Father's Day? I Vote for Dad's Day

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As we look forward to this Sunday’s Father’s Day celebration, I want to assert that the holiday might be misnamed…I vote for Dad’s Day.

There’s a big difference between being a Father and being a Dad. The former is biological, the latter behavioral. Fathering is an act of nature; being a Dad is all nurture. It's certainly much easier to become a father than to commit to becoming a Dad.

A Dad may or might not be a biological father. A Dad is someone who’s there when a child needs him most, in good times and bad, when guidance and the gifts of an open ear and caring heart are most important.

Dads come in all ages and stages of life. Grandfathers and uncles, cousins and big brothers, family friends, teachers, clergy, coaches and mentors, and even military officers can play the role of Dad at critical moments in a young person's life.

Foster and adoptive Dads are among the most special people because their gifts are the most-timely in the life of a child. Opening our doors and hearts to children whose needs are great and emotions fragile takes a certain blend of loving kindness and leadership. How many of us have the courage and commitment to accept another’s child as our own?

I consider myself a Dad because from day one…actually minute one…our sons’ presence has been something special and even sacred to me. I don't mean to boast, but I believe that I've acquired that essential trait of positive parenting…to become someone who learned how to love from our children and who loves them back unconditionally.

I have learned so much from our sons...and to this day feel I'm being positively influenced by their positive attitudes, excellent work ethic, and special devotion to the family.

Dads have awesome responsibilities to personify fairness and teach the lessons of justice. Respect for and honoring differences of race, gender, economic class and unique abilities are part of being an exemplary Dad.

I've come to believe that the absence of Dads in the lives of children, either physically or emotionally, is one of the most obvious factors in contributing to childhood stress...and distress.

While it's obvious that most Moms are heroic and provide a phenomenal level of care, loving support, and family leadership, I have learned that children need more than one primary care-giver.

Call me a traditionalist, but I think children live what they learn, and who among us has not benefited from the generous gift of male guidance?

And if the family is structured in an untraditional way, it's my hope that both genders either at home or in the community are included in the nurturing care of children.

I certainly do not advocate putting children in peril if a parent is dangerous or their influence detrimental to the child’s health and safety.

But given the reality that child rearing is at its best a team sport, let’s develop a consensus to empower Dads, support Dads, and when necessary, recruit Dads to be there for children who need them.

I implore you think of the life lessons we've learned - good and bad - from our Dads. Let's honor them by emulating the good, overcoming the bad, and sending a signal to our children, in both word and action, that they are valued.

One of the most significant ways to heed the commandment "Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother" is to make a contribution in our parents' name to a charity which reflects the values we've learned from those who paved our paths.

In your Dad’s honor or in his memory, perhaps you will choose to volunteer to read to a child, visit a lonely elder, or send a note to a long-lost friend. What better act of gratitude than to give of ourselves in the name of those who gave so much to us?

Jack Levine, Founder of the 4Generations Institute, is a Tallahassee-based family policy advocate. He may be reached at jack@4gen.org.

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