He’s your biological father, or the one who lovingly adopted you. He’s alive and well. Or maybe he’s ill. Maybe he’s in Heaven.
Father figures also matter.
He’s your father’s father who stepped up and into the respected role. Your uncle who attended every one of your band concerts. Or maybe your grade school gym teacher. Or your high school guidance counselor, or college professor. Maybe he’s your first boss who, paternal, yet never patronizing, looked out for and encouraged you to reach a level you yourself didn’t know could exist. He may even be the neighbor who, without a single familial connection, made sure that you had someone looking out for you.
Some of us are lucky enough to have one special man in our lives who, no matter what time of day or place in the world, is there for us, no matter what. This is the kind of father who we call Dad.
Dads show up. They protect. They lead. And they love.
And, while the line between moms and dads has blurred into a gray of the unknown, traditionally, dads brought something different to the parent equation: discipline and fearlessness. While both parents typically want to ensure the life long success of their children, fathers instill a value system where the daughter or son learns to peddle that bicycle, first on four wheels and then on two.
In more primitive times, men would take their sons into the forest or the water and the son would have to overcome a certain physical test in order to earn the title of Man. While we have no idea what the mothers were feeling during those times, fathers showed their boys what goals to reach through their own character, strength, courage and risk. Even if the fathers, too, were scared for their sons, they internalized that fear and pressed on, believing in their sons as they learned to believe in themselves.
But fathers’ impacts on their children aren’t limited to sons. Fathers matter to daughters just as much, if not more. Studies have shown that of the 10 characteristics that ensure professional accomplishment for women, having successful fathers who lead and encourage their daughters is one of the top. Loving and invested fathers supply a sense of security. Women who have stability in love and support from their fathers are less likely to seek out ways and means to fill a void through others, which could lead to unstable, unsuccessful relationships.
Some fathers share the roof with other parent. Some live solo. Every couple must decide what kind of relationship is best to ensure a healthy environment for themselves and their children. No matter what, and what kids care about, is that the father shows up.
We are celebrating Fatherhood, and the good men who, day after day, hour after hour, take great pride in their work, investing into their children – as fathers, as guardians, as uncles – biologically, socially or otherwise. To the men who care enough to show up, we salute you in your leadership and for being a great role model for the next generation.
I’m fortunate in that I grew up in a two-parent household where my dad showed up – at my band concerts, soccer matches and colleges. In fact, just about seven years ago, when I was traveling overseas by myself for the very first time, and I found myself lost at the Frankfurt, Germany train station, having no idea which train or platform I’d have to board to get to my uncle’s home in Trier, I suddenly heard, “Alex, Alex.” With two suitcases and a giant duffel bag, perspiration and no cell phone, I turned around and, to my relief, saw my Dad, standing there, looking for me. He found me.
In the middle of a German train station, my Dad found me.
And, at moments, like that, of which there’s been many in my life, what I know, in the back of my mind and in the front of my heart, is that I’m never alone. My Dad is there for me.
Every person, child or grown up, should have that feeling. That knowledge. That unquestionable truth.
And if you don’t, maybe there’s a chance for you to pass on that paternal love and attention to someone else who may need it, giving another the gift of you.
In honor of all fantastic dads, fathers and guardians, thank you for your patience, perseverance, honesty, strength and unconditional love.
Wishing all a peaceful and love-filled Father’s Day, because great fathers, have, do, and always will, matter.