A Father

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I was reading an autobiography last year written by a guy about my age (that would be mid-30s.) This wasn’t a warm and fuzzy autobio, but the no nonsense, in your face writing style I like. The author never really knew his father, so he just referred to him as “my sperm donor.”

Even though they’d only ever met a couple times, the son never really tried to contact his biological father to bridge that relationship. Instead, he simply referred to him as “my sperm donor” and make snide remarks. And does the father deserve that title? I dunno-I’m not intimately involved with that relationship.

What I DO know is that if he cared enough to think up a degrading nickname, then the author is resentful that he never had a relationship with his dad. I think truly, everyone wants a relationship with their father. Scratch that: everyone wants a GOOD relationship with their father. Some folks have a relationship with dear old dad, yet due to whatever circumstances, they don’t get what they want. And I know others who’d also like that relationship, but after trying and trying, it simply cannot be sustained. And when we have a rather high percentage of folks in this country who have fathers who are out of the picture, that’s a lot of hurt hanging around. And I just think it’s a sad thing.

And what am I? A father? Sorta, I guess. I do have three stepchildren, but I wasn’t their stepfather until they were almost through puberty. I can guide and try to lead by example, but fathering? Really? Not so much.

My first father’s day greeting today came from my Hija, Tiffani. Now, Tiffani isn’t mine. Not exactly. Taylor, Jordan and Maddison are most definitely my stepchildren, but Tiffani is my Hija (hija is Spanish for daughter, if you don’t habla espagnol)

Tiffani’s father isn’t really involved with her life. And due to the fact I think everyone wants a good relationship with their father, I brought her in as my Hija. Plus, she’s exactly the kind of kid any father would want, so it wasn’t like it was tough! I’ve also got Hijo, Tiffani’s little brother, Tyler. Great, great kids and I’m just so humbled I get to take on a father figure role for them.

But what is a father? Just the guy who donated some sperm? The guy who takes the kids to the park? The disciplinarian? I’m none of these things. So, I kept thinking, trying to find a definition for “father.”

I think the gender thing is important here. I think fathers ideally serve a role as protector. Being male, that’s a little easier to think of than a female/mom as the protector of the family. So, with the gender thing nailed down, what is a father? Here’s my definition (screw whatever Webster’s says, this is my definition):

Father: Any male who puts the needs of children before his own.

No sperm involved. No marriage involved. No duties involved, other than always putting the growth and development of children at the forefront.

You won’t have to look too hard to find fatherless children who had a male teacher who became their father. Or maybe it was another guy from the church. I know several friends who had fathers who died and they “adopted” another male role model as their father figure.

Why is this so important? First and foremost, I think raising kids is the most important job…ever. Second, because I was one of the lucky ones. My dad wasn’t absentee. My dad wasn’t a drunk. My dad wasn’t a cheater. My dad wasn’t an abuser. My dad gave us protection, guidance, discipline, acceptance and care. That’s about five more things than many of my friends got from their dads. Filling that role is important to me. It is now and it always will be.

I’m not perfect. God knows I wasn’t a father until I was a 31 year old dad of teenagers-but I want to always keep that definition of fatherhood at the forefront: the needs of children in front of my own.

If I get to help continue to guide Tay, J, Maddi, Hija and Hijo, I’m lucky. And if I can do it half as well as my old man, then they’re lucky.

Happy Father’s Day!

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