BAXTER -- When Phillip Dewey decided to open his own day care eight years ago, the Baxter father of three had no idea how rewarding it would be to become a day-care dad.
But it took him at least four years until he felt comfortable telling other men what he did for a living.
"I was kind of embarrassed and kind of scared of how they'd react," said Dewey, who operates Creation Station out of his Baxter home. "You're a guy doing day care? What's a guy doing day care?"
Dewey, who grew up in Marshall, attended the University of Minnesota in Morris, where he met his wife, Tammy. He finished college in Illinois, where he majored in secondary education and English. Dewey taught for about four years and worked as a substitute teacher.
Tammy is a family and consumer science teacher at Forestview Middle School in Baxter and previously taught at Mississippi Horizons in Brainerd. The family moved for a year to Park Rapids so Dewey could take a teaching job in Menahga while his wife stayed home with their children.
But the job lasted a year and the family decided to move back to Baxter. His wife operated a home day care when they lived in Park Rapids and Dewey, who had fun playing with the day-care children when he returned home each day from teaching high schoolers, thought he could do the same. They both wanted one of them to stay home with their young children.
Occupation: Child-care provider at his Baxter home.
Hobbies: Reading, golfing and playing tennis.
Pampers or Huggies? "Pampers," said Dewey. "They just seem more comfortable."
Best children's toy: "It has to be Duplos -- and lots of them," said Dewey, referring to the sets of larger Legos.
Best children's TV show: "Zaboomafoo" with the Kratt Brothers on PBS.
Worst lunch to feed to day-care kids: Spaghetti. "They get spaghetti but I hate spaghetti," said Dewey. "It's all over. It's the biggest cleanup job of all."
Favorite authors: Dewey is an avid reader. Favorite authors include Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum and Orson Scott Card.
Proudest moment: "I think I'm in my proudest moment by doing this (being a day-care dad) and working on my master's degree so I can be the best child-care provider I can."
Worst thing about being a day-care dad: "It's a tossup between changing dirty diapers and wiping noses."
"I thought. 'I'm going to try this out and see what happens,'" said Dewey.
The Deweys have three children, Timmy, 11; Tiffini, 9; and Davey, 4.
While he thought he would miss teaching, Dewey has embraced his role as a day-care dad. His young charges treat him as a human jungle gym, climbing all over him, clamoring for his attention.
"I love doing this," said Dewey. "It's the best thing I've ever done."
Dewey typically has about seven to nine children in his care, ranging in age from 1-5. While he and his day-care children do a variety of activities throughout the day, they also play a lot of golf, basketball, baseball and football.
"I'm training all my kids to be Olympic athletes," said Dewey with a laugh. "We have an Olympic training facility here."
Since his day-care children's parents are all teachers, Dewey is able to have the summers off with his own family. He also works summers at Madden's On Gull Lake, where he's now in his ninth season of working at the resort.
While Dewey doesn't plan to operate his day care indefinitely, he does want to continue working in some area of early childhood education. He's currently taking courses through Concordia University in St. Paul to earn his master's degree in early childhood education. He recently learned only about 3-5 percent of all early childhood educators are men.
Dewey said he's learned a lot about himself by becoming a day-care dad. He's learned it's something he enjoys and that it can be easy to take for granted the early years in a child's life. He said he wonders what his own children will one day think of their dad being a stay-at-home day-care dad.
"Are they going to say, 'Boy, that's embarrassing' or 'It's a really cool thing?'" said Dewey. "Or are they going to say, 'I'm glad I got to spend all that time with my dad?'"
Meanwhile, his day-care children don't seem to mind that Dewey is male. They all call him Phil, except a 3-year-old boy who can't pronounce his "f" sounds yet. He calls him Bill.
"It's just fun here," shrugged Ellie Peabody, 4, when asked if it mattered that Dewey was a boy or if she wished he was a girl instead. "I'll play with you anyways."
"Even if I was an animal or an alien?" Dewey asked the young girl.
"Yep," responded Ellie. "I've never played with an alien."
JODIE TWEED can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5858.
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