One man’s journey through single fatherhood and how he’s hoping to change the stigma
IDAHO FALLS – Bryce Cook wrapped his arms around his 5-year-old daughter, Bryelle, as she climbed onto his lap.
Bryelle wandered around the EastIdahoNews.com studio as her dad spoke about life as a single father. There was a time when the 37-year-old Idaho Falls native couldn’t hold his daughter so freely because of a custody battle with the state.
Today, he has physical and legal custody of his daughter and he’s raising her alone.
As he looks back on all he’s been through, he counts his blessings to have Bryelle in his life. Fatherhood is something he’s had to fight for and because of that, he feels like he appreciates it more than other dads.
Being the best dad he can be is his number one priority.
“Fatherhood, to me, is meaning. It’s purpose. It’s my drive. It’s my whole world,” Cook tells EastIdahoNews.com.
‘I was just trying to do the right thing’
Cook’s story begins about five years earlier. Bryelle was born at 25 weeks and weighed a little more than a pound.
During this time, Cook says his girlfriend was struggling with drug addiction. He reported it to authorities and that’s when he says his daughter was taken from him.
“She was in the NICU for 96 days and even though I made the report, the state took her away,” Cook explains. “I wasn’t using drugs … and I was just trying to save my daughter’s life.”
Bryelle was eventually placed in foster care and Child Protective Services got involved. Cook says he saw very little of his daughter during the first year of her life and he didn’t understand why.
“I was confused. It traumatized me. I was just trying to do the right thing (by reporting my girlfriend’s addiction and they were treating me like a criminal),” he says.
In time, he was granted supervised visitation for one to two hours at a time but he had to earn it every step of the way.
Cook says he was losing the battle in the fight to hold on to his daughter, so he hired an attorney and a legal battle ensued.
After a year of fighting and a lot of hoops to jump through, he emerged victorious, gaining full custody of his daughter.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through,” Cook says in retrospect.
He’s delighted to have his daughter back and he’s determined to put it all behind him and not play the victim.
Focusing on the positive
Cook feels there is a negative stigma toward single dads and one of his goals is to change that perception through the way that he lives.
“Instead of being angry at all the people that have done me wrong, I try to do something positive. As long as you’re doing something good and focused on being happy, (all the negative) is on them.”
He recently caught wind that the Jefferson County Free Library District is looking to get a new library in Menan. They were looking for someone to help them get a final design in place and as a drafter and designer, he volunteered to donate his services to the project.
He’s also working with the city of Menan to help gather prizes for the district’s annual duck race fundraiser.
Cook says supporting local communities in a worthwhile cause is something he wants to get behind. He feels it’s a great way to show that doing the right thing always pays off. He also sees it as a way to “do something good” and pay it forward for someone else.
“I’m hoping that by example … if I keep at it and do good and be good that things in life can (also) be good. They just take work,” says Cook.
And for other single fathers who are struggling, he offers this simple advice.
“Be there (for your kids), be nice, keep at it and understand that it’s not easy being a parent, single or married,” Cook says. “We’re all in this together.”