As I sit here in a hotel room as my wife and three boys sleep, on this working vacation over Fathers Day weekend, I am reminded at every turn that this is the big weekend for Fathers. After just losing my own Dad last year, this day has a bit of a bitter sting along with the sweetness. But what is it really for? Who are we really celebrating? Fathers? Or Dads? Is there really a difference between the two?
In our world today, we often hear the words Dad and Father used interchangeably, but are they really the same? In my mind and my experience, a father is an originator, a life-giver, half of a beginning point. I use the term when referring to others, my father-in-law, God the father, Father Jo our local priest, and Father Time. All are examples of a father as a term for an over-figure, a powerful, sometimes aloof, and often disconnected entity. Similarly, any man who fertilizes an egg becomes a father. He is the originator, the life-giver, the beginning point, but is he more than that? My opinion on this subject is no, at least not by default, not automatically. This is where my mind draws a distinct separation between being a father and being a Dad. You see in my mind, being a Dad is a choice, it is an active, ongoing process. There have been many accidental fathers, but there have never been accidental dads. To be a dad, you have to take that idea of being an originator and expand it into being a nurturer, from being a life-giver to being a life trainer, a mentor, a leader. You see, for me, being a Dad is not the beginning point, it is the entire route. The whole journey. A journey you go on actively and move thru purposefully. Many people find themselves on this road by accident, but then they embrace this journey and begin to walk down this path actively and with motive. These are Dads. Some plan for years to be a dad, become one and excel at it. Others are not fathers at all but still chose to become the most exceptional Dad’s around. Conversely, some men are fathers, by choice or by accident and never are a Dad. They contribute the sperm, move along with life, and let the chips and their kids fall where they may. Now don’t get me wrong, these fathers are not all bad, this isn’t a hit piece. I am not here to cast judgment or put anyone down. I am just explaining things from my own point of view. Some fathers, including many men I know, do what they think is right, they do precisely what they have been taught by their own father, they show up, they provide food and shelter and in some cases even discipline, but when it comes to being there for their kids emotionally, they are vacant. They are not active, engaged, and a daily part of their kids’ life. Some of them will eventually grow into it. Some will be enlightened out of it, but many will just go thru life as a good father and not a dad. To the opposite, many men I know never provided the sperm. They are amazing Dads, active, and engaged in their kids’ lives without ever being the originator. These men are the prime example of what I am talking about. They emotionally and actively take the role of Dad, they embrace it and excel at it. Then there are those of us who are blessed enough to be both, the physical originator of our offspring, and a Dad. Being a Dad is hard work. How many times in these pages, I have reiterated these words, “Parenting isn’t easy.” We think thru our choices, actively pursue them, and do everything we can to help our kids turn into respectable members of society. We strive to raise good global citizens and morally sound people. We help our children by not only instructing them but also by modeling proper behavior for them. We instill self-confidence along with values, ethics in conjunction with culture. Our kids learn by hearing us, seeing us, and watching us live. Dads are not required in the human experience at all, fathers are, but not dads. Moms create humans. Dads help turn them into good people. So what is Fathers Day? I say it is a wholly mislabeled celebration. We should instead call it Dads Day, the day we can celebrate the Dads who lovingly instruct, morally model and actively shape upstanding members of society. So thank your father for his part in making you, then hug your Dad for his active, intentional role in making you who you are. Lastly, how will we celebrate Dad’s Day? Most likely the way we always do, with Dad being Dad and doing whatever his family wants. On Mother’s Day we serve breakfast in bed, bring her flowers and take her out to her favorite places, but on Father’s Day, we choose to do something that the whole family likes and usually entails Dad working too. Not that we dads mind, taking our kids fishing, or hunting, or to a ball game is surprisingly hard work for us dads, same as running the backyard bbq or trouping everyone to the beach, but it’s what we do. Why? Well, as I said, the difference between father and Dad is an active choice, made in love and kindness, with the intent of helping make our kids into the best people we can. It’s where we are happier, it is how we are most fulfilled, with Dads doing Dad stuff. Happy Fathers (Dads) Day everyone!