The Father Hood
Being a dad is a precious privilege, though many men may not vocalize it too often. We've asked five real dads to open up about their favorite fatherhood memories and to share how becoming a dad has changed their lives. Here are their touching stories.
Sterling Smith is dad to 21-month-old Jimmy and is about to be a father again; his wife is due in July with a baby girl. Sterling recalls one of the funniest moments with his son.
"My wife and I were talking about how we'd heard that girls mature faster than boys," says Sterling. "We were watching our son play and asking ourselves why that is. All of a sudden, we looked at Jimmy, and there he was -- banging his head against the wall and cracking up at himself. We looked at each other and said, 'Well, I guess that's why.' He is all boy, and there is such excitement and joy in watching my little man grow, learn and discover life in his own way."
Sterling adds, "I can see the curiosity in his eyes and the innocence he possesses. His view of the world is so fresh and untainted… It reminds me to slow down and take things as they come because life is short."
New dad Ryan Carr has a 4-month-old son, Tommy. Ryan revels in the fact that he can make his baby boy smile -- no matter what. Whenever Dad appears in Tommy's line of sight, the little one lights up, gives a big smile and starts kicking his legs in excitement. Ryan admits that fatherhood has made him become the unthinkable: More mature!
"It's scary," he jokes. "I find myself paying more attention to how other parents are raising their kids. Meanwhile, I'm making mental notes about the things I will and won't do as a parent. I see teenagers now, and I wonder what Tommy is going to be like when he's their age." While maturity is a side effect of fatherhood for Ryan, he also says that becoming a father has reminded him how to be a kid again.
Matt Carter has a 2-1/2-year-old daughter, Kelsi, and he just became a dad again to his 1-month-old baby girl, Kimberly. He says it's hard to put into words the sheer and utter happiness that comes with being a father.
"There is a myriad of emotions all at the same time," Matt explains. "Becoming a father has opened a door of my heart that I never even knew existed. And that door never closes."
Matt and daddy's girl Kelsi have special playtime together. "My daughter 'orders' me to play princess with her," says Matt. "We both dress as princesses. I get to wear her Snow White shoes, which really only fit onto my big toes. It's a sight to see!"
Jeff Cobb always dreamed of having boys so he could run around with them and teach them to play ball. But fate intervened and gave him two girls instead -- Kaisey, who is almost 3, and Hailey, 1. And they have changed his life in some very profound ways.
"Having girls has given me a major sense of responsibility and a need to protect my family. I could not imagine my life without them," he says. "I feel empty inside when I am away [from] them."
One of Jeff's favorite memories is when he and his wife took Kaisey to the beach for the first time. "She kept running away from the water when the tide came in, as if it was chasing her, saying 'No, no, water!'" Jeff recalls. "Then she'd turn to me and say, 'Do it again, Daddy.'"
Dad Mike Smith recalls his special bonding time with his son Ryan, who is now almost 10.
"When Ryan was born, there was an obvious bond between him and his mother. Between the ogling, cooing, breastfeeding and general coddling from the mother, it can be difficult for the father to have his own special experience with the baby," Mike says.
Bath time became his time with Ryan -– and just his. "Bath time was our time," he says. "Every day, we got to spend those few minutes together alone. I found something very early that became our thing, between just us guys. And, yes, years later, a few showers together still happen."
Mike encourages all new dads to find some special alone time to bond with their babies.