Dad and Daughter Duo Butch and Leila Barnes of Walled Lake

16-year-old Leila is definitely a daddy's girl – but things weren't always this way. Read more about their unique bond.

Butch Barnes and his 16-year-old daughter Leila weren’t always close.

“My husband and I separated when she was about 9 months old and he had no contact with us at all,” says mom Gina Barnes.

But all that changed when Butch called Gina seven years later to express his guilt for not having a larger role in Leila and her sister’s lives. Butch asked if he could regularly see the kids, Gina notes. It took Leila a bit of time to warm up.

“She was very shy at first, hiding behind my legs when she saw him,” she adds. Over the years, though, the couple reconciled – and Butch and Leila have become very close.

“She is definitely a daddy’s girl,” mom says. “They enjoy the Philadelphia Eagles, playing games on the PlayStation and watching Avengers movies.

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Here, Metro Parent asked Butch to answer a few questions about the special bond he shares with his teenage daughter – just in time for Father’s Day. Read on for more.

How did you feel when you found out you were having a daughter – scared, excited or both?

“Both! My wife and I actually have an older daughter (who is 23 years old) too so by the time Leila came around, I was still scared!”

What makes your bond with your daughter so special?

“I was separated from my wife when she was born so I missed the first seven years of her life. When I came home, she treated me like I was never gone. That touched me in a way I can’t describe. It made me want to be a better dad from that point on.”

What has surprised you about having a daughter?

“How much fun she can be to hang out with.”

What has not surprised you about having a daughter?

“The mood swings and the boys chasing her!”

How do you spend time with your daughter?

“We spend a lot of time together playing sports, video games and watching football. The Philadelphia Eagles, of course!”

What do you want most for your daughter when she grows up?

“Above anything else, I want her to be happy her ENTIRE life. Having money and success is great but if you’re not happy, it’s pointless.”

Anything else you want to add about your relationship with your daughter?

“I never thought we would be close because of my absence. She has taught me a lot about forgiveness and unconditional love. I’m a lucky man!”

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