Father's Day: What It Means To Be A Dad

In May, I talked about Mother's Day and the difference between being a mother and being a Mom. I talked honestly about how motherhood isn't always the number-one-best part of my life, but also talked about how there's nothing that would make me want NOT to be a mother. Mostly though, the post was meant to outline the differences between a person who has been biologically successful at having a child and a person who has taken the time to create an emotional bond that stands the test of time - the kind of bond that survives rejection and sadness, overwork and underpay, and sometimes outright desperation of more kinds than I care to list here.

This applies to fatherhood too - because while it only takes a few blissful minutes and one wildly determined little sperm to create the beginnings of a human child, it takes so much more than that to create a parent. So with Father's Day being this past weekend, I thought it appropriate to explore fatherhood - and what it takes to make a father into a Dad.

Just like with motherhood, DNA creates fatherhood. It's simple science, the magic of our God-given biology. The joining of two people, two cells. And that's all it takes - boom! You're a father. One missed condom, one drunken night, one moment of physical need. Fatherhood.

But to be a Dad ... to choose a child above yourself in all things, to want the best for that little person even if you lose out in order to give to them, to care enough to nurture them, to guide them, to partner with them in building a future you may not even live to see ...

That's something different entirely.

I've talked very little about my own father here, because my relationship with him over the years has become something painful enough to avoid talking about. It would take more than one hand for me to count the times my father has somehow come up in conversation, only for the person I'm talking to to sit up a little straighter and say with surprise, "Oh! Your father's still alive, then?" And I tend to lower my eyes and say quietly, "Yeah, but it's complicated."

Now, raising two daughters who will also feel the same ways and say the same things, I'm forced to deal with my own issues so that I can coach my children through theirs, and the lack of what the women in my family experience in the way of fatherhood has really drawn a line for us as to what we think makes the difference between a father ... and a Dad.

I was a "Daddy's Girl" as a young child, and I can still vividly remember the sense of hero worship that filled me whenever I thought of him. My father was a huge man with a bull temper and a strong personality that could not be contained. He had a sensitive pride that was easily injured, and a big heart that loved well - when it loved. I remember him letting me play music he probably thought was horrible whenever we were in his car together - and not only did he let me choose the music, but he let me have my own preset button on the radio. And he would learn my music, too. I can close my eyes right now and see him, hunkered down, slouching off to the right, heavy elbow pressing deep into the console armrest between us, his low baritone belting out the lyrics to Ginuwine's Pony while I grinned to myself, proud of our closeness.

He loved music - probably still does, though I wouldn't know. My first introduction to the power of music was at his hands; we were in church and I looked up, following the scope of his big hands on the hymnal, The sight of tears streaming down his face as he sang, along with the tremble of his chin as he struggled to compose himself in that moment, stole the words of the song from my lips. I mumbled along, quietly, marveling. I wish I could remember what song that was - I too have wept through the words of countless songs, and I've wondered a time or two if maybe the same song that touched him so also touched me along the way.

We're estranged now, and have been for years - a wall of old hurt and resentful unforgiveness stands between us just as solidly as the wall that stands behind me right now as I'm writing this. There are some hurts that heal and scar over, becoming a part of the past - not quite disappearing, but ceasing at least to be painful. Others ... well, others remain, sensitive to the touch and flaring up again with the weather.

Despite the wall and various injuries that built it, the most valuable gift my father has given me over the years - the same gift my children are now receiving from theirs - is the stark and sometimes jarring contrast between what makes a father, and what makes a Dad.

A father is a man who might begrudgingly pay a little child support (if the mother is lucky), resentful of his need to do so. He might take his child(ren) for a weekend now and then, parking them in front of his television or video game while he tolerates the inconvenience of his visitation time. A father is a name on a birth certificate, a donator of genetic material.

But a Dad ... a Dad is something different entirely, a blessing and a guide, a teacher and a companion, an encourager, a protector, a safe haven.

A Dad is a man who doesn't just provide a game to play - he takes (or makes) the time to play it with you. A Dad gives his heart and his soul, so much more than the occasional set of school clothes.

A Dad is a man who never forgets your birthday, who keeps his word, who shows up when he's supposed to. A Dad is a man who swallows inconvenience for the sake of those he loves, who puts his kid's birthday parties and concert recitals ahead of TV football games and boxing matches.

A Dad is a man who calls you to see how you're doing, and lets you know that it's okay to not be okay. A man who praises you when you're doing well, and holds you up when you're not. He's a counselor, a friend - a safe place to hide from a world of judges.

A Dad is a man who wants the best for you - who wants to give you more than he had, who wants to see you rise above where he started, who wants to see you grow.

