#8216;Father,#8217; #8216;dad#8217; not even close to same thing

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 14, 2008

“It is much easier to become a father than to be one.”

— Author Kent Nerburn (Letters to My Son: Reflections on Becoming a Man)

That message may seem like it is just a play on words or is simply arguing semantics but, unfortunately, it rings far too true in our society today where so many people fail to see the distinction between being a “father” and being a “Dad.”

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As my first Father’s Day actually holding that title, today holds special significance for me.

My four-month-old daughter, Avery, has been a blessing, a beautiful angel that has already changed how I perceive my role in our family and, ultimately, my perception of the world.

Since she didn’t come with an instruction manual, each day I strive to be a “Dad,” not just a father. All the preparatory reading did little to fully prepare me for the joys fatherhood would bring.

Being a “Dad” may mean changing diapers. It may mean giving baths. It may mean giving Mommy a few hour break. It may mean staying up with the baby all night long no matter how early you have to get up the next morning.

And all those things become distant memories as soon as she flashes me a smile.

I am not looking for a cookie or a prize and certainly don’t think I am special.

But, sadly, there are many men in this world that don’t do those things, men who simply think their duty is absolved once a child is created.

Some don’t offer financial support. Others don’t provide emotional support. Others don’t do the little things that make a difference. Even worse, some men who don’t deserve to call themselves fathers abuse their children both emotionally and physically.

Today isn’t for these cowards. Father’s Day should be for the “Dads” who deserve to be considered heroes for what they do.

Far from being perfect, this is what I strive. I do always try my best to do the right thing in my life. Recently, circumstances dictated that I put that creed to the test — and has given me a complete and renewed respect for single parents.

A death in my wife’s family left us with a quandary. Do we drive 14 hours to Florida with a 4 month old who is starting to teethe and had the start of a cold? Or do we try to fly?

Instead, we chose option C, Daddy stays at home with baby for the week and allows Mommy to be with her family in their time of grief.

“No sweat,” I said. “I got it under control.”

I talked tough, told my wife I would be fine and that she shouldn’t worry. Little did she know that I was partially confident, partially bluffing and partially just going on blind faith.

In the end, Avery and I had a great week, despite the worsening of a cold that sent us to the doctor twice, several sleepless nights and lots of worrying.

Fatherhood should be looked at as an honor, as a blessing and as a gift, not as a burden. Each of us today should take a moment to tell our fathers what they mean to us.

Today is the first Father’s Day that I can call myself a “Dad” and I hope to keep earning that designation for many years.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Ironton Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at mike.caldwell@irontontribune.com.