Here are the moments it really hit them.

Becoming a parent for the first time can be both exciting and terrifying at the same time. And it’s filled with tons of firsts—not just your child’s (first smile, first steps), but your own as well. There’s the moment you find out you’re going to become a parent and the moment you actually become one, of course. But then there’s the moment you actually really, truly feel like one.

In honor of Father’s Day, we asked some men (from new fathers to dads of grown children) to share the first time they really felt like dads—turns out, everyone had a different response. For some, it happened immediately after birth: “When we left the hospital and I put her in the car” and “The morning after when you realize it wasn’t a dream and this child really is yours.” For others, it didn’t really hit all the way until later on—one dad said it wasn’t until he cared for his daughter when she was coughing and helped her go back to sleep: “I think in that moment that’s when I realized that’s what my job is going forward, to take care of her and make sure she’s ready for the day and for the world.”

Fatherhood is a different experience for everyone, but we think we can all agree that dads can be pretty great—and many of us don’t know where we’d be without them.

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