For a daughter, a Dad is the first man to hold her hand, the first to show her what it feels like to be cared for. A Dad is the first man a daughter dances with, the first man to hold the door for her, the first man to buy her flowers. For a daughter, a Dad is what to look for in a future Husband - the King who shows his Princess how to choose her Prince. Or how not to. For some daughters, a Dad becomes the first lesson on how to recover from heartbreak, how to survive not being enough, how to live with letdown.

For a son, a Dad is the strongest and most steady example a boy has of what to become when he grows up. A Dad is a lesson for Princes everywhere ... on how to become and behave as a King. Or again, how not to.

A Dad is strength gentled by compassion, hard lessons softened by love. And sure, he's imperfect. He messes up and makes mistakes - a Dad is, after all, only human, and at his core he is only a father like the rest. The difference - the one thing that pulls him over that line and makes him something he wasn't before - is in his willingness to make the effort over and over again, to reach out and reach out and reach out, to find the balance between endearing vulnerability and determined fortitude.

So although I skipped the public spectacle of Father's Day, I'd like to encourage men who are reading this: if you have children, don't just be a father. Don't throw a check at your children and call it a day, and don't come in and out of their lives, using them for your convenience. Take the time to be a Dad, make the effort to nurture a relationship that will enrich your life. Foster a bond with a person who will grow up to change the world - confident in the strength and guidance you gave them. Give your heart to being a Dad with the same enthusiasm you give to your other passions.

And if you're a child - grown or otherwise - who has a Dad that takes the time to be a Dad ... appreciate the gift that that is. Show your Dad some love, and let him know that you see and appreciate whatever he gave you over the years. Because your Dad? He's a gift not every kid is blessed with.
In keeping with this post, today I'm sharing a pair of "Featured Favorite Products" that are all about Dads - and the effort that makes a father become the kind of Dad every kid longs for.

We'll start out with this fill-in-the-love journal for Dads I found on Amazon! This is a cute and fun way to show your Dad how much you see, appreciate, and respect the dedication he's shown you over the years. And for under $15, Amazon makes it easy to show your Dad what a difference he's made in your life.
But if you're the dad and all you want is to keep being good at it, then beef up your summer energy levels with  Strike Force Energy - this zero calorie, zero sugar, zero carb packet of magic delivers your energy for an entire afternoon at the park without making you sweaty, jittery or cranky (at least, that's how it works for this mom). You won't crash when it wears off either, AND each single liquid packet is small enough to fit in your pocket, wallet, or desk drawer (works for moms, too - I always keep a packet or two in my purse)! My favorite thing about it is that it's simple to mix (tear open, dump into a bottle of water, shake it, and then down it, baby) and it isn't gross or disgustingly sweet like so many other energy drinks on the market. Makes a great low-cal, sugar-free substitute for my usual coffee, too! And to make it even better, I'm partnering with Strike Force to give you 20% off your order - just use AFLBRANDI8634 as the discount code when you checkout at StrikeForceEnergy.com (or click the link above)!

Quick Disclaimer: Since I am using affiliate links here, remember that if you choose to click product links on my site and end up purchasing through them, I will receive a (very) small commission for referring you. Rest assured that this is at no extra cost to you, but my family and I appreciate your support. (If you'd like to see a list of other companies I'm currently working with, click here.)
To all the Dads out there - thank you for being dedicated! If you're reading this and loving it because you have an awesome Dad, share this post with him and let him know he's amazing even if it isn't Father's Day. Or if you're reading it and relating because it's all about what you want to be as a Dad, share this post with your kids and let them know how much you love them.

If you liked this post for other reasons, or you think you know someone who will, feel free to share it on your social media, and don't be afraid to invite your friends to come hang out in the comments!.

Make sure to come check me out on Patreon, too! The people who support my ability to keep writing mean a ton to the girls and I, and I'm always looking for an opportunity to welcome more people into my community - right now, we're just THISCLOSE to reaching the next goal there, which will bump my poems to two a month AND trigger my first Patreon giveaway. I also post short stories, podcast, mini-blogs, and lots of other content there!

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  1. "We're estranged now, and have been for years - a wall of old hurt and resentful unforgiveness stands between us just as solidly as the wall that stands behind me right now"

    When you have a sliver you need to get it out or it becomes infected. It can be painful and troubling to dig it out. Unforgiveness is toxic.

    "For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." -Jesus

    Easter is a good occasion to reconcile with estranged family members.

    1. I know. I hate the barrier ... but all the same, I know what side of it I belong on. Sometimes it's best for both parties to love each other from afar.


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