a breath. Listen to what they have to say and try not to overreact.
Favorite things to do with your kids: I try to do one-on-one time with all of them. It’s a huge deal for them as much as it is for me to give them their own time and space with all of my attention. My boys are pretty typical – we will hop in the backyard and throw the ball constantly. We do daddy/daughter dates, and she loves board games. She knows that I watch Jeopardy, and she’ll watch with me, and we got a Jeopardy PlayStation game that we play together.
Favorite Father’s Day gift: I love when they make stuff at school, like this is a story about my dad. When they’re 6 years old, it says: my dad’s 7 feet tall, he talks on the radio, he knows how to make bananas. It doesn’t make sense, but I love to see the time they put into it.
Blogger and Influencer at “Wheelchair Daddy.” Father of Jacob, 9
Advice for a new dad: You’re not suddenly a superhero! You will make mistakes and those mistakes will help build your character, as well as character in your child. Fatherhood is not all about the physical activities. It’s about teaching him/her character, compassion, doing good and being a kind human being.
Misconception you deal with about fatherhood: It is a little annoying to hear people say, “You have your helper with you today.” No, I have my son with me, and he is doing his part by pushing the cart. Jacob has chores, just as in any other family. Like any other family, we each do our part to keep things going!
Favorite things to do with your son: I love going outside and tossing the ball or playing basketball. Even just sitting and listening to him talk about any and everything. I learn a lot about baseball and history. More importantly, I learn about him and how his mind works.
Most memorable Father’s Day: The very first one! A dream come true. Growing up in the ‘70s and ‘80s as a person with a disability, I never thought I could or would be a dad. So, waking up on that first Father’s Day and changing Jacob’s diaper was a surreal moment.
Even dads with adult children cherish Father’s Day to connect with their kids and remember the good old days!
Chef/Owner and Founder of Ford Fry Restaurants. Dad of Austin, 25 and Anders, 23
Advice for a new dad: It’s important to listen to your child and have that connection. Later in life, kids go through different phases, and they may say, “I never felt heard,” or “You don’t understand me.” But if you have a genuine passion for listening and seek to understand them, instead of telling them how to feel or that they’re wrong, then later in life, they won’t dismiss you for not listening or understanding.
Parenting sons: No dad is perfect, and I came up in this generation where my dad and I didn’t talk about feelings. I wished I would have assessed that when my boys were younger. Before you become a father, do a deep dive into trying to understand what was missing with your father. How can you overcome that so you don’t repeat it? And vice versa – what were the good things so you can make sure you repeat them.
Favorite family meal: My wife would make them pancakes with buckwheat flour, flaxseed, pure maple syrup – as healthy as she could make it. When it was my day to make pancakes, I’d use white flour, a lot of butter, Log Cabin syrup, and look at their eyes light up: Is this what pancakes are supposed to taste like?
Creator of the Blog “Daddy’s Hangout” and father of D’Andre, 23, Jasmine, 22 and Jada, 17
Best advice from a fellow dad: Any man can become a dad, but not all will be fathers, right after finding out I was about to become a father myself.
Parenting sons vs. parenting daughters: Be equal to both. Remember when showing your son how to become a man that your daughters are watching. They watch everything, and it will go a long way when they decide what kind of man they look for.
Misconception you hear about fatherhood: Many think when entering fatherhood that all the fun is out the window, but it’s only starting—trust me!
Favorite place to go with your kids in the metro area: Atlanta Hawks games
Is there a gift you hope to receive this Father’s Day? I’m not really into getting gifts. Just spending time with them is great for me.
Advice for a new dad: I tell all new dads to enjoy every minute of it and value that time with them, because they grow up too quickly.
Entrepreneur and Lifestyle Specialist, Owner/Operator of BRNS LifeStyle with his family, and dad of Kenny, 21 and Kyle, 18
Advice for a new dad: Don’t put your dreams and expectations on your children. They have their own dreams and aspirations. If you support their dreams, that will allow you to have the best relationship with your children. When you put things in motion that aren’t in line with their dreams, you get pushback.
What’s it like to run a business together? When my youngest son started getting obsessed with streetwear, I wanted to show them that if you have an idea or a passion, you can monetize it. There have been times when Jessica and I are doing all the work, but we’re seeing them grow on their own and making their own money. It was created for them, and it will be theirs to benefit from.
Misconception you hear about fatherhood: When my generation was growing up, there was a lot of dysfunction, and there’s a misconception that you have to have a tug of war with your children. Growing up, we didn’t have the best relationships in our family, but our sons will benefit from us working through that past. We wanted to break all stereotypes – you can have a great relationship with your family.
What do you hope to receive this Father’s Day? I need my hugs. I don’t care how big you are, I need hugs.
Founder of Grecian Gyro; Father of George, Pano and Maria and grandfather of two
Best advice from a fellow dad: I grew up in a large family as one of nine children in a little 1,000-square-foot home in Kalamata, Greece. We didn’t have much, but we had each other. My father would always tell us to have as many children as we can. Family is the most important thing in life.
Advice for a new dad: Don’t try to be the enforcer. You can never force your kids to do anything, because they’ll always push back harder. Instead, talk to your kids, explain your reasons and trust they make the right decision. And then be there for them if they don’t.
Best part about being a grandfather: Everything! It’s hard to pick just one specific part. I definitely enjoy teaching them to speak Greek and making them grilled pita with feta for snacks.
What’s it like to see your legacy continue with your children? It’s something I never expected. I was just planning to run the restaurant in order to give my kids a chance at a better life than I had. Little did I know that they would decide to expand the family business. That brings me great joy.