Are You a Father or a Daddy?

Delta Winds cover 2001Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College


Are You a Father or a Daddy?

Ken Moffett

Several years ago I saw a bumper sticker that read "any man can be a father -- it takes someone special to be a daddy." Not being a father at the time, I didn't give it much thought. However, now that I have a daughter, the words have taken on new significance.

During my metamorphosis from single life to married life, I made many changes. Once I became a father, it was a whole new ball game. I knew my life would change. Sadly, however, not all fathers are willing to change and become daddies.

Jillian Kendall Moffett was born on January 19, 1995, at approximately 1:00 p.m. She was, by all accounts, a beautiful, healthy baby. After Linda, my wife, and Jillie came home from the hospital, the fun of being a daddy started.

I had to learn to deal with less sleep, 2:00 a.m. feedings, diaper changing, picking up the spoon for the hundredth time and changing my clean shirt several times a day. I just couldn't seem to remember that Jillie liked to spit on my clean shirt, usually as I was on my way out the door to the office. Gone were the peaceful afternoon ball games, an uninterrupted movie or the history show that I just had to see. In essence, a total disruption of life as I knew it.

I was close to Jillie from the start; I cut the umbilical cord and videotaped her birth. Perhaps it was all the children that I had seen abused while I was a police officer that made me determined to see she would never be treated that way.

When Jillie was one and a half years old, Linda and I were divorced. We still lived in the same town, so I remained in constant contact with Jillie. After work I would pick her up at the babysitter's house and take her to the park or to a ranch to see the horses. When Jillie was a little older, I would set her on the saddle with me and we would ride the horse around the barn area.

On our weekends we would visit my father or go to the zoo; I still remember Jillie seeing the monkeys for the first time. Her eyes lit up as she watched the acrobatics of the little spider monkeys swinging through the trees and off the support beams of their cage and darting around like flashes of light chasing each other. She especially liked the petting zoo because she could feed the baby animals.

One summer afternoon, Jillie and I were sitting on my deck eating peanuts and watching the squirrels playing in the trees. Jillie asked me if she could feed the squirrels a peanut. "Of course," I said, so we walked down to the end of the deck and set a few peanuts on the railing and waited for the squirrels to come. One by one, they came out of the trees and cautiously approached their lunch, keeping an eye on the two giant creatures at the other end of their banquet table. Then, the first squirrel picked up a peanut, sat upright and began eating. At seeing this, Jillie began to cry. When I asked her what was wrong, she said, "The squirrel took my nuts." It didn't matter to her that we had a large bag of peanuts sitting next to us; that squirrel stole her nuts.

Early in 1997, Linda informed me that she wanted to leave California and relocate to the Denver, Colorado, area. I had been with the same company for twelve years and had been trying to get transferred out of California for some time, so I agreed to allow her to take Jillie to Denver. I simply took a demotion and transferred to our Denver office in order to help raise Jillie.

However, once there, dealing with Linda was not as smooth as it had been in California. As difficult as a decision as it was for me, I decided to move to Oklahoma and live with my family for a while.

While working in Oklahoma, I was visited by Jillie every couple of months for three weeks at a time. Once again, after work it was off to the parks, horseback riding, feeding the ducks and spending time visiting her cousins. Even though we were separated by distance, I would call her every week and personally kept the local card shops in business.

Linda and Jillie then moved to Moline, Illinois, and I began to think about moving there to be with Jillie. When I spoke to Linda about it, she said that she didn't have a problem with it, and that Jillie would be thrilled. So, I folded my tent and was on my way. That was in January 1999, and I see Jillie as often as I want. In fact, this summer we're going to Oklahoma for a couple of weeks.

On Father's Day we were at a park, and Jillie spotted some squirrels, so off she went in pursuit, her little legs pumping up and down as fast as she could until she spotted the flowers. Her attempt to stop and smell the roses was reminiscent of Fred Flinstone's attempt to stop his car on the streets of Bedrock. Once Jillie had appreciated the fragrance of each flower, it was my turn; fortunately, I was able to escape with smelling just one. Then it was back to the squirrels. Once she had them treed, she stood with her hands on her hips, looking up at them, commanding them to come down and play with her.

Jillie is an extremely well behaved, polite little girl, for which I'm grateful. It would be impossible for me to buy the joy and happiness she brought me. And I wouldn't change what I have with my daughter for anything.

Much has been said and written about the problem concerning "deadbeat dads" or fathers who just pay the child support but don't give of their time. And there are many fathers who do not take the responsibility of being a father seriously. However, I do. I, for one, believe that not all fathers are daddies.