Liam Payne shares son Bear with his ex-girlfriend Cheryl
Liam Payne has been a father since 2017.
The "Steal My Girl" singer welcomed his first child, son Bear Grey, with singer Cheryl on March 22, 2017.
Payne had previously admitted to PEOPLE that he "always wanted to be a young dad," but fatherhood at a young age didn't come easy. During a later interview in December 2020, he opened up further about how he had "to learn" to be a parent over time.
"I had my son at a young age, and you think it will be a magical thing, that you're going to grow up one day into the person you're supposed to be," he told PEOPLE. "But it took a lot to find my footing. I figured, Dad takes care of everyone, that's what he does, so my thing was to cook."
After splitting from Cheryl in July 2018, the singer has focused on spending a lot of quality time with his son while simultaneously building a solo music career.
"I see him two times a week, three times a week sometimes," he said of Bear in 2022. "And I make sure when I see him, he has 100 percent of my time. I make sure that I'm not on my phone or dicking around somewhere else."
"So, I like to give him those moments and it's important, he needs that in his life, he needs his dad in his life, and I'm happy he looks at me like a superhero, and I'm hoping to keep it that way," Payne added.
In July 2023, Payne posted a video on YouTube in which he revealed that he had been sober for nearly six months after spending time in a rehab facility. In the clip, he thanked Bear and Cheryl "for giving me a little bit of freedom to go and get well," adding that "there's no point in trying to be a dad when you've got nothing to teach."
In the clip, the pop star also praised his son's intelligence. "He's learning very quickly, he's far smarter than I think I'll ever be," he said. "He's a wonder and he's definitely learning to talk at this moment, and it's a lot of fun to be around and watch him grow."
From the story behind his name to why his parents keep him off of social media, here's everything to know about Liam Payne's son Bear.
He was born on March 22, 2017
Payne and Cheryl welcomed their baby boy, who weighed 7 lbs., 9 oz., on March 22, 2017. The new parents announced his birth a few days later with a polaroid shot of Payne cradling his son, which they both posted on Instagram.
"I'm incredibly happy to welcome our new baby boy into the world, it's a moment that I will never forget for the rest of my life and my favourite memory I have so far," Payne wrote. "I'm completely in awe of his incredible mother and how she has been the whole way through this, she's really made my dreams come true."
He didn't have a name at first
When the former couple announced their son's arrival, they also revealed he was yet to be named. Before ultimately deciding on "Bear," Payne and Cheryl debated about whether or not their son's moniker should be traditional.
"It was like an internal battle," Payne recalled to Total Access in May 2017. "I wanted a more traditional name and she wanted a name that was more unusual. And the reason she chose Bear in the end was because Bear is a name that when you leave a room, you won't forget. And I like that."
"When I look at him, he's just Bear. At first I wasn't really having it. I was like, 'I'm not really sure. I don't really understand.' Now I look at him and he's Bear. You become your name as you get older anyway," he added.
In September 2017, Payne shared more about the story behind his son's name during an appearance on The Late Late Show with James Corden. The "Strip That Down" singer revealed to host James Corden that "one of the midwives" called his son "Bear" in the delivery room.
"He had this thing where if they don't have a good cry, they get fluid in their lungs, which is quite serious, so he was like going 'grrrr,' " he said. "I had like 10 doctors come in the room, and in the end, the guy was just like, 'Dude, I'm not being funny. There's nothing wrong with him. He just likes to make a lot of noise.' And that's carried on ever since, so he just became Bear."
He loves his dad's music
One of the sweetest things about Payne and Bear's relationship is that his son is his biggest fan. According to the singer, Bear is one of the first people to hear his demos.
"I played him demo tapes of 'Familiar' ages ago before it came out," Payne told PEOPLE in July 2018. "Then when it came out, he was like, 'I remember this one!' He goes rigid and like shakes with excitement and wants to get as close to the speaker as possible."
He added: "For me, I love making great music for my fans. But when you make something that your son loves, it's the best thing ever. Whenever he cries or anything, I'm like, 'famili, famili' and he's like, 'Hey, it's this one again!' He loves it."
