Gregory Allen has been a father for 29 years and said it’s been rewarding to watch his kids grow and change.

“I’ve always wanted to be a father, always wanted to have a large family,” Gregory said. “I just didn’t know that it would actually come to fruition, didn’t know it would actually happen.”

It did happen. Allen and his wife Jackie have eight children, ranging from ages 12 to 29, and four grandchildren, ages 2 to 9.

He was just as excited for the birth of No. 8 as he was for No. 1, he said, but knew what to expect – to a certain extent.

Allen, a member of the Marine Corp League, said his kids almost all have different personality types, which brings laughter, fun and excitement into their home.

Gregory said he hopes he gives his kids inspiration to follow in God’s footsteps and that they are always humble and willing to help others.

He’s gotten back from them the knowledge that he has.

Gregory said his kids will sacrifice food for strangers and bring a horse into the house if they could to take care of it. Five of the kids are part of the civil air patrol, and they help out with the Marine Corp Ball and Toys for Tots. Five of the Allens’ children are part of a singing group, Fourth Generation, and they sing at churches and events around Aiken.

“Each personality is different and they all have to be treated and cultivated in a different way. You can’t use the same mold. You can’t treat this one the same way you treat the other one because they have totally different personalities. So you have to know the children, their weaknesses and their strengths in order to get them all to be productive in society,” Gregory said.

Gregory’s advice for new dads is first to try to be there for the birth of the child. And then to support them throughout their lives.

“From infancy to toddler stage to children, and then adolescence,” he said.

“Always be a part of their life and always try to be there with a listening ear and offer advice and stand back and see what they have to say."

Jackie said Gregory has a great sense of humor and that he knows when to turn on the childlike personality and get down to the level of the kids but also when to switch over and be the responsible parent as well. She said he can be the over-protective one at times, while she is more relaxed.

“He is the head of the home, the provider, still the protector, so it’s an unusual role that he carries,” she said.

Jackie called Gregory a good father “all the way through.”

Lindsey Hodges is a general assignment reporter at the Aiken Standard and North Augusta Star. Follow her on Twitter at @LindseyNHodges.