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.
Every child needs a Dad who may or might not be his or her 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 commanding 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 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 learns 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 regard for the environment.
As an advocate, I often ask questions which bring attention to a cause and spark conversation to seek solutions. Advocates give voice to critical issues and attract partners for progress.
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 caregiver.
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 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.
The impact of positive parental guidance cannot be overstated. In Proverbs Chapter XXII, Verse 6 we read......"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it."
As we think of ways to serve as good influences for a new generation of children, let’s resolve to be kind, considerate and conscientious stewards of values that pave a positive path forward.
Jack Levine, founder of 4Generations Institute, is a family policy advocate, based in Tallahassee. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.