Don Stinson

“I’m just happy to be here,” said Don Stinson, a father of six and one of six from Shorewood, Il, and our Lead Dad of the Week. “I have so many mentors who were helpful.”

Growing up in poverty in neighboring Joliet, Il., Stinson knew of his father – the man who once sold his work truck for beer money only to have friends help get the truck back – but did not know him as a father. It certainly shaped his view of fatherhood.

But he had mentors who guided him to a life in music, as a teacher and band leader. He particularly credits the Joliet Central High School Band – where he learned his love of music and is now the school’s band leader.

Married in his early twenties, Don, 40, tried to maximize his earnings through outside teaching, music writing, speaking and consulting to low-income band programs. But what he was doing on behalf of other children, he was not always doing for his own. It all came to a head during Covid when he got divorced.

A lesson he learned: “It’s not about you, but it is about you. It’s about how you chose to show up. You never know when you have an audience. They’re always watching and listening.”

As we’ve said before, it’s not what you say to your children, it’s what they see you do. And Don’s divorce during Covid was a wakeup call. He quickly changed his priorities. Now when he has his five children – the sixth is his partner’s son – he is focused on being a present dad for them. It comes down to even the smallest things.

“When the kids are physically here, they’re my priority,” he said. “The little errands used to be easy. Now if my car isn’t gassed up, I guess I’m walking. There’s the reality now that sometimes the answer is no for work, for anything that doesn’t fit in with family.”

Don Stinson, welcome to The Company of Dads!