When Ben busted open the school doors, children from all ages started laughing and pointing. Every teacher at the school was gawking in horror as he made his way through the school hall. His pants were really clinging to him. Meanwhile, her eyes were turning red, and her heart was pumping hard. Her bag was placed on her lap for a reason. She stared coyly at her dad. That’s when she realized there was a stain between his legs.
Ben Sowards knew the in and outs of the hardships we go through in school. When he was younger, he was taught to stay still, sit up straight with his eyes on the board. Just the smell of chalk alone would make him quiver. He just didn’t care for subjects that didn’t interest him. Ben’s mind made him fantasize about other worlds, and in his imaginary scenarios, he’d wander around mystical forests, creating magical creatures. But then he looked down.
Every day was long and tedious for Ben. The monotonous routine of learning times tables as chalk scratched the blackboard made his mind uneasy. He made an effort to pay attention, and he often took notes. Three times two is six. Three plus nine is ten. Five and four is nine. Suddenly, before he could even be aware of it, his pen wandered off from the lines.
Ben’s teacher would often surprise students with questions in an attempt to catch them off guard. She made sure to never let the children who were raising their hands to answer her questions. Ben was never one to raise his hand, but it wasn’t because he didn’t know the answers. He just didn’t care about primary subjects at all. “Ben?” His classmates giggled, as they all knew he wasn’t even listening. She then made her way through the classroom around the children’s tables. Suddenly, she noticed a shadow on Ben’s paper.
She already knew what she’d find when she got near Ben. This wasn’t the first time he had completely checked out of class. She called him by the name again, waiting for Ben to respond. She decided to take his notepad from under his elbows and pull it. Ben was startled, realizing he’d been caught red-handed again. But then she saw what was on Ben’s page.
Talented little Ben had drawn a masterful piece of art that was truly beyond his years. Ben’s parents had already talked about his love for art, but his skills were truly uncanny. When he was little, Ben simply refused to go to preschool. “I was always pestering my parents to look at this picture and that picture. They put me in preschool, but I couldn’t deal with the macaroni and beans and yarn and glue and things. I made a deal with them that I could stay at home and draw as long as I let my mom take a little nap.” But no one could’ve predicted his artistic inclinations to turn into a passion.
Most of Ben’s teachers had predicted he wouldn’t graduate, but he made it through. His parents were filled with pride and joy, as they had always feared he’d one day decide to drop out and focus solely on drawing. But talented Ben wasn’t about to put his passion in the back burner. He attended the Laguna College of Art and Design and Brigham Young University in Utah. There, he fine-tuned his skills and quickly became internationally acclaimed for his art. But he had another calling too.
Ben was married to Connie, and together, they juggled the hardships of parenting seven children. One day, Ben told Connie about his life-long goal: becoming a teacher. But she was concerned. He had always wanted a huge family, but Connie thought that’d mean having only three or four kids. She worked as the executive director at The Family Support Centre in Cedar City. And she simply couldn’t imagine raising their kids while juggling two full time jobs between them. Every year though, would bring a new surprise for the couple.
Their family kept getting bigger and bigger, and as time went by, Ben was still keen on becoming a teacher. Eventually, this was more than a necessity for him. He finally joined the Southern Utah University and finally became the director of the Illustration Program, back in 2001. He was finally allowed to teach passionate students everything there is to know about traditional painting and digital art. Ben had predicted that teaching would be hard at times, as teachers struggle to keep students engaged. But there was another aspect that Ben hadn’t considered.
Ben received a frantic call from Connie. She explained that she had just received a call from the principal who was worried about their little 6-year-old daughter, Valerie. She had a bathroom accident and needed him to go pick her up. Their oldest daughter, Lucinda, quickly went upstairs to pick up her phone. When she made her way down the stairs, she saw her dad by the sink. He had just spilled a cup of water all over himself. She was startled. So why did he do it?
But Ben had a plan. “Honestly, I knew she was mortified, but I thought if I could make her laugh, everything would be fine.” He finally made his way to the principal’s office, and when he saw his daughter Valerie, he whispered to her: “Can I borrow your bag, so I can hide something?” She stared both at the school principal and at her father, but then, she made her way down and noticed her dad’s pants were completely damped. She suddenly started cracking up.
Ben knew his daughter from head to toe, and he knew his plan would work wonders. “She was totally exasperated. But, once she saw my pants, I got that look from her where I knew everything was OK. All dads know what look I’m talking about.” He went on to say, “And we just strolled out of the school like nothing was happening.” Lucinda was patiently waiting for her dad and little sis to get in the door to take a pic. She wanted to share this moment with her mother. But she would’ve never imagined this story would get so much praise.
Ben thought Lucinda was just going to send the pictures to Connie, but in true millennial-fashion, Lucinda decided to post her little sister’s mishap on social media. Everyone who knew Lucinda started contacting her to rave about her dad’s beautiful and selfless act. Her phone kept vibrating all through the night. Twitter suddenly had a field day with the story. Then, she woke up to something she couldn’t have predicted.
When Lucinda woke up, she realized she had thousands and thousands of notifications. Ben and little Valerie’s story had exploded on social media, with Lucinda’s post reaching over 60,000 retweets and 250,000 likes. Ben was dumbfounded. He was just trying to make his daughter laugh at an otherwise shameful situation, and he believed that any father in the world would’ve done the same thing for their kids. But Ben was a special kind of dad, and he had a lot of love to give. Nothing was going to deter him from having a big beautiful family.
Ben had always envisioned himself surrounded by many many children. But Connie had already gone through seven pregnancies. After the story went viral, Ben and Connie decided to adopt four more kids. Now, they’re raising, loving, and enjoying the company of eleven kids. Ben was an artist at heart, but nothing made him happier than being a dad. Connie and Ben had a lot to give, so they wanted to make sure to give it to those who needed it the most. Dad of the year? You bet your socks he is!