By Justin Strawser
The Daily Item
WINFIELD — Michael Berge smiles as the tiny arms of his 2-year-old daughter wrap around his neck from behind as he leans forward on the edge of the sofa in their Winfield home.
The piggy-back style hug on Thursday was received as “The Lion King 2” played on the television for what could have easily been the fourth time that week.
“I can’t live a day without her,” said the 24-year-old single father of Maliha Belle Berge.
The child’s mother lives in California.
“I wasn’t worried,” Berge said. “I knew I had to step up as a parent. I give her what she needs. I give her a good childhood.”
A record 8 percent of households with minor children in the United States are headed by a single father, up from just over 1 percent in 1960, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Decennial Census and American Community Survey data in 2013.
The means 2.7 million single fathers in the United States, due to divorce, death or never having been married.
Berge, a selector at the Weis warehouse in Sunbury, and his daughter have lived on the four acres of property in Winfield for the past seven months.
He starts working every day at 6 a.m. and his grandmother, aunt or friend watches Maliha until he leaves work at 2:30 p.m.
When he first became a father in October 2011, Berge said he was convinced he wasn’t ready to do it and was afraid to bring a child into this world.
“I didn’t know if I’d be a good daddy,” he said.
After Maliha’s mother left, that thought never returned. He was used to being a parent and he devoted his life to his little girl.
Maliha is “always on the go” and loves assisting her father around the house by helping with laundry, cleaning windows, raking leaves and other yard work.
Her favorite pastimes are riding the four-wheeler with Berge and feeding the herd of deer that wander around the property. Her favorite food is macaroni and cheese and hot dogs, Berge said.
Single Winfield father, daughter, 2, a family
By Justin Strawser
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