Happy Father’s Day to all those great Dads out there! I was lucky enough to have had one of the best possible, and I’m forever grateful for him. He passed away almost 11 years ago and I still miss him horribly. My mom remarried a couple of years ago, and now I have the best step-dad in the world. He makes my mom happy, which is tremendously important to me, and he doesn’t try to step into my dad’s shoes. He’s just himself, a fantastic dad, step-dad, grandfather and great-grandfather, and a wonderful person.
My daughter and I were recently talking about fatherhood, and what makes a good daddy. She considers herself lucky to have a good one. He still gives her his time, material things when necessary, and shows her daily that he loves her – sometimes by saying “No” and sticking to it. He’s the same with her sons, though he is a bit more lenient with them than he was with her. They’re still babies, the oldest is getting ready to turn 3, and he loves spoiling all 3 of them.
While she and I talked, we tried to list some of the qualities that make a good daddy. We quickly determined that contributing the sperm that fertilizes the egg has nothing to do with fathering, only with biology and genetics. Nothing mind-blowing there.
The things like providing for a child’s physical needs for food, water, shelter, and medical care should be taken for granted, but unfortunately, they aren’t. Providing for the child’s emotional needs for safety, limitations, and affection should also be taken for granted, but again, they aren’t. A child has myriad other needs, too many to list, but these are just the most apparent ones to me.
Too many children with an embarrassment of physical riches – plenty of high quality food, clean healthy water, a clean safe home, and all their health needs met – are emotionally destitute. They have to live in fear of physical or sexual abuse, are verbally and emotionally abused. Or there are no rules in the home to give them a sense of security or teach them to make appropriate choices. Some children have no idea that the adults in their lives care if they live or die, let alone love them.
Giving a child time and attention can be something a good father does. If a man chooses to be absent from his child’s life, is he necessarily a bad father? What if his presence somehow endangered the child? Maybe he has a tendency to hit first and ask questions later, and removes himself from his child’s life to remove the risk of physical abuse. Does that make him a truly bad father? What if he chooses not to be present in order to work to able to provide for his child’s physical needs? Does that make him a better father than the one who stays away because he’s potentially abusive?
Loving a child of course factors in. Children need to know they are loved, that no matter what, they have someone to turn to. If a man never tells his child he loves him, never gives a hug or kiss, or even a pat on the head, is he a bad father? How else would the child know? An older child might realize the father is incapable of displaying affection, but what about a young child?
How does a man learn all the elements to being a good father? I used to think it was solely by example, but I know too many good fathers whose own fathers sucked. Perhaps there were other men in their lives who provided good role models of fatherhood. Maybe, realizing what they lacked in their own childhood, they sought information or support to give it to their children. There could even be an instinctive element to fatherhood.
I don’t know the answers to all these questions, but I usually know good fathering when I see it in action. If my father hadn’t been a good one, I might not. I do know that my most important goals in life are to see that my grandsons have a good father – whether that’s their biological parent or not . So far, they do, and I’m grateful. Another of my goals is to see them grow into healthy responsible men who will be good fathers themselves when the time comes.
What about you – what do you think makes a good father? How do they learn to be good fathers?