Who defines your role as a father?

Around Father’s Day, we see all kinds of stereotypes about dads. Maybe you’ll receive a card with a joke about neckties, grilling, tools or golf. Maybe one or more of those apply to you, and maybe the joke will even be clever.

It’s similar to the information that’s updated most years in June by the Census Bureau. They put out helpful statistics on the numbers of fathers who are married, single, stay-at-home, grandfathers, and so on, as well as how many take leave from work after a child’s birth. And they include statistics that go along with much of the greeting card industry, focusing on common men’s interests like electronics, hardware, cars, sporting goods, and more. You can see more here and here.

How do you define what a father is? What are dads about?

On a more serious side, quite often a dad’s role is defined based on what he saw in his own father, and may be strongly influenced by the expectations of his children’s mother—and it is vitally important to take all that into account.

Through the years, court cases have also dealt with similar questions. At a time when divorce is common and family situations are increasingly complex, they have had to ask, What makes a father? In many situations, fatherhood is being defined as a verb even more than as a noun. Fathers are recognized for their presence and their actions on behalf of children more than for their biological connections.

Now, we believe the position of father is an honorable one. We can take pride and gain motivation simply because we are fathers, and that “office” carries with it some dignity and influence. But sitting in an office of honor doesn’t always mean we’re acting honorably. Biology doesn’t always provide the best fathers; the most devoted dads are not necessarily biological ones.

So, dad, what about you?

If you had to defend your role as a father based on your actions and your connections with your kids, and not on genetics, would your case hold up? Are you sitting in the easy chair, behind your phone or your remote control? Or are you on the floor mixing it up with your kids, at the kitchen table helping with homework, on the sidelines at the field to support your young athlete no matter what … and everywhere in between?

This Father’s Day, recommit yourself to fatherhood as a verb. Give a little more time and energy to your kids. Focus on listening more. Savor every hug and “Thanks, Dad.” And keep up the good work.

What’s one area in which you’d like to improve as a dad in the “new year” of your fathering? Share your thoughts and encourage other dads on our Facebook page.

Action Points & Questions for Reflection and Discussion

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