Father Figures: Big Bad Dad

“I am the proud father of an 8-year-old daughter named Winnie.

For years, I was lost on a path toward self-destruction. I was involved in violence, drugs, and alcohol, and seemed destined to end up either dead or in jail.

I managed to forge a career and get married, but always had a monkey on my back. My behavior began to hurt everyone in my life as much as it was hurting me.

Then my daughter was born. The first day I held her, everything in my life changed.

For the first time, I had a direction. There was never an option to fail. My overwhelming love for her made me look myself in a mirror and resolve to become a better person for myself and for her. It took hard work, humility, and honesty for me to get to where I started to feel love for myself and face the demons that were in my closet.

Because of my daughter and the strength she gave me, I built an amazing life for us and have such an amazing relationship with her everyday. We even wrote and published a book together: Big Bad Dad.

These days, I am part of a nonprofit group dedicated to teaching men to show humility and emotion, and encouraging them to speak about their feelings and ask for help.

My daughter completely shifted the way I think about life and the way I live as a man and I am so grateful to her every single day.”

– Ryan Bourquin

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Check out the previous editions of Father Figures here.

Father Figures: A Changed Man

“When we first met, we were both a mess, with little stability in either of our lives.

We have now been married for four years, and with two children. In that time, I have watched my husband blossom into the most beautiful person.

He went from the life of the party, short-tempered, with very little patience, to tea parties with our daughter. He gets up at 4:30 every morning to make it to work, then comes straight home and spends time with his family. He never asks for a boys’ night or time to himself because he gives whatever is left after the workweek to his wife and children.

He does the dishes, he folds the laundry, he writes sweet little love notes. He tucks our daughter in and dances EVERY single time she says, ‘Dance with me, Daddy!’ He hides his tired eyes and body from us and still offers to cook dinner when I’ve had a ‘rough day at home with the kids.’

He plays Barbies, sings Disney songs, rolls the ball and sits at the kid table while our children make pretend meals for him to gobble down. He gets up every Saturday and gets Mommy a coffee with our son, still a baby who wakes up at the crack of dawn, and he changes our son’s diaper late at night without waking the rest of us up.

He is the best dad and husband I could ever ask for. I see the weight he carries around, I notice the sacrifices and love he pours into our family each day. That is a love worth holding on to and showing appreciation for.”

– Allania Lathrop

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Check out the previous editions of Father Figures here.

Father Figures: So Precious

“My husband didn’t really have a dad. He only met him a handful of times growing up and the interactions were never great.

When he was still a baby, his mother had the courage to leave her abusive alcoholic husband for her son’s sake and my husband had a better life without his dad in it.

Because of his own absent father, he was determined to be a great dad, and he’s been nothing short of amazing with our now one year old daughter. He even hand-painted a mural on her nursery wall.

Before she was born, he nervously admitted to having no idea how to be a dad, without an example to follow, but he’s been a natural since day one. Evelyn adores her ‘dada’ and their bond is so precious. I already know my husband is going to spend his time teaching her all of his amazing skills and hobbies from playing music to painting and building.

Our daughter is one lucky little girl to have such an amazing dad.”

– Melissa Gaw (@saltygaw; husband Justin @thejustingaw)

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Check out the previous editions of Father Figures here.

Father Figures: What I Remember Most

“My dad worked third-shift his whole life. He was exhausted most of the time and we didn’t have a lot of money, but he literally gave me everything I needed, and a lot of what I wanted.

In 2011, he passed away unexpectedly. When I reflect back, it’s not the material things he gave me that I remember most.

It’s wanting to hang out with him after his 12-hour night shifts. It’s him unselfishly taking me to the park after buying me a kite, even though he hadn’t slept in almost 24 hours. It’s the times he sacrificed sleep to watch my basketball games and support me during his small window of rest on Saturday mornings.

It’s the times his last dollar bought me back-to-school clothes and an old car that I could drive on my own to school. It’s his constant reassurances that he was fine, despite his health problems, just so I wouldn’t worry about him when I knew he was in pain.

It’s him preparing me for the day that he wouldn’t be here.

And it’s knowing he was there with me, long after he’d passed, as I nervously welcomed my son into the world in 2019. His presence reassured me that we would be okay.

He was the best dad, and the dad I someday hope to be.”

– Aaron Chandler

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Check out the previous editions of Father Figures here.

Father Figures: Transformed

“When we first met and started dating, Spiro made a point to tell me he never wanted children. He wanted to make sure that was okay with me if our relationship were to go further. It wasn’t, but I really, really liked him.

