In honor of Father's Day, we ran a contest asking moms to write a letter saying why their guy is "The Best Dad Ever." As the submissions rolled in, we read the letters and agonized over who to pick. We narrowed it down to five final candidates. All these dads are winners, as are the hundreds we couldn't choose. Here are the letters describing these caring, fun, devoted dads Michael Phelps
"In our world, a normal dad golfs, watches sports, goes four-wheeling with buddies, and works late. My husband, Michael, does none of these things. He says our children -- Adam, Molly, and Lily -- are his life. He is truly an angel among dads.
I have never seen a father who is as gentle as he is. He has never raised his voice or his hand to them. His childhood was filled with hitting, yelling, and throwing, and he is determined that his children never know violence.
I suffer from depression, severe sometimes, and my husband just picks up the slack without complaining. He sleeps in our baby's room and takes care of her all night so I can sleep. Then he goes to work early so he can come home early and help me with our kids.
His work is stressful. He is a religious educator for high school students, some of whom are special- needs kids. He never brings his work home or complains. Our children have emulated his unfailing optimism and hardworking nature.
His favorite pastime truly is playing with the kids and reading to them. All you have to do is look at our children to know what kind of father he is. They are the most respectful and helpful children I have ever known.
For these and many other reasons, I believe he is the best dad in the world." -Anna Phelps, Morgan, Utah
"I'm not sure how I can keep the Best Dad Ever essay under 200 words, but I will do my best. My husband, Albert, is the best daddy ever to our daughter, Ayanna. She was born January 17, 2007. From day one, I knew he would be a wonderful dad. I just didn't know how strong a father's love is until we had to take care of our baby when she was sick. Ayanna was born with biliary atresia, a life-threatening disease of the liver for which the best treatment is a liver transplant. We didn't know Ayanna had this condition until she was 7 weeks old, although we knew something was wrong because she was yellow. We were devastated, but Albert kept our family strong and together. He had to quit his job as a mechanic so I could go back to work, because I carried the insurance. Ayanna had her transplant on June 27, 2007, and Albert was by her side the whole time. For a total of six weeks, while I was back at home, he was in Miami (two hours away) by himself, caring for our 5-month-old, post-liver-transplant baby. He was in charge of giving more than 10 different medicines two and three times a day, not to mention making countless appointments for Ayanna's ultrasounds, blood tests, and other treatment. He did it with no complaints. Ayanna is our first baby, and Albert is now a stay-at-home dad because the medicine she is on does not allow her to go to daycare or to be around lots of kids. He has had to make some major adjustments because neither of us saw him as a stay-at-home dad. He loves being home with her and making sure she's healthy.
Albert is the BEST DAD EVER!" -Maggie Cole, Port St. Lucie, Florida
"The typical college senior stays up late doing homework, attends parties on the weekends, and sleeps as much as possible. My husband, Philip, though a senior in college, is anything but typical. He stays up late to tuck in our frightened 3-year-old daughter after a nightmare, attends tea parties on the weekends, and watches our beautiful 7-month-old girl sleep. Philip is working hard for his degree by taking 18 credits this semester. He attends class in the morning and comes home to watch our girls while I go to work in the afternoon. In the evening, he usually attends project meetings and researches possible careers. He always, however, makes a point to be home when the girls go to bed. He reads them a story, says prayers, and tucks them in with a kiss and an 'I love you.' I know that our girls have the best daddy ever because of their smiles and bright eyes, which light up when he's in the room. Because he is a student, finances are tight, but our girls have everything they need. They have the best dad ever!" -Katrina Meinel, Platteville, Wisconsin
"It's a rare day off for me. A Monday. I'm catching a glimpse of what goes on in my house every day in the hours after I've left for work.
In our house, Daddy stays home to take care of the kids and Mommy commutes to work. A stay-at-home dad -- it's true, they do exist...and am I ever grateful. I sit back and watch -- a spectator, careful not to disrupt the normal routine. Tears well in my eyes as I realize I don't think I could do what he does. He's so patient that I sometimes feel ashamed at my own impatience. There is none of the morning chaos I often hear parents talk about. Daddy gracefully manages all tasks. Our son is well fed and well dressed by the time he greets the school bus at the end of our driveway. There are usually a few minutes to spare, so they can throw rocks across the road into the field (a little game they invented and cherish) before it's off to school for our first-grader. Our 7-month-old daughter is equally tended to, alternately by Daddy and by her big brother.
Were roles reversed, I would be rushing and telling Caelan to hurry up, get dressed, eat breakfast. My husband knows what needs to be done and precisely how long it will take to do it. Somehow he manages to leave extra time to allow for silly play -- the perfect amount of fun mingled with the real chores of the morning.
Tomorrow morning I will get on the train with the images of today fresh in my mind. I have a new appreciation for the father of my children and the happiness he brings to our lives." -Amy Gallagher, Middletown, New York
"I have never known a man who so desperately wanted to be a father as much as my husband, Sergeant Anthony Valdez did -- so much so that he was willing to walk away from our relationship before we married if I was not willing to have a child with him. Once I was pregnant, Anthony was at the ready. He put the crib together and did everything to get the baby's room ready. Anthony received orders to deploy to Iraq, however, during my fourth month of pregnancy, shortly after we discovered we were having a boy. Anthony was prepared to be as involved a father as possible, regardless of his deployment. He wrote a letter to his unborn son about how much he loved him, taped bedtime stories, and wrote a journal with memories of his own childhood. From Iraq, he's sent DVDs of him reading. Anthony is so crazy about David, he calls weekly just to hear him breathe. He is the best father to our son I could ask for, and he's very supportive of his stepdaughter. He understands my struggle to keep up with two kids and work full time while he's in Iraq, and he sends me loving thoughts and e-mail on a regular basis. He is the best!" -Andrea Valdez, Fayetteville, North Carolina
Originally published in the June 2008 issue of American Baby magazine.