A father’s memories and experiences in his first year of parenting transcend the clichés and stereotypes in greeting cards. “No one can prepare you for the reality of fatherhood,” says new dad Thuyet Nguyen.
This Father’s Day, five new dads let us capture a unique relationship at its start. Here, they share their frank recollections of becoming dads for the first time.
Buzz LightYear: Nate Knox, 27, and Titus, 11 months, of Burnsville
“I’ve definitely become that guy where I’m fawning over him all the time and my Instagram is loaded with pictures of Titus. He’s my bragging right. I love him to infinity and beyond — so everybody should know. I think I just quoted Buzz Lightyear. Watching him beam at me is probably the best feeling. I don’t know what happens, but growing up, you lose that light and you don’t look at things the same. I’m the best thing in the world to him just based on the look he gives me and that’s probably the best part. I’m pretty much taking the approach that I don’t know what I’m doing but I’ll figure it out as I go. I feel like my heart has grown and I’ve reached a level of love I didn’t know I was personally capable of. And it’s because of him.”
The lucky one: Thuyet Nguyen, 35, and Elliot, 7 weeks, of Brooklyn Park
“We had been trying [to conceive] for a couple years and had some difficulties, so we went through fertility counseling. We found out the odds of conceiving a biological child are actually really small. Even then, you think, ‘Why can’t we be the lucky ones?’ It put a strain on our marriage. You question what could be wrong with you. It’s not one of those things that you can really talk to anyone about — it’s intensely personal. It just so happened the month prior to us starting treatments, we got pregnant. I wanted to become a father for such a long time and to actually hear it was a mixture of relief and also just joy that it was actually going to happen. The first time I held him and fed him … it was just one of those moments that made it more real and made me feel like I finally had a stronger purpose than just living for myself.”
My two sons: Phil Sheridan, 39, and Leander, 10, and Edrick, 11 months, of Minneapolis
“This is actually my first official Father’s Day as Leander and Edrick’s dad. [Leander] was 6 when I met him. When you’re dating a single mother you know that you’re pretty much dating her kid, too, as far as responsibilities. That decision happened very quickly — I want to date this person and she has a son and I’m OK with that. I was ready for it. After we got married … we decided to start the adoption process. We wanted to solidify the family and have a little more security for [Leander’s] future. Especially with a new baby coming. [The adoption process] took about a year. It was such a great celebration and we threw a big adoption party. The day we were at the party and he’s like, “Dad, Dad!” It’s nice to hear that. I have two great kids and a great wife. I don’t think I have one kid who’s adopted and one who’s my own. It doesn’t separate anymore.”
Just the three of us: Chris and Rik Robergelund, 40 and 45, and Joe Granlund, 15, of St. Paul
Chris: “We’d been a couple for 14 years and decided that we wanted to expand our family and adopt. I just wanted to be able to share love and to teach someone and help someone grow and become a mature, good adult, hopefully. So eventually, we found Joe and Joe found us. [Teenagers] need love too; everyone needs family. The hardest thing? Knowing that a lot of people didn’t treat him as good as they should have. The best is when he smiles. And the daily hugs. That’s pretty awesome. I would say [our family is] pretty complete.”
Rik: “I thought I could give a child a sense of self-worth, be happy and to treat others well. A lot of people think [teenagers] are disposable, but they’re not. It doesn’t end at 18. The best thing is hearing somebody saying ‘Dad.’ It feels like Christmas every day. You want to do everything for them … so that their heart is full.”
The “Diaper King”: Courtney Henry, 35, and Courtney Jr., 7 weeks, of St. Paul
“Before him, I’d never changed a diaper and now I’m the diaper king. The first time was in the hospital, trying to juggle everything and make sure I didn’t get peed on at the same time. After you change one or two, it’s pretty simple. I’m a pro now. I got my little Baby Bjorn and walk around Mears Park with little man and run errands with him. Me and junior watched the playoff games together. It’s like having a built-in buddy.”
Aimee Blanchette • 612-673-1715