updated 05/07/2014 AT 8:15 PM ET
•originally published 05/07/2014 AT 6:00 PM ET
Have you met Dave Engledow? He is the World’s Best Father – at least according to these images. What started as a humorous photo project tracing his daughter Alice Bee’s first year of life is now a book.
Confessions of the World’s Best Father is a look into the zany, tiring and wonderful world of becoming a dad for the first time. Engledow began the project a few weeks after Alice, now 3, was born, Photoshopping a picture of himself holding his daughter like a football while squirting breast milk into his coffee. Engledow posted the shot to Facebook and the overwhelmingly positive reaction inspired him to continue creating shots of his oblivious father character. Over the next few years, the project grew into a popular Facebook page, which led to the birth of Confessions of the World’s Best Father.
Engledow took a break from dad life to share photos from his book and talk to PEOPLE.com about the fatherly advice he’s picked up and Alice’s artistic input.
It’s pretty cool so far. I’m still a little bit amazed that it is actually happening. We’re really excited and we’re really proud of the books. I just hope that it does well.
Where did the idea for this project originally come from?
Early on, I used the series to play out some of the things I was really worried about as a new father.
Making photographs of some of those things helped me deal with those fears I had as a new dad. As I posted them online more and more, people started giving feedback, telling us how much they identified with the images and it snowballed from there.
The reactions are almost all overwhelmingly positive. I think most other parents, I was surprised to find, relate to the humor and the issues in the images. I get comments from people that are like, “Oh, this reminds me of my dad.”
I always sort of thought – because I have a dark sense of humor – that if the photos ever did go viral the responses would be more negative. But there’s a lot of people out there who find humor in the unconventional.
There are good days and there are bad days. That can be said for toddlers in general. If we’re doing a shoot where we’re doing something she thinks is interesting, like dropping things in the toilet or spraying the dishes, then it’s really easy. What we try to do is build it up during the week, so we’ll tell her, “Hey, you and daddy are going to have a tea party on Saturday.” Or, “We got this brand-new toy, it’s called an adding machine. We’re going to play with that on Saturday.”
I’ve started over the past couple months asking her, “What kinds of photograph do you want to do this weekend?” She’ll just say whatever she is looking at, at the time. She hasn’t got to the point yet where she is able to come up with things conceptually. She has been asking more to have mommy in the photographs, which is good because my wife generally prefers to stay behind the scenes.
She’s very involved in the process. Other than when she was deployed overseas [to South Korea], she’s been right there every single time we’ve put one of these photos together. It’s not something I can do on my own. Jen is right there to direct Alice and make sure she is happy.
Jen also has come up with a number of the ideas for the shots that we’ve used. And she’s also been really valuable in enhancing the scenes and adding the little details that really help sell it.
I think there are times where she wishes that I would actually fix the garbage disposal, instead of taking photos of me and Alice trying to fix the garbage disposal.
I am known for the World’s Best Father photos, but I do have a more serious side. Jen was leaving for a year. Alice was 18 months old at the time. I really wanted to capture in that image what I know a lot of other military families go through. I wanted to share that emotion with folks. It’s tough when our service members have to go overseas and leave their families behind.
I hope that she will look back on them with fondness and remember how much fun the two of us have had. She seems to already have a good sense of humor. I hope she sees how much I love her and loved spending this time creating something that is really unique and special just for her.
There are a lot of parenting books and blogs that take themselves a little too seriously. I don’t mean to diminish what an awesome responsibility being a parent is, but I think it’s also important as parents to recognize that we don’t know all the answers. It’s important to have fun and make fun of yourself as a parent.
Go see as many movies as you can because you’re not going to be able to do that for the next four or five years. Concentrate and focus on the now. Everyone will tell you that the years go by amazingly fast, and I can say that these first three years have gone by in the blink of an eye. It seems like just yesterday that Alice was born. So it’s really important to have fun and focus on the sheer joy that happens in the midst of all the craziness.