It’s clear fatherhood is now Simon Cowell’s first priority — even when he’s judging on America’s Got Talent. “I want you to date my son, Eric,” Simon recently told a five-year-old dinger named Sophie. “He’s gonna love you. You’re adorable!”

This kinder, gentler Simon, 58, has surprised everyone — including himself. “He’s madly in love with his son,” an insider exclusively tells Closer Weekly in the magazine latest issue, on newsstands now, “and he’ll openly tell his friends his intense feeling he has for Eric. He’s turned into a big softie with him.”

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Fans who remember Simon’s barbs during his American Idol days might be surprised (but thankful he’s raising Eric with manners). “We’ve taught him to share,” Simon reports of his son with girlfriend Lauren Silverman, 40. “He says ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ Someone said to me the other day, ‘He’s such a polite little boy.’ I’m proud of that.” 

The little guy is smitten with his daddy too. “He made Simon a card with hearts on it for Father’s Day,” the insider shares, “and Simon was over the moon with it. And when Eric leaps into his arms in the morning or when he gets home, that makes Simon beam.”

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Could a second child make Simon twice as nice? “Lauren wants another baby,” the insider confirms, “but Simon is happy with just one. He’s very conscious that he’s getting older, so whether Lauren can wear him down, who knows?”

Whatever he decides, there’s no doubt Simon has embraced all the changes that come with fatherhood. “It gives you such a different perspective on life,” he says. “Things I thought were important, just aren’t. And because I see a lot of things through Eric’s eyes now, I find everything to be a happier place.”

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