This time of year titles like Dad, Pops, Daddy, and Father are thrown around easily, but do we really know what a real dad is? My definition might be different than yours, but deep down I think we all know that a real father is so much more than just the contribution of DNA.
It doesn’t take changing diapers and getting up for midnight feedings to make you a dad. Although, if you ask any sleep deprived mother she would say that it would help.
A father is someone who is there for you when you need him most, whether it be physically, on the phone or in a text message. He takes the time to be a part of your life any way he can. He’s someone you can laugh with, cry with or even set off the smoke alarm with while burning chicken. Whether your dad is your biological father, a step-father, a relative or friend who has stepped into that role, it doesn’t mean that they are any less important and impactful on your life.
My husband of almost twenty years is a father through biology and marriage. He was in his early twenties when he stepped into the lives of my two oldest sons. They were grade school age and somewhat of a handful. The younger one had been diagnosed with Autism at a time when very few people had heard of Autism, let alone knew what it meant. I had resigned myself to the fact that I would probably never marry again, because let’s face it, who wants to take on two rambunctious boys and most especially one with a disability. Never once did he hesitate to step up to the plate and be whatever they needed at the time. Within the first year we were blessed with another baby. Never once did he make a distinction between his biological son and his step-sons. From day one he always referred to them as his boys, never step-sons and very few people have ever questioned that he is the father of all three kids. As he likes to say, “I’m an equal opportunity dad.” They are all loved and disciplined equally.
He attempted to teach each of them to drive. And I mean attempted. My husband has been driving some form of vehicle whether it be a tractor or car since he was ten years old. It was beyond his understanding that something like driving was not somehow ingrained in your chemical makeup, much like crawling or talking. He assumed that when the kids turned sixteen, they would just get behind the wheel and naturally know what to do. After all, that’s how he learned. Needless to say, driving lessons have given us some very entertaining stories.
When our oldest son hit his teenage years, it was the first time we saw the kids make a distinction between my husband and their biological father. Our house had rules and expectations that weren’t out of the ordinary. We were trying to prepare him for the future, but like all teenagers trying to gain some independence, we were the most unfair parents on the planet. My husband took the brunt of the rebellion. Now as an adult our son appreciates the boundaries we set in place. It makes me proud to see that he had followed in my husband’s footsteps and developed a strong work ethic.
Our middle son has grown and reached beyond the potential that I had been told to expect when he was first diagnosed with Autism. I credit my husband for a lot of it. He stepped up to the plate and helped me navigate a society with a lot of misconceptions and assumptions about the ability of a disabled child to succeed. When our son took an interest in WWE, my husband began to watch it with him so that they could have something to talk about. To this day is still one of his favorite pastimes and it’s my husband who makes sure they have tickets to the latest event to come to town.
Our youngest son just graduated from high school. We couldn’t be prouder. There have been a few times over the last couple of years where I wasn’t sure if either our son or myself would survive. We’ve had some challenges, like moving several times for job changes that made the whole high school experience much more difficult. Once again, Dad stepped up and helped to put out the fires. Working several states away Monday through Friday, he could have easily shrugged his shoulders and told us to work it out among ourselves. Instead, he fielded phone calls, handing out much needed advice.
My own father told me often that my husband and I were a good match because we allowed each other to soar. At the same time, we knew when to reel the other back in when the boundaries were being stretched just a little too much. I have to say that is something that I’ve learned from my husband as I watched the way he’s interacted with our kids.
My wonderful husband is an excellent example of a great father. He’s not perfect by any means, but he tries his damnedest to be the best dad he can be. And in the end that’s all any of us can ask for.