I’m lucky. I have three girls. Even better: They’re not yet teenagers, so they still think I’m pretty cool. They still reach for my hand when we walk through a parking lot. They’re not embarrassed to hug me in front of friends or hang out with me at the pool.
For me, it’s is a great time to be a parent. And also to reflect. With Father’s Day approaching, here are my top five moments since I first became a dad 12 years ago.
1. The night my second daughter was born
No, this doesn’t mean I love her more than the other two. It was just the circumstances involved. Nos. 1 and 3 came early. Way early. Like eight weeks early. I was in the delivery room for the first. When our daughter was born, nurses gave me a few seconds to take a photo and off she went for medical attention. They looked stressed, which made me feel stressed. It wasn’t fun. Same with the third. Both had to stay in the children’s hospital for more than a month.
But our second baby came out on time. No problems. No concern. We spent that night in the hospital and while my wife slept, I held our baby and watched the Diamondbacks on television. Best night ever.
2. Indiana trips
As a sports writer, I travel a lot. Every so often the teams I cover play close to Indiana, which is where I was born and raised. During these trips I take a daughter and drop them off at their grandparents while I go cover football or basketball. When you have three children – especially so close in age – it’s hard to get one-on-one time. Sometimes while we’re driving in our minivan, my wife tells me to listen to all the noise coming from the back. All three children will be having separate conversations with … well, I’m not sure who they’re talking to. The Indiana trips provide that individual time that is so hard to find, and I feel they bring me closer to my girls. I cherish them.
3. Disneyland visits
Growing up, my dad took us to Disney World once every four or five years. It wasn’t easy. One year, all five of us piled in a gray Chevy Cavalier and drove 18 hours straight through. I sat in the backseat with my sister. We pushed my younger brother to the floor. It was miserable – but it’s also one of my favorite childhood memories. That’s probably why I enjoy taking my girls to Disneyland. On our first trip, we left the hotel so early we were the only family on the shuttle bus. Our first ride: Space Mountain. Our youngest – only 5 then – never quite forgave us for it. “You DO NOT take a little girl on a ride like that!” she yelled. Even so, Disneyland remains my happy place. I fear the day the girls would rather go with their friends instead of Mom and Dad.
4. Watching them perform
This is something I never considered when they were little, but watching your children build confidence is an amazing thing. Two of my girls go to a performing arts school. Last year they performed in “Annie” and it was a highlight of the summer. The youngest takes gymnastics classes and after every somersault, flip or tumble, she looks up in the balcony to see if I’m watching. She wears her leotard every day and recently told a grocery store checkout clerk that she planned to earn a scholarship to UCLA and perform in the Olympics. “Yo go, girl,” the clerk told her. Yes, indeed.
5. They still call me Daddy
OK, this isn’t a singular event or moment, it’s simply something that happens every day. It melts my heart, which probably is why the girls have found ways to take advantage. “Daddy … can you buy me an iTunes card? … Daddy … can you take us to Five Guys.”
They know I’m a pushover.
Doug Haller is a sports reporter for azcentral.com, covering ASU basketball and football. The Indiana University grad is a father to three girls who each claim to be his favorite. Find him on Twitter @doughaller.