Every day spent with his four children – Ayden, Camelia, N'Kaylia and Zico – is a reason for Ryan Stewart to celebrate.
"I enjoy playing with my kids. I enjoy seeing them smiling. I enjoy hearing them calling me Daddy. Without them, I think I have nothing," Stewart, 44, shared with Sunday Newsday.
A sanitation worker in the Division of Infrastructure, Quarries and the Environment, Tobago House of Assembly (THA), Stewart said fatherhood is about leading by example.
"The role of a father right now is real huge and I think it is important that each father do the right thing in terms of letting their children watch up to them like a role model because they learn from their fathers and parents generally."
Stewart continued: "If I am a mechanic and I lie down fixing my car, believe you me, that small man (child) coming and lie down, too, with a spanner to try to do something. So, every step that we make has to be a positive step.
"If we do negative things, we teach them to do negative things. So, we, as fathers, our role is so important that we always have to try to make the right step each time."
It's an attitude Stewart has passed on to his young charges at the Brother Ry Football Academy, which he established just over a year ago. The academy's motto is love, discipline, unity and family.
He said when you have the opportunity to work with children, you must be prepared to play a nurturing role.
"It is not just about the business but being a father figure to them. In my club, there are many kids who living with just mummy alone and I could see certain things through them because of what I have been through in life."
Stewart, a mason by trade, grew up in a single parent household in Mason Hall with his two brothers. He said he did not attend high school and life was tough because his mother struggled to make ends meet. Even as a young boy his thoughts were focussed on doing right by his own family when he became an adult.
"From the time I reach 11, I saw what the struggle was about. I cried so many times knowing that things were not going right and I told myself that all my kids have to live with me. I have to be there for them no matter what."
The Patience Hill resident said being a father is not just about reprimanding children but the simple, mundane occurrences within the home that many people don't even consider.
"Yeah, I want to be telling them don't do this or that or putting two slaps on their behind. I want to hear that noise in my head. I enjoy that."
A coaching stint at the Signal Hill Government Primary School quickly morphed for Stewart into a full-fledged football academy.
"I saw an opportunity to pursue my passion."
The name of the academy, Brother Ry, is from a nickname given to him by the brother of a woman whose premises he had landscaped.
"The man ran the company for his sister and I was the youngest person working, so he was calling all the rest of the men 'sir' and 'mister.' Nobody was giving me that kind of respect."
Stewart said he asked the man why he was not being referred to as sir and mister also. The man told him as the smallest of the workers, he would call him Brother Ry. The name stuck with him.
"It is a name that plenty people know and I think more people will know because I am out there now with the football academy and we doing well."
Practice sessions are held at the Signal Hill Recreation Ground on Saturdays and Wednesdays, from 9 am to 12 noon and 4 pm to 6 pm, respectively. Mondays and Fridays are reserved for a futsal programme.
The no-nonsense coach is also hoping to start beach football next month.
But on the playing field, it's not just about football.
Stewart, who begins each training session with prayer, instils in his charges the importance of sacrifice, determination and striving for excellence.
"I also encourage them to do their school work to reach a level where if you have to get a scholarship, you could afford to get through."
In so doing, Stewart said he has no qualms about telling his players about his tough childhood.
"I let them know they have an opportunity to make something of themselves."
He said many parents reported positive changes in their children.
"Some said they are even seeing their sons praying in their rooms and they had never seen that before."
Reflecting on the observance worldwide, the THA worker said fathers aren't given their just due.
"On a whole, anything coming to men does not really get its just due because with women they are treated differently for some reason. No matter how hard a man might work and how a man will provide, on that day he really would not be treated and appreciated as how mummy will be appreciated."
He said women, and mothers moreso, must address the issue – one he considers to be a deficiency in the socialisation process.
Fathers also do not demand that kind of respect, he said, largely because of ego and pride.
"I think that some of we men just macho and full of ourselves that it doh really matter what we get. But I don't think it's an even playing field because you see how many things (gift items) on the side of the road when is Mother's Day."
He believes the situation would not change and said the problem is compounded by the fact that some women do not allow fathers to bond with their children.
"There are times the fathers really want to be a part of the child's life and because the relationship between both parents not good, they decide they must take it out on the child."
Stewart also believes the justice system prevents fathers from enjoying close relationships with their children.
He recalled an incident in which he was wrongfully accused of not paying child support and had to appear before a magistrate.
"My child was living with me and the mother (a previous relationship) took her a week and then sent me a summons to come to court for maintenance. The magistrate did not even give me an opportunity to talk. Everytime I asked the magistrate to speak, he shut me down. These are some of the things that fathers go through in the society."
Stewart is not planning any big celebration today.
"I just normal, taking each day one step at a time."
He is more focussed on celebrating his children's birthdays and significant events in their lives.
"That is important because I know I did not have that opportunity to have any birthdays. So, I will try to help my kids along that way to have that kind of environment because I know how it can be when your birthday pass and nobody tells you, 'happy birthday.'
"At the end of the day, I try to make sure my kids are happy and they could understand the values of life and learn how to love and love the right way."
Stewart said he always tells his children that love is expressed through action not words.
"I also tell them that not everyone who tells them they love them means it."
Seated on couch----L-R: N'Kaylia (orange polo); wife Sherrena; son Ayden; eldest daughter Camelia, Ryan and last son, Zico.
Ryan Stewart with the young players of the Brother Ry Football Academy, which he established just over a year ago.
PHOTOS: DAVID REID.