This is not titled Becoming a Father. Anyone with active sperm can become a father. The world is full of fathers who will never be a Dad.

I became a Dad five years after my first child was born, two years after my second. I was away from the family for months at a time because I was in the military, and I never bonded well initially with my daughters.

I tried to be a good father, but I always felt a bit awkward. It was six months after my first daughter's fifth birthday when I finally was transformed into a Dad. I was up on Christmas Eve, technically Christmas morning, one-thirty in the morning. I was sitting in my living room with a set of instructions written in Chinglish (english written by Chinese who made great engineers but poor translators). A partially-built bicycle was in front of me, and my wife was wrapping more presents that we had rushed out to purchase. As I was bolting on the front tire of the new bicycle for my oldest daughter, I came to realize that I had finally become a Dad. I was sitting up late at night, working on assembling something that was sure to make my daughter squeal with delight as soon as she would enter the living room. I could almost feel the excitement she would have, waiting until she could go ride her new bicycle. It was at that time I felt bonded with my two wonderful daughters. I was on shore duty at that time for the US Navy, teaching electronics. I was spending more and more time with my kids, and we had made up for a lot of lost time together.

Anyone can be a father, but I'm a Dad. It's a wonderful feeling.

I remember it like it was yesterday.

It was early morning, somewhere between 1 and 3 am. A work night. My three year old daughter had been plagued by ear infections that came on suddenly and often woke her from sleep vomiting.

My wife would try her hardest to take care of the mess and console her without waking me, but this was one of those nights when it was no use. I don't remember if my wife woke me or I awoke to all the commotion in the next room, but I became the middle-man. Getting towels to wipe off the mess. Cleaning the rug in front of her bed. Running back and forth to the bathroom for more water and cleaning supplies. Somewhere in the mix my wife ran off to fetch fresh bedding and I wound up alone with my daughter in her room.

She was trembling and nearly delirious from the combination of little sleep and all the vomiting.

"Are you OK?" I asked her.

"I think so" she responded.

I picked her up and sat her on my lap facing me. She immediately rested her head against my bare chest. As I sat there it occured to me that this is something that only a parent can understand. With virtually no sleep and heedless of the fact that I would need to be at work in a few hours I managed to be wide awake and totally focused on this little person.

I rubbed her back.

And then I knew it was going to happen.

Her tummy clenched up and she rocked backward a little. Uh-oh. Having no time to reach for a towel or call for my wife I knew I couldn't just put her down. I faced the inevitable.

By the time my wife made it back to her room - all that was left was the cleanup. We took turns wiping and cleaning and making sure she was able to get back to sleep.

I spent the next half-hour cleaning vomit out of my navel with a Q-Tip.

A baptism? Perhaps. But I knew one thing. I was a Dad.

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