His parents maintain his privacy
Payne and Cheryl have chosen to keep their son out of the spotlight since his birth. Even though they occasionally share photos of Bear on Instagram with his back to the camera or only a hand in frame, they largely maintain their son's privacy online.
During an appearance on the podcast Table Manners with Jessie and Lennie Ware in November 2018, Cheryl shared that she and Payne had always agreed on keeping their son off of social media.
"I actually like sent out letters [to the media] to say like please respect his privacy and stuff because … it's not his choice and it's not up to me to make that decision, I don't feel, and I want him to like have a childhood like everybody else like I did," she said.
Payne echoed this sentiment on the podcast The Diary of a CEO with Stephen Barlett in June 2021, where he opened up about giving his son the opportunity to be his own person.
"Obviously, we protected his identity to start off with, and that's not being pretentious or anything other than the fact that I want to give him a chance to be Bear first before he has to be, 'oh, your mom and dad are so and so' you know," he said. "And I made my choice to be where I was at 14/15, so I figure he can make his own choice then too."
He looks just like his dad
While neither Payne nor Cheryl has shared a photo of their son's face publicly, the former One Direction member told PEOPLE in December 2020 that his then-3-year-old son closely resembles him.
"He looks exactly like me, which is very strange," he said. "When family members see baby pictures of me now, they say, 'Oh wow, Bear looks really great there!' "
Payne and his son may mirror each other in the looks department, but they also have a similar fashion sense. In June 2017, the singer posted a photo on Instagram of him and Bear wearing a matching pair of black-and-white Yeezys with the caption: "Like father like son."
He loves Christmas
Bear has no problem getting into the holiday spirit! Payne told PEOPLE in December 2020 that his son was finally aware of the joys of Christmastime.
"He completely gets it now! He's been watching Home Alone and 'Merry Christmas, you filthy animal' was one of his first phrases," he said with a laugh. "I think it is absolutely hilarious. I wouldn't have it any other way."
The singer also shared that Bear's love for the holiday helped him learn how to enjoy Christmas again.
"For me, it really reignited Christmas. I moved away from home at 17, so Christmas kind of took on a new meaning," he shared. "It was great to be able to shower people with gifts and make everybody feel welcome, but Christmas always felt a little bit hollow for some reason. Now he's kind of filled that hole for me and I understand it all over again."
He quarantined with his mom during the pandemic
Even though Payne lives down the street from his son, the pandemic made it difficult for the father-son duo to spend time together.
During an Instagram Live in January 2021, the singer said that visiting his son was "hard with the COVID thing," and he had to "wait until I'm negative" before going to see him, which could be a long process. Payne told PEOPLE in May 2020 that he was able to connect with his son through Facetime — and admitted that the toddler wasn't always interested.
"FaceTime with my son can go any number of ways," Payne said. "I FaceTimed him before and he was on a trampoline in a princess dress with a pair of Wellington shoes on playing the ukulele. And then other times he's so interested in SpongeBob that his mom will be like, 'Say hi to Daddy,' and he's like, 'Hi, Daddy.' And then he's back in SpongeBob. It's so funny."
He added that when he was a child, he would often act the same way. "I remember my granddad would phone, and I was always in the middle of something and like, 'I can't talk on the phone,' " he shared. "So I know he's a lot like me in that sense. But it's been very tough. This has been a tough time to miss him knowing he's so close but so far away at the same time."
He celebrated his 5th birthday with a big party
In March 2022, Payne shared with PEOPLE how he celebrated Bear's 5th birthday with a big party attended by all of his son's friends.
"It was his first birthday party out of COVID as well. And it's the first time he's actually aware it's his birthday and what a birthday is," he said. "So we threw him a really big party, and he had the best time."
"I met all the school friends and stuff, which was really, really sweet. Yeah, 30 5-year-olds in a room was a lot to deal with, but we managed them. They had the best time. So that's all that matters," the singer added.
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