"It was uncharted waters, but it was all about just being in my kids' lives," Dwyane Wade recalls about winning full custody of his kids

By Jen Juneau and Conchita Margaret Widjojo
December 19, 2019 04:15 PM
Advertisement

For Dwyane Wade, fighting for full custody of his children wasn’t an easy feat — but it was worth every hurdle.

The 37-year-old former Miami Heat star is dad to Kaavia James, 13 months, Xavier Zechariah, 6, Zion Malachi Airamis, 12, and Zaire Blessing Dwyane, 17, as well as guardian over nephew Dahveon Morris, 18. Wade gained sole custody of Zion and Zaire in 2011.

In a recent interview for Showtime’s All the Smoke podcast, Wade recalled that period in his life as a “tough time” because “when I decided to go for custody, I really didn’t have a lot of examples.”

“I really didn’t have too many people I could reach out to to say, ‘Bro, how’s the process?’ Or give me confidence that I even can stand a chance,” the NBA great continued. “It was uncharted waters, but it was all about just being in my kids’ lives.”

“And unfortunately, that was the way I had to do it,” he said. “You know, because of how [my] relationship [with their mother] went.”

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE’s free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

Dwyane Wade with nephew Dahveon (L) and kids Zion and Zaire
| Credit: Dwyane Wade/Instagram

“But once I got that opportunity to be there more, I think it was beneficial for both of us — I needed them and they needed me,” Wade said.

But with that close connection come some drawbacks, too — ones the athlete needed to learn how to handle when it came to people expecting certain things out of his kids because of their dad’s name and career trajectory.

“Even now, Zaire is a basketball player. He’s trying to navigate through this world of having his father’s last name. … And lookin’ like me a little bit. And people having expectations of how he should be, what he should be,” Wade said on the podcast.

“As a parent, you gotta help them navigate,” he added. “I think I can give them all their game in the world, but honestly, I’ve never lived the way that he’s living. I didn’t grow up with a famous dad, and a famous stepmother [Wade’s wife Gabrielle Union].”

Gabrielle Union (R) and Dwyane Wade with their kids Kaavia and Zion

RELATED VIDEO: Audrina Patridge Granted Full Custody of Daughter Kirra Max After Split from Corey Bohan

It was “a huge transition,” Wade recounted, to go from “being a weekend parent” to a full-time one — although the latter situation was a challenge all on its own due to the fact that the athlete had to balance the pressure of being “the fun parent” with a disciplinarian in a shorter time span.

“At first, it was like ‘I want custody,’ and I just had this emotional moment, and then I snapped back into [the fact] that I had so much to teach them and I had so much responsibility coming my way,” he said.

“And I had to put so many people around them … I needed to find people that I trust to put around my kids because [of] my job and my career. It takes me away from being around [them].”

“It’s not easy at all being a single parent,” Wade continued, “but ultimately, you’re gonna do what’s best for your kids and I gotta tell my boys, ‘We learn on the fly, we learn together. I’mma learn how to parent you guys about how you guys are. I’m not gonna parent you the same, you’re not the same.’ And [I] don’t expect that. I try to parent each of my kids differently. I support them differently. And so far, it’s working.”