“I knew I wanted to be a dad.”
And that is exactly what Gabe Otero, 37, has become.
While the single father of four does everything for the sake of his kids, he’s the first to acknowledge he couldn’t do it without them.
“I feel confident in them,” Otero said. “They’ll take care of things. My kids are amazing. There are a lot of moving pieces to this.”
And they are feeling the same about him.
“My dad is an amazing, caring man,” said Grace, his oldest daughter at 13. “He is always there for me no matter what, even when we butt heads, at the end of the day.”
The only direction Otero had for himself when he was younger was wanting to be a dad, and he’s become that. What he couldn’t possibly plan for was how he became a single father.
Nine years ago he lost his wife, Jamie, and the mother of his three oldest children: Gabriel III, 15, Grace, and Gwyn (who wants it known she’s turning 12). Otero’s youngest boy is Aiden, 7.
The older three were 6, 4 and 3 when their mother passed away, and their dad learned real fast he had things to do.
It was a couple of days after Jamie died in 2009 when Otero noticed the people who were being wonderful and supportive of him began to return to their lives and go away. He put his kids to bed, returned to his bedroom, and in the quiet and solace he had his breakdown.
In the middle of it, bawling his eyes out and feeling confused about how to move forward, Gwyn, who was 3 then, barged in with her sippy cup demanding chocolate milk.
“She had a look in her eye that said she had no other cares in the world. She needed chocolate milk,” Otero said. “That was my wake-up call. There have been a thousand struggles since then, but I’ll always remember that. It didn’t matter what I was going through; she needed something.”
Making certain his children’s needs are met is the direction he takes his life. He has gone from being a police officer to getting into the bouncy house business so he could schedule around their school hours and activities while having something for them to enjoy as well.
He still has the small business, but achieved his real estate license when being homebody proved to be too much for him. That move has also allowed him to schedule around his children needs, and he has coached them in softball and soccer to stay close to them.
He gets a ton of help from his mother and grandparents making the daily routine work. It is four kids attending three different schools and each has their own activities, after all. He’s not Superman, but he is a dad.
It’s a family that has seen its share of struggles. And all of them are striving despite them and learning that things happen in life.
Gabriel is a member of the Nevada Olympic Development soccer team, which has him in the pipeline for the U.S. national team if it works out. When he looks at his success on the pitch and academically, he is quick to acknowledge his father has made him well-equipped for what life may throw at him.
“In a lot ways other than coaching me,” the 15-year-old said. “I wouldn’t have been able to make that team without him. Without my family, things that happen in life would be harder.”
There is another struggle on the horizon for the Oteros. He has accepted a job with the railroad, and the entire family knows he is going to have to sacrifice time with them so he can provide more for them.
“We’ve had long talks,” he said. “The kids know I’m losing time with them for them. I’m going to be able to provide more for them.”
It was a family decision, and the Otero children know this change won’t make the unit different.
“No matter what happens, he will always be there for us,” Gwyn said. “He will make us happy when we are sad. He is the best dad in the whole wide world, and I don’t know what I would do without him.”
Spend an hour with his children, and it’s easy to see Otero is attaining his goals.
“If I can make each one of my kids a better person than I am when they leave the house, then I’ve succeeded,” he said. “The goal for me is to be the best man I can possibly be so I can push them farther. That’s what we do.”