Dads are often the unsung heroes of parenting. My mom naturally exuded affection, and I gravitated to her for advice when my tears fell or for comfort when I needed a hug.
I couldn’t truly appreciate the way my dad showed love for his three kids until I became a parent.
He demonstrated the value of hard work in how he pursued his career, while also making time to show up for our games and performances. He taught us the balance of managing, saving and enjoying our hard-earned money. He sat in the passenger seat while we learned to drive (if that’s not love, I don’t know what is). He was simply there, ready to offer the advice or guidance we needed.
Now several decades into the parenting game – which I now understand does not end when your kids turn 18 – he’s still showing up, most recently to mow our lawn when we needed a little extra help.
Maybe this expression of love is overlooked because it isn’t always as obvious as a mother’s traditionally warm affection. But the strength and depth of that love are poured out in a thousand different ways.
When his face beams with a spontaneous smile as his kids run to greet him.
When he runs to comfort his child and hears, “I want Mommy,” and humbly passes the baton.
In the patience he displays when it takes two hours to complete an hour-long project because he has “help” from a 4-year-old.
When he misses the little league game to work and put food on the table… or misses a work opportunity to attend the game.
When he dispenses advice that is met with an eye roll, yet imprints the conscience of a teenager.
In the way he honors his own father by imparting the life lessons valued by his old man.
When he models respect for women in how he honors and treats his own wife and mother.
While our first thought on this day may be about biological fathers, there are unsung heroes who step into this role without shared DNA, selflessly building into children who need their guidance and love.
An adoptive father who wants to be a parent as much as a child needs one.
The stepdad who opens his heart to the children he gained through marriage.
A dad’s friend who promises to look after his kids when he passes.
A grandpa who opens his empty nest to foster his grandchild through a second season of parenting.
The coach who models integrity and respect to a young man desperate for direction.
The makeup of a family, the roles and responsibilities of men and women, and the presence of father figures can look different for many. This day can be difficult for those who feel the loss of a father’s presence. It can also be an opportunity to reflect on the legacy of those who loved us well.
I now have the privilege of witnessing my husband pour out love in his own ways. He instills the value of respect for others. He works hard in the office and at home to provide for our family. He shows all the patience even when he has little time.
Today, let’s honor the unsung heroes who give of themselves to help raise the next generation of responsible, kind and respectful humans.