A Greek immigrant, he arrived in Florida at the age of 13 with limited language skills and no understanding of American culture. Spiro was never given the opportunity to have a positive parental experience. Often hurt by the people who were meant to protect him, abandoned by those who were supposed to care, and forced to fend for both his own and his two younger siblings’ protection and well-being, it’s not hard to understand why he had so many negative feelings towards raising children.

Over the years, we married, bought a house, and watched our friends become parents. We’d spent nearly a decade creating a happy, harmonious life, but his disdain for becoming a father had started to wane. Thoughts of ‘what if?’ began to creep in, then settle.

One day, he said, “let’s try it.”

When I told him we were expecting, I never fathomed the overwhelming wave of change that would come over him. He was transformed. Our first daughter was born in November 2016, and she brought a whole new side of my husband with her.

Spiro swung open his closet doors, removed the skeletons, and replaced them with bedtime stories, bubble baths, and princess shoes. He threw every ounce of himself at being the most supportive, loving, strong, present father possible. Sometimes he cries when he looks at her (he’d hate me telling you that) out of sheer joy.

Today, instead of avoiding a place of pain, he is using his childhood as a road map of what to avoid, and for examples of whom he does and doesn’t want to be.

He is the absolute best father I know. And because of his strength, fortitude, and willingness to let go of what held him back, both he and our daughter are flourishing.

PS: I even got a second daughter out of him! She’s six months now and Spiro’s crushing the whole two kids thing, too!

– Jamie Cladio (Spiro IG: @spiridon23)

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Check out the previous editions of Father Figures here.

Father Figures: Runner Runner

“Since the 6th grade, I’ve been a runner.

I have done cross country and track for the last 10 years of my life. Before I started running for my middle school team, I remember running with my dad for the Vulcan 10K race in Birmingham, AL. This was my first ever official 10K race.

I was only 9 or 10 years old, so at the start, my dad told me that for safety reasons, we needed to stay together for the first three miles. We slowly ran the first three miles and I was struggling to keep up. I even started to walk during some parts. He kept on saying that he wasn’t going to keep slowing down for me and was going to go ahead and finish the race.

But he saw that I was struggling and decided to stick with me through it all. My dad decided that rather give up on me and finish the race himself, he was going stay by my side to encourage me.

I now run XC and Track at Freed-Hardeman University. He is one of the big reasons why I am still running to this day. Had it not been for him encouraging and sticking with me through it all, who knows what I would be doing.

I hope I can do the same for my future children.”

– Josh Dykes

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Check out the previous editions of Father Figures here.

Father Figures: Evolved

“It was just about three weeks ago that I stepped out of the bathroom of my hospital room. I was scantily clad, wearing only a nursing bra and an adult diaper – certainly not my most glamorous moment.

Dorian leaned down and cooed to our son, ‘Isn’t your mother beautiful?’

My heart paused because I knew Dorian meant those words with all sincerity.

There’s something powerful about the way our relationship has evolved. He’s been the reassuring embrace after a three-hour cluster feed and the arms to cuddle Linden during his first bottle experience. He helped me improve on diaper changing and has a natural knack for being a father.

I can’t express my gratitude but more importantly just how much I admire him.”

– Natasha

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Check out the previous editions of Father Figures here.

Father Figures: Girl Scouts Dad

“Look at this amazing Girl Scouts Dad!

I’m not crafty and don’t have a lot of time, so I suggested that we pay someone to sew the patches for our girls’ Girl Scout vests. But my husband knew that was a waste of money and that we’d keep getting patches through the years, so he taught himself how to sew.

He has been a stay at home dad since our girls (now 10 and 8) were born and has always gone the extra mile to be there for them.”

– Lara Cosio

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Check out the previous editions of Father Figures here.

Father Figures: Poster Child

“I never met my real dad.

He and my mother divorced when I was very young and he never bothered to contact me. I was raised with an abusive stepfather; my childhood was rather unpleasant. Had it not been for one man, it would have been entirely miserable.

That man was my uncle.

He was the closest thing I had to a father figure. He and Aunty lived near me and I spent most of my time at their house. He would take me fishing, we’d fix things together, and he’d just generally spend time with me.

My own house was a cold place, where you never knew what would happen next, if you would say something wrong and suffer for it. However, I could walk round to my uncle and aunties where everything was always the same and I could just have fun playing with their dogs. They had a wonderful big garden which seemed like a forest, with a pond and fruit cage. My uncle seemed to know everything, and he loved to teach me things. He taught me how to play chess and even paid for me to go to private school, which was another escape for me.

