Gossip King Perez Hilton opens up about how being a dad has made him a better man. As told to Kenrya Rankin Naasel:
On Feb. 17, 2013, I cut my son’s umbilical cord.
It shouldn’t have been such a shock to the world. Yes, I had kept news of my impending fatherhood private to protect the baby’s surrogate mom. But I’ve always talked about wanting a family. I even wrote a children’s book and dedicated it to my future kids!
As I stood there, scissors in hand, I was just praying that my four- weeks-premature baby would be able to breathe on his own. Thankfully, he did. His legal name is Mario Armando Lavandeira III, but publicly I’m calling him Perez Jr. I want him to know that he’s a public figure and I hope that having a public name that’s different from his private one will remind him that the only thing that matters is what happens behind closed doors.
He’s such an easy baby. He’s not a crier, he’s not a fussy eater and he’s already sleeping for six-hour stretches. It’s as if the universe has given me the perfect baby for a first- time parent doing it on my own.
But that doesn’t mean it’s not hard at times. I used to put in 16, 17 hours of work a day, and I just don’t have that time anymore. My baby is my number-one priority, so now I’m working from home. Trying to do everything with the baby is stressful, especially when I leave home for meetings. But you just get it done and make it work. Thankfully, I have a lot of support. My mom lives a block away and she’s over every sin- gle day. And I waited until I could afford to do it properly as a single dad: I have two baby nurses. I do feeding, diaper changes, burping, playtime, bathing, reading and always put him to bed. But I defi- nitely rely on helpers more at night, because I don’t have a husband to whom I can say, “It’s your turn!”
One thing I feel strongly about is passing on our culture. I always speak Spanish to him, and my mother went to Miami and brought back all kinds of Cuban things, from traditional baby clothes—they ’re really detailed and fancy—to agua de violetas to put on him after his nightly bath.
The biggest challenge has been that the little guy changes so quickly. Take something as simple as swad- dling him—wrapping him up like a little burrito. He loved it for the first month and a half, because it made him feel safe and protected like he was still in the womb. But he doesn’t like it anymore. So it’s about being hyperaware and listening, because even though babies don’t speak with words, they’re extremely communicative.
I try to be über present in his life. My own dad passed away when I was 14. He was an amazing dad—very loving, generous, affectionate, encouraging and a great role model. My favorite memories are of the little road trips we took together, just the two of us. I hope I can inspire my son as much as my dad inspired me.
I know that Perez Jr. is already changing me: he’s made me a better listener, and he’s made me more patient, more grounded, more cen- tered, more filled with love and more open to giving love. He has made my life better in every possible way.