George Foreman on Fatherhood
By Scott Ross and Rod Thomas
The 700 Club
You’ve seen him in the boxing ring and selling everything from mufflers to his own lean, mean grilling machine. And now George Foreman has taken on writing a book about fatherhood.
He’s a two-time heavyweight boxing champion. But George Foreman will be the first to tell you the most important title he’s ever held is “Dad.”
SCOTT ROSS: Fatherhood by George. Why’d you decide to write it?
GEORGE FOREMAN: It’s strange because you - your life goes so swiftly. You look up one day you’re a teenager, the next day you’re a grandfather and you want to decide, “I sure hope my kids don’t make the same mistakes.” So you write a book to kind of imprint for your children, first of all. Then it’s for their family and their friends.
SCOTT ROSS: Well, you also have credentials. How many children?
GEORGE FOREMAN: We have ten kids, five sons, five daughters.
SCOTT ROSS: And you, of course, the inevitable question….they’re all named George?
GEORGE FOREMAN: I named all my sons George Edward Foreman. And I tell people, “If you’re going to get hit as many times as I’ve been hit by Mohammad Ali, Joe Frazier, Ken Norton, Evander Holyfield - you’re not going to remember many names.
SCOTT ROSS: And the girls?
GEORGE FOREMAN: There’s Georgetta, there’s Freda George, and at one point my wife said, “Look, I’ll remember their names.” (He laughs) There’s Meechie, Natalie and Leola.
SCOTT ROSS: Looking at your children now - pride in your heart?
GEORGE FOREMAN: I look at my children and one thing I’m most proud of, in my heart, are my children. They’ve gone on, some of them, to stand the test, to get college education, and that’s the hardest thing in the world to achieve; but most of all they’re good parents, and that’s what I’m proud of.
SCOTT ROSS: Well, one of the things you write about in the book is that one of the things you can give your children, and very important, is time. Time with them.
GEORGE FOREMAN: You know when you’ve been a successful parent, when each of your kids come to you individually and say, “Look, I need a little time to myself. Let me have my life.” And they think they’re telling me off, but it’s a thing of pride when they tell me, “I’ve been in their life long enough, give them some space.”
SCOTT ROSS: Did you take time to know them individually and be able to nurture them and identify, well, out of ten, each individual and their gifts and their abilities? Did you spot that stuff pretty early on?
GEORGE FOREMAN: You’ve got to look for all the things, the qualities in one kid. The worst thing in the world is to think, “I’ve got another daughter, I have another son.” Each are different people. You can’t use the same remedies. You can’t use the same harshness or the same slackness. You’ve got to understand that each child is different and you’ve got to treat them differently.
His daughter Georgetta has fond memories of life as a Foreman kid
GEORGETTA FOREMAN: You know, one of the things I like to talk about is dad, you know, he has ten kids. But growing up he made sure that we all had our special time. There was even a time when we all had our own days. There was a Georgetta day, or George the second day, or whatever. And he took that time out to make sure that that day you had whatever you wanted to eat, whatever you wanted to do and he took out time to get to know who we were and who we are now
SCOTT ROSS: With each one of them, did they ever feel that they were competing with your fight game?
GEORGE FOREMAN: You’re the heavyweight champ of the world and a lot of times it’s easy for children to start thinking, “you know what? I’m in competition - not with my dad, but it’s the fight business.” So I’ve had to deal with that and I had to stop what I was doing a lot of times and say, “No, I just can’t do it.” They’re saying, “Why?” “My child is graduating from school.”
SCOTT ROSS: You actually did that?
GEORGE FOREMAN: I had to be there for them. Sit out on the field when I’m freezing and I could be making $100,000 some other appearance and watched them with the flags. (he laughs) You know, it would be so they would know that they were number one in my life.
NATALIE FOREMAN: When I was four my dad bought me this pink bike. And it had a big pink and white basket on the front and it had training wheels on it. And I loved it. Even though I was a tomboy, he bought me a pink bike. I don’t know about that. And, one day he says, “We have to take the training wheels off. You’ve got to learn to ride on your own.” And I was so afraid and he was like, “You’re going to be okay.” And he just kept holding the back of it. And I was like, “Dad, I’m going to fall, I’m going to fall.” And he was like, “No, I got you. I got you.” And he took the training wheels off and I didn’t realize he had let me go. And I was riding thinking he was still holding on to me.
That’s sort of been the way life has been since. That, I mean, most of the time he’s holding on and then he lets go and then he holds on, let’s go, so I never know when he’s letting go. But I’m riding pretty much by myself.
SCOTT ROSS: That’s a good metaphor for life – that’s good!
SCOTT ROSS: And you also have a good wife.
GEORGE FOREMAN: Mary is a good wife. We call her Joan. But the best thing that happened to me was finding a good wife who understood that children are not just something you can have today and then say, “That was something that happened in the past.” It’s an ever present thing in your life and it’s wonderful to have a wife to understand that.
GEORGE FOREMAN: You may have even an ex-wife or an ex-husband, but you can never have ex-children.
SCOTT ROSS: You admitted you weren’t perfect and you made a lot of mistakes, and with your children. When you made mistakes, you really blew it, whatever it was, did you ever go to them and say, “I was wrong. Would you forgive me?” Did you ever do that?
GEORGE FOREMAN: “Oh, that is the hardest thing in the world, but you must learn to say it to your children. “I’m so sorry for what I said. Would you give me another chance?” And sometimes even harder than that, you don’t even have to say you’re sorry, you just say, “Here’s some money.” (He laughs) And then they’re, “Boy, I got him. He knows he was wrong now.” “Why?” “He tried to buy me off. And it worked.”
SCOTT ROSS: So if one of them went off and did something you thought was against the principles that you raised them in, and they really blew it, and they came back to you, how did you treat them? “I told you so?” Or how did you respond to that?
GEORGE FOREMAN: In raising children life brings forth those things where you do what you should never have done and what I taught you never to do. And when my kids have done those things, I just kind of look at them and say, “Now you know life.” (He laughs) “Now you know life.”
George offers three points of advice to parents:
When you’re raising children, you’ve got to understand that you’ve got to put certain things first. Always put something first. Time is number one, embracing is number two, and never allowing them out of your life, that’s number three. Don’t ever let them think that they’re going to someday be out of your life.
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