August 18, 2014 12:00 PM

For most parents, their kids’ teenage years signal the end of goodbye kisses and cuddles and the dawn of slammed doors and one-word answers. That’s not the case for Dean Cain. The actor and single dad says he’s confident his bond with his 14-year-old son Christopher isn’t going anywhere. “He’s going to have to fight to stop me from kissing him,” Cain says, tousling his son’s hair during an interview in Beverly Hills. “He’s my favorite person on the whole planet.” With a look that says “Don’t embarrass me, Dad,” the gangly teen fixes his coif and offers a two-word answer: “Yeah, same.”

If the pair seem close, it should come as no surprise. Cain, 48, has been raising his son solo since 2011, following a nasty custody battle with his ex- girlfriend, former model Samantha Torres. “It was really tough,” says the actor, best known for his role as Superman on the ’90s hit Lois & Clark and now on VH1’s basketball drama Hit the Floor. “Ultimately, we just disagreed on the best way to raise Christopher.”

Originally awarded joint custody with Torres in 2003, when his son was just 2, Cain assumed sole custody in 2011, with a judge accepting the couple’s agreement to raise Christopher in one household. “Stability-wise, this is what’s best for him,” says the actor. Though Torres—who later had twins, now 3 years old, with whom she lives in Malibu—declined to comment for this story, Cain says the two are now on better, if still tense, terms. “Christopher sees his mom as much as he wants,” says Cain. “But she’s got her hands full, and he’s got a stable place with me.” The actor is proud of being a fun father figure to his son’s half siblings as well. “Elijah and Isabella are ridiculously beautiful,” he says of Torres’s twins, who spend up to a few days a week with him and call him Uncle Dean. “I’d do anything for those two.”

It’s an unconventional setup, perhaps, but the actor is fine with that. “It could be defined as a broken home,” he says, “but if you hang out at our house, that’s the last thing you’ll think. There’s no ‘Don’t play ball in the house.’ We play. We chase each other. You can walk on virtually any piece of furniture. We have fun.” And his “very blended” family has helped Cain stay grounded. “When people asked me where I saw myself in five years, I used to have these grandiose ideas,” he says. “What I’ve learned is to just go with what’s happening now.”

When it comes to the pressures of being a single parent, Cain admits it’s not always easy. Running between the set and obligations at Christopher’s school “is difficult,” he says. “But I’ve learned to make the decisions that put him first.” Adds his longtime friend and costar Kristi Swanson: “He’s the kind of dad everybody wishes for. He’s so proud and just madly in love with his child.”

For a single guy still looking for “the One,” constant Daddy duty has led to a drastically different lifestyle from his early days in Hollywood. “It’s hard because my friends are all going out,” he says. “The best thing is that I get all of my time with him. And the hardest thing is that I get all of my time with him,” he adds, laughing.

Often one of the only dads at PTA meetings, “I’m very comfortable in a situation where it’s me and six women,” he says with a smirk. When it comes to finding love, “I hope waiting until a certain age to commit will be to my advantage. My standards have changed,” admits Cain, once a player in the Hollywood scene who dated Brooke Shields, Pam Anderson and the late Mindy McCready. “Life is through a much clearer lens now. Whoever I fall for, my son has to sign off. But I’d love to meet the right person and get married.” Christopher is supportive of that. “All I want,” he says, “is that my dad can enjoy life and just have peace.”

When it comes to his son and the topic of girls, “he used to ask me for advice. Now he comes to the Hit the Floor set and spends the whole time talking to the dancers,” says Cain. But it’s his son’s physical maturing that has the dad nervous. “He’s 5 ft., 11 in.,” says Cain, shaking his head. “I’m 6 ft. So by end of summer, it’ll be over for me. I still have him in the muscles category, though.”

Cain’s kryptonite these days? “Ask my father, and he’d say women,” Cain says. But Christopher interjects, “Ask Grandma, and she says gambling.” Now it’s Dad’s turn for the “Don’t embarrass me” look. One thing’s certain: “Superman gets his strength from the sun, and I get my strength from my son,” says Cain. “He’s the light of my life.”

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