Today, is that day when those in the United States pause to celebrate their fathers. Of course, dads should be celebrated every day. In any case, I wish all the Dads out there a very Happy Dad’s Day. You may note that I refer to “Dad'” instead of “Father.” As you read this post, you will understand my reasons for doing so. In the end, you may disagree with my reasons, but hey, if we all thought the same way, life would be predictable and boring.
I do not have a father to celebrate. My birth father died last year, but in reality, he was a complete stranger to me, and certainly not a Dad. For most of my life, I never had one. My father chose to abandon me, my two sisters and Mother on my birthday when I was five years old. So for 11 years, I never saw or communicated with him. He didn’t even send my mother a dime to help raise us. Although those facts are my reality, this post is not about him.It is about all the men who don’t serve as mere sperm donors. Fortunately, I was blessed with a couple of those men who showed me what it meant to be a Dad. So, it is with this post that I recognize all the Dads in the world.
Although some will disagree, at a deeper level, there is a distinction between the monikers “Dad,” and “Father.” A man need not be the child’s father, to be a Dad. A dad is there for his family. He is the one cheering you on at your sports games. He is in the audience at any function in which you appear–even those boring school plays, band concerts and dance recitals. He supports your mother in meting out loving discipline, when it is necessary. He shares the responsibility of driving you here and there and after you can drive, stays up until you are home safely.
He is there when you are ill, if for nothing else than, to provide love and comfort. Until he can no longer actively do so, he assuages your fears and protects you from all of life’s boogeymen. In the case of girls, he tries, in vain I might add, to counsel you about the nature of boys. If you are a boy, he teaches you to love, respect and support women. He provides you food to eat, clothes on your back and a roof over your head. He participates in all the memorable events in your life. The fact is, that ‘he is always there.’
Even if your dad has passed on, you have memories of him that act as a balm on days like this one. They are memories etched in your heart by the love that you shared. Studies show that, on average, girls with close relationships with their dads grow up with higher self-esteem and enjoy healthier relationships with men. Whether he is still here or has passed on, you share a bond like no other.
Let me hasten to add that divorce seems an inevitable part of life for many. Yet, a man remains a Dad by staying in the lives of his children. Although a father and mother divorce, the same is not true for the children. In fact, at times such as this, a child needs both their parents, more than ever. A Dad continues forging a relationship with his children, that is as strong as possible, given the circumstance. A Dad never uses a divorce as an opportunity to run away from his children or his responsibility to them.
There is not much to say about the ‘father.’ It is a fact that without a ‘father,’ you would simply not exist. He is essential in giving you life. In all too many cases, that is his sole contribution. The sad fact is that he is not there to share in the pangs and glories of raising his child.
So, on this day, I commend all the “Dads” in the world who are active in the lives of their children, loving and guiding them on their journey toward adulthood. Sometimes, raising a child is a thankless task, but the joys of doing so, far outweigh the pains. Thank you for being there through it all. You are a child’s first notion of ‘Dad,’ and as they learn by example, you are preparing them for the future. You are your child’s first hero.
I realize that not all situations are so clearcut, so forgive me if I failed to address all the variants of these complex relationships. As I say this, I’d also like to thank all you mothers who, like mine, tried to serve both roles, as single parents. We appreciate your presence, determination, strength, love and hard work. You, too, are our heroes.