There is an old saying that states that any man can be a Father, but it takes someone special to be a Dad. The gist of which is that any one with some fertile semen can create new life (fertile female assumed), but that a DAD is someone who actually gets involved in a positive way in the life of their children.
Society has enormous expectations for Dads. They have to be strong, comforting, and good providers. The Societal expectation that Dads are also Husbands is slowly going away, thankfully, but there is still a hefty amount of expectation on that end as well. It is hard to be a Mom as well, but this post is not about Moms (and is not going to get into that issue, perhaps I will do that one another time).
I grew up without a dad. I had a grandpa who filled most of those Father Figure roles for me, and an Uncle (Don) who filled in some of the rest. My mom tried to fill both roles, but it is DAMN hard to be mom AND dad.
That said, I just wanted to take a few minutes to appreciate and really comment on the Dads that I do know. A really good Dad tends to get cherished by their progeny as well as the friends of their progeny. Spydrman has a good Dad. Most of my best friends have good Dads as well. I am lucky that those Dad do not mind being shared. :)
Some of my friends ARE good Dads as well.
These are the guys who take the time to teach their kids about stuff they do, play with their children, actually explain things in the world and universe to their children, make their children a priority, soothe the hurts their children have (as best they can), take their kids to things (soccer, hockey, band, dance, or other practice/class), often they get involved in activities their kids are doing (hockey, soccer, band, theatre, school, whatever), they help their kids when they can, they set boundaries for their kids (kids need boundaries, no really)... In short, they actually NURTURE their kids.
It's not always that easy to be a nurturer and a MAN at the same time. So many of the pressures of our world are focused on the MAN being strong, unemotional, gruff, to be the big Problem Solver, to BUILD and REPAIR everything, and to "bring home the bacon". Society tells us that men are the pillars we lean on for strength. Society doesn't ever tell us where men are supposed to find that strength. It's a pretty hefty load for Dads to carry, and I think most of them do it pretty quietly (how many dads have YOU heard talk about the expectations they have upon them?). The thing is that it isn't just their peers or coworkers that are providing those expectations; often, it is coming from the older generations of their own family - particularly their own parents. To be the modern Dad and still be able to uphold the traditional Dad roles - it's pretty damned impressive.
This is often magnified by the relationship of Dad with the Other Parent - sometimes in a good way, and sometimes not. Any more it is just as likely for Dad to live WITH their children as NOT, or to only have their children part of the time. Not living with their children adds in the expectation of Having a Life when they aren't Being a Parent. But those Dads really never stop being a parent, just because the child is staying not with them. I think that gets lost on a lot of us really, and it shouldn't be. It's even harder to be a *good* dad when you don't have your children there to nurture all the time.
Now, don't get me wrong. There is a pretty big importance on being a good Uncle, grandfather, or other male type role model as well. But, unless these people are living with the children, it's not exactly as large of a role.
So, to all the dads I know that really are DADS - good job man, you really are amazing, and thanks for doing your best for your kids. It makes a difference to everyone who knows you, whether they say anything about it or not.