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My 3 girls: Single dad juggles job, toddlers

Rylee and Caylee eat their Coco Wheats in rapt silence as a cartoon drama unfolds in front of them on the kitchen counter TV - the durable rivalry between cat and mouse, Tom and Jerry.

Rylee and Caylee eat their Coco Wheats in rapt silence as a cartoon drama unfolds in front of them on the kitchen counter TV - the durable rivalry between cat and mouse, Tom and Jerry.

Nearby their dad is feeding their younger sister, Cadence, who is perched in her high chair munching toast.

Dad skips breakfast. Breakfast for him isn't part of the program, a domestic routine honed now after months of trial and error.Corey Walther is a do-it-yourself single dad of three daughters, ages 3, 2 and 1.

For him, breakfast is a brief interlude of relative calm. After his alarm goes off, he scrambles to take a shower and get ready. Then he whips together a simple breakfast - cooked cereal, microwave pancakes, French toast.

Today it's Coco Wheats. "Something hot," dad says on a cool fall weekday morning.


No. 1 daughter Rylee announces that she's rooting for the mouse, not the cat.

No. 2 daughter Caylee withholds comment but occasionally sucks her left index finger in between spoonfuls.

No. 3 daughter Cadence smiles as toast residue adds a touch of contrast to the glow on her cheeks. She tips over the milk bottle on the tray of her high chair. She smiles.

Dad's pleased with the breakfast routine.

"When they wake up, they know what to do," he says. "It took me awhile to get that, but they have a routine."

After breakfast it's time once again for action.

"Caylee, come here," Corey says. Caylee and her older sisters are bouncing up and down on sofa cushions they've placed on the living room floor. "Get dressed."

Without saying a word, Caylee complies. She changes out of her Batman pajamas and into brown pants and a shirt that says "Cutie."


With a bit more coaxing, Rylee follows, with a bit of help from dad, who dresses Cadence next.

Then, he fixes Rylee's hair, spraying it to help comb out the tangles. Then he gathers hair on top into a pony tail.

"I'm not good at it," he says of his hairdressing skills. "I just get by. I only know how to do it one way."

It's 10:40 a.m., time to take the kids to day care, an hour later than usual today. As they prepare to leave, Rylee has a reminder.

"Daddy, light," she says, pointing to the glow coming from the walk-in closet in the master bedroom, a profusion of pinks and other bright colors - the wardrobe room for three little girls.

"I can be ready and out in one hour, everything done," Corey says. "Come on girls, hop in," he adds as they get in the car. "Let's go."


Work actually provides a respite from Corey's nonstop domestic responsibilities.


"My work is my relaxation," he says.

He's a hearing aid technician and salesman at a shopping mall in Fargo.

The job comes with a flexible schedule. Without that flexibility - the ability to run errands in between appointments - he doesn't know how he would manage.

Corey wound up with custody of the three girls after he separated from his wife. The split came a month after they moved to Fargo two years ago from Mobridge, S.D., after Corey got his job.

They reconciled for a time, then separated again shortly after their third daughter was born. Ever since, the 34-year-old has had to learn how to be both father and mother.

It's been a lot of trial and error.

He wasn't even sure about the proper technique for burping an infant with an upset stomach. Now he also knows that an upset stomach can mean an electrolyte imbalance, a problem solved by mixing a supplement.

In the beginning, he asked his day care ladies a lot of questions, and made a lot of trips to the clinic.


"I didn't know how to do any of that stuff," he says one day between appointments at work. "I just had to do it."

The most difficult time was the first five months after his youngest daughter was born. Not only was the learning curve steep, but his family remains 300 miles away, in Mobridge.

"I couldn't call one person in Fargo-Moorhead to come and help me out," he says. "Nobody."

Still, he's happy. He always wanted kids. For a time, it appeared he wouldn't be able to have kids. Then, at age 30, he became a dad for the first time.

Early this spring, on a trip to Rome - a reward vacation from work - he didn't really enjoy himself. It was his first overnight absence from his girls. He wanted to return home right away.

Corey grew up with one older brother but no sisters; he knows he still has a lot to learn about the female perspective. He worries about the more complicated challenges he'll face when his daughters grow older.

"When they get 14, 15, 16 - I'm in trouble," he says. "Girl problems, you know, that age thing. I'll probably be too protective."



Dinner is a bigger production than breakfast.

Tonight, it's Salisbury steak and gravy baked in the oven. Corey boils and mashes a few potatoes, and adds some green beans.

Once again the older girls sit at the counter; once again Dad spoons food for the youngest.

Dad eats little. He had three teeth filled in the afternoon, and his mouth is still sensitive.

The two older girls drift away, drawn by the lure of play. "I'm done, Dad," Caylee announces.

Dad looks at their plates, still brimming with lots of meat and potatoes. "Come and eat some more," he says.

"I'm full," Caylee replies.

"You won't get a snack then," Dad answers. "The baby ate a lot more than you guys."


The two older girls resume their play, chasing each other throughout the upstairs. Dad shakes his head as he carries their plates away.

He smiles and offers a prediction. "This place will be completely trashed," he says. He'll pick up before turning in.

The girls will play for a while longer. Then, at 8:30 p.m., it's bath time. The girls know the routine. Quiet time after that, with bedtime at 10. The little ones fall asleep. Dad watches TV, relaxing in the brief respite of quiet time for himself.

Tomorrow the weekday routine starts all over.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522

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