Jonas Woolverton fondly recalls the first time his boy’s blinking eyes stared back at him at Centennial Hills Hospital, and how his newborn son’s tiny hand gripped his adult pinkie.
“The day you came into my life,” the Las Vegas man recently told his 8-year-old son, Phoenix, “it was one of the happiest days of my life.”
And when Phoenix’s mother went to sleep that night, Woolverton held his son tight and put his nose to the baby’s head.
“He smelled like the freshest smell you could ever smell,” Woolverton said on Wednesday during an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Woolverton is one of about 20,000 single fathers raising children in Nevada, which has the highest percentage of single fathers in the country, according to a recent analysis by LendingTree, which cites 2020 U.S. Census Bureau microdata.
In Nevada, the study found, single fathers represents 6.8 percent of parent-child families.
The figures include fathers who co-parent, like Woolverton, but not those with live-in partners, a LendingTree spokesman clarified.
According to the research released this month, the U.S. is home to more than 1.5 million such fathers.
In comparison, there are more than 6.3 million single mothers raising children in America, or quadruple the single-fathers figure, according to the report.
With marriage rates declining for decades, the U.S. ranks first out of 130 countries when it comes to the number of single–parent households, according to a 2019 analysis by the Pew Research Center.
While being a single father is not always easy, “it’s been a great journey,” said Woolverton, who declined to give his age.
“It’s been a lot of fun — ups and downs — but man, we’re having a good time now,” he added.
Like father, like son
For Father’s Day, Woolverton said he would “celebrate” his son, who is turning 9 later this month, and reflect on another year of being in his life.
Phoenix said he would spend Sunday with his father.
“He’s really fun to hang out with,” the boy said.
Phoenix noted that his gift this year would arrive two days early, when he is set to make his debut as a child performer in Cirque du Soleil’s Beatles-themed show “Love.”
“I’m super excited to see him premiere,” said Woolverton, who described it as a “super proud moment.”
And how could it not be? The father himself is a Cirque veteran who moved to the valley a decade ago and performed in the now-defunct “Zumanity” production.
Since performances came to a halt in 2020 due to the pandemic, and “Zumanity” did not resume, Woolverton has been doing freelance performances.
On Wednesday, the father and son spoke from the Las Vegas Circus Center, a spacious south valley gym where members practice acrobatics, trampoline jumping and the Cyr wheel, a metal ring a person spins in, something Woolverton specializes in.
At one point, the father held onto a smaller wheel and spun his son.
When the boy joked that he wanted to “walk like a hamster” on the ring, his father acceded, and both flashed wide smiles as he did just that.
Although single parenthood can bring complications, such as scheduling — particularly early in the pandemic when “if there was just one meltdown, we were very lucky that day” — Woolverton said being a parent makes it all worth it.
“The easiest thing is the fact that we get along so well,” the father said.
That is also the case with Aaron Stewart and his teenage daughter, Harleen.
During a recent interview from Stewart’s Secret Menu Coffee food stand, the 13-year-old girl placed her hand on her father’s shoulder while he mentioned hating “every minute” they were apart when he first became a single father.
“This guy is like my role model, you know, my Superman himself,” Harleen said. “I admire him so much.”
Spending time with her father, and watching him work his business, is inspiring, the teenager said.
“I learn who I want to be when I get older,” she said.
Stewart, 36, still remembers the day Harleen was born nearly two months early, and the tears of joy when he fully realized he had become a father.
Stewart co-parents with Harleen’s mother.
“In the beginning it was very trying,” he said. “You want to have as much time with your child as humanly possible.”
But over time, it became “second nature,” he said.
“You have to look at it and say, ‘You know, two adults could no longer be with each other,’” he said. “‘But we were very mature and responsible enough to be able to split this time wisely.’”
Stewart added: “So I want to give a lot of love to her mom for understanding and understanding that her father needs to be in her life just as much as her mother.”
Review-Journal photographer Kevin Cannon contributed to this story. Contact Ricardo Torres-Cortez at email@example.com. Follow @rickytwrites on Twitter.