As Father’s Day draws to a close, I am thinking about how grateful I am to have my father still in my life. He is 82 years old and today was the first father’s day we’ve spent together in five years. For all of you out there whose dads are with you only in memory, <insert hug here>. But one thing that struck me today is that there is a big difference between a father and a ‘dad.’ Father is a pretty formal term, to me; a ‘dad’ is more like – someone you can really hang out with and be your true self with, IMHO.
I think that there are four traits that make a man not just a father but a ‘dad.’ Please – tell me if I’ve missed any. This is important!
1. Goofballs. I am putting this one first because quite frankly, the world needs more dads who can just be goofy, play and have fun with their kids. Dads are the fun ones. They are the ones who break the rules – eating fast food or dessert when it’s typically ‘off limits’; staying up to watch “Smoky and the Bandit” for the seventeenth time on blankets on the floor past bedtime; wrecking the entire basement to make the most awesome blanket/chair/table/everything we can find fort; throwing kids up in the air as the moms cover their eyes; flipping kids in pools as they scream in delight. Dads – the good ones – make life fun. Moms can do that too, don’t get me wrong – but it’s Father’s Day, so let’s give dad his due.
Personally, there is nothing I love more than watching my kids laugh until they practically pee themselves while their dad does something uncharacteristically goofy with them. It’s a rough world out there. I spend all of my time trying to protect them from it, maintain bedtime rules, get teeth brushed, and make sure all the homework is done. Good dads realize that kids need fun too. We all need a little Goofy in our lives.
2. Memory Makers. Some guys are fathers in name only. The ones who put forth the effort to give their kids good memories – those are the keepers. They are the ones who spend a week packing up a camper for two days at a family campground and work their butts off the whole time cooking hot dogs and making sure all the kids have glow-in-the-dark bracelets for the nighttime bike riding. They are the guys who see something in a store and say – Wow! My kids would LOVE that! And buy it. And bring it home to their kids and share the experience with them.
Every payday, my dad would bring me home a treat: the best was a small, unassuming, white paper bag with chocolate-covered graham cracker cookies from Goldblatt’s department store in Hammond, Indiana. He took me fishing and taught me how to bait my own hooks. Every Valentine’s Day, he bought me and my mother flowers and wrote us a note to go with them. Today I asked my kids at breakfast to tell their dad three memories they have of a fun time or something that they learned from him. I wish now that I had videotaped it. You just never know how a little gesture or simple activity can make a life-lasting memory for a child – and inspire them to become memory makers too.
3. Listeners. Some guys are there every day, day in and day out, at home. But a ‘dad’ is someone who is truly present in the moment. He listens when the kids talk. He asks questions. He wants to know who you’re texting and glares at boys who talk to his daughters simply because he wants to eliminate the riff-raff. He doesn’t just look at the pictures that come home from school – he asks questions about them. He is there – at school events, conferences, birthdays, everything. He doesn’t just say , ‘uh huh’ when his daughter tries to talk to him – he asks questions, teases, jokes, shares ideas, says what he thinks. He wouldn’t dream of missing a single moment of his child’s life – and talking about it, too.
4. Confidence Builders. A father may pay the bills and make sure food is on the table. But a ‘dad’ builds more than just a person – he builds confidence. He acknowledges accomplishments. He hugs. He is not afraid to say, this is good – but I know you can do better. He teaches his son how to be a man and treat a woman. He teaches his daughter how a man should treat a woman and how to be tough while still be a woman (something mom helps with too, of course).
So what do you think? What makes a father a ‘dad’?