Atlanta, GA,
08:48 AM

A Fine Father’s Day

Aric Fine, a dad and former Shepherd Center patient, reflects on fatherhood and the importance of remembering to prioritize yourself to be the best parent possible.

By Aric Fine, dad and former Shepherd Center patient

I became a dad for the first time in 1996. I was 13 years post-injury, a college graduate and had been married for six years to my wife, Kim. Living with a spinal cord injury (SCI) for those 13 years gave me independence and confidence in my daily life of working and being a husband, but becoming a daddy was a brand new experience for me.

Parents know that having kids usually puts the parents’ needs in the back seat as you focus on what your kids need first. It can be easy to forget that we have to take care of ourselves as well. For me, a couple of times in my life stand out as helping me learn to prioritize my needs while being the best dad I could be.

When my daughter Aleah was born, I was training for the USA Adaptive Water Ski Team trials to be held the following year. She was born in October, the offseason for skiing, so for the first six months, she got all of my attention. However, when the lake filled with water and the temperature got warm enough, it was time to ski. Kim and I would take Aleah to the lake with us for ski sessions. Aleah was small and portable, easy to take to the lake! This routine continued as Aleah grew older, and her brother Braxton joined the family in 1999.

Now with two kids in tow, we had a couple of options: everyone goes to the lake or divide and conquer. It was tough at times, but my family and I agreed we could do both! Some days, I would take one or both kids to the lake with me to train and give Kim a break. On other days, I would go to the lake alone to train.

The training time paid off when I was selected to join the USA Adaptive Water Ski Team from 1997 to 2007, with trips to Great Britain, Australia, Belgium, Scotland, Ireland and many sites within the United States. The kids traveled to all the U.S. and Australian World Championships, and many of the U.S. Nationals. Through all these experiences, being flexible and having an open mind helped me be with my kids while pursuing my passion.

I also got involved with Cub and Boy Scouts when Braxton came home asking if he could join. I became a den leader for Cub Scouts for five years. We traveled to aquariums, battleships, campgrounds and many great events. While being a den leader for the young boys was very fulfilling, it was also very time consuming and wearing me out. When Braxton became a Boy Scout, I decided to back away from the Scout Leader role for my wellbeing, but also so he could travel and experience Scouting without dad. I think this helped both him and me grow.

This summer, Aleah will be attending graduate school in Minnesota. Braxton lives at home while working at QuikTrip and pursuing a rap career. As for me, I’ve rekindled my love of guitars, both playing and collecting. I have retired from competitive water skiing, but I give back by coaching the Shepherd Center Learn to Water Ski clinics and serving as the announcer for the Adaptive National Tournaments. Sharing my love of skiing and the lake with my kids is one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life. We continue our family lake outings and love being on the water.

All in all, I’ve worked hard to balance my passions and needs with being a loving dad to my kids. We’ve all grown because of it, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.