At the time, I thought it was just him who used all the phrases and told the jokes I see on The Dad. Now I see there is a whole culture around it! He was always telling naff jokes, which included all the classics and all the one liners like ‘back already?’ if I forgot something, or ‘thought you had fallen in,’ after a trip to the bathroom. He loved the t-shirts with daft jokes on them and was always there with the big camcorder on holidays, etc. He loved his garden and was adamant about stripes. He was a very clever man and worked for the Ministry Of Defence. He had loads of books and knew everything, but still loved talking nonsense and laughing with us kids.

He never had kids of his own, but was in every sense a classic dad. He died a few years ago from cancer and the whole village went to his funeral.

I really hate to think what my childhood would have been like had it not been for him. Every good memory I have of it was with him and my auntie. I now have two lovely daughters and a good life and I think I owe most of that to him. The importance of a stable, dependable father figure is something I only understand as result of my uncle’s influence.

Following The Dad has brought back so many happy memories for me as my uncle was like the poster child for the site.”

– Graham Mann

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Check out the previous editions of Father Figures here.

Father Figures: New Tricks

“My dad raised 5 kids.

He worked long days in construction. He took us fishing, got us all the go carts, paddle boats, and mopeds we could handle. We camped, hunted, and built things. He always provided for us, our friends, and anyone who looked like they needed a dad figure.

The last few years, he’s had a lot of medical issues arise, and I feel very fortunate to be able to be there for him and assist in his care. Recently, he suffered a stroke and is working hard at mobility.

My brother brought him his first pair of Nike Monarchs and decked them out with the elastic laces while he was hospitalized. He couldn’t love these dang shoes more. Today, we spent 5 hrs in the ER and the whole time he discussed with me how comfortable they are and why he should have been buying these for years. He’s says he has had Skechers, Crocs, Vans, and every work boot around, but these shoes are where it’s at.

Don’t believe what they say: You CAN teach and old dad new tricks.”

– Ash Pietsch

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Check out the previous editions of Father Figures here.

Father Figures: Best Dad Ever!

“In January, our two-and-a-half-year-old son was diagnosed with a rare form of liver cancer (only 1 in a million kids gets diagnosed with it) and had surgery to remove a tumor with several rounds of chemo afterwards.

My husband Ryan works very hard as a police officer—long hours, overtime, extra projects. But as soon as my son was diagnosed, he stepped away from work and focused 100% on our son and family. We have spent weeks in the hospital so far and every single night Ryan has slept next to our son, no matter what.

This usually means he is sitting in an uncomfortable chair not sleeping at all, picking at the leftovers of our sons dinner, and watching his monitors like a hawk. Anytime he heard a beep or had a question he was up getting a nurse immediately. We also have a 10-month-old, so to say that we were overwhelmed is an understatement, but Ryan has never skipped a beat.

He has done everything for us while we have been quarantined during chemo: cleaning the house, doing the grocery shopping, entertaining the kids, cooking dinner, doing bath time and bedtime routines, all while still being my best friend and keeping a deep connection with me.

Although this has been the hardest time in our lives he has never let that interfere with being present and loving to our children. He has literally spent the entire 2020 year with us every single day making sure we are all taken care of. As we hopefully start to close this chapter of our lives and start new with a healthy son, I’m just so amazed at how much he has stepped up to the plate and been the rock we so desperately needed.

Seriously, best dad ever!”

– Rebecca White

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Check out the previous editions of Father Figures here.

Father Figures: Trainspotting

“We had a baby girl in November and our 3-year-old took it like a champ. He was amazing.

And boy does he love trains.

My husband decided one night we would hover near the train tracks downtown, ‘hunting trains’ until we found one. We had dinner by the tracks, grabbed a beer and chocolate milk by the tracks, and finally one came.

‘Tonight is all about him,’ my husband said.

I think that’s why our son handled his new sister so well. He’s so much like his dad.”

– Landis Trainor

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Check out the previous editions of Father Figures here.

Father Figures: Infinitely More

“Due to a rough childhood, I was a knucklehead growing up.

I had my son at 18 after graduating high school. My son’s mother started doing drugs and left when my son was five, so I raised our son as a single dad. I didn’t know the first thing about raising a son but I did know what I needed and missed due to the lack of a father in my life while I was growing up.

The schools in our area were rough, so I put my son in private school during kindergarten. Through achievements in school, arts, sports, and, most importantly, a recognition of his integrity, he learned his self worth. During the time my son was growing up I made sure to attend all of his games and always let him know his dad loved him unconditionally. He stayed in private school through high school and and went straight to university. After college he found work and bought a little home close by. Today, he manages a large team and plans to marry his college sweetheart.

I have advanced cancer now and am in the battle of my life, but when I look back, I see that despite the sacrifice, I received infinitely more than I gave, and I am so thankful to have been able to raise my son.”

– Daniel Gonzalez

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Check out the previous editions of Father Figures here.