In honour of my wonderful father who chose to be my dad in every way…
I will always remember the wise words of a young girl as she explained the names she used for her step-father and her father. She used Dad to refer to her step-father and Father to refer to her biological father, because “anyone can be a father; not everyone is a real dad.” I thought of her innocent wisdom often during the years in which my own children ached for their father to choose to be a dad and to put them first. I write this letter on behalf of children who yearn for dads they can truly honour on Father’s Day and who put them first every day.
I want you to know how much it means to your children that you play with them. Oh, how they love when you engage and play with them! When a dad plays with his children, that time and interaction sends an unspoken message that they are valued and important. That time tells your children that they matter, and they need to know that to build their sense of worth in the world.
I want you to know how much it means to your children that you talk with them and truly listen to what they have to say. You don’t have to set aside time for talks. Just involve your children in what you are doing or take them with you on excursions or errands. Talk and share as you are doing something or going somewhere together. Your children need to know that you are interested in them and that you hear them. They need to know that what they share with you matters.
I want you to know how much it means to your children that you come to watch them participate in their sports and activities. It matters to them that you are watching or, even better, involved with their teams and groups. They look for you to be there, to be on the sidelines or in the stands cheering them on. Your presence tells them that you believe in them; that you are their greatest champion. They need you to believe in them so that they can learn to believe in themselves.
I want you to know how much it means to your children when you hug them and hold them and tell them how much you love them. Your unconditional love teaches them to love themselves. When children develop self-love, they have a strong inner base from which to venture forth into the world.
I want you to know how much it means to your children that you come to every Parent Night at school, even if you wish you could be anywhere else, so that they can show you what they are learning and have accomplished. Those moments in which they share their learning are filled with such hope that you will be proud of them. When they know that you are proud of them, they learn to feel self-pride. Self-pride helps them learn how to stand tall in the world and know what they have to offer.
I want you to know that your word means everything to your children. When you make and keep promises —when you are a man of your word — you teach your children about integrity and trust. They learn what it is to be trustworthy and honourable.
I want you to know that your relationship with your daughter will form the basis of every relationship she has as a teenager and a young woman. You are her first and primary relationship with a male, and the way in which you treat and honour her will be the model that she uses for all of her relationships with the opposite sex. She needs to experience your love and acceptance so that she is able to have healthy relationships as an adult.
I want you to know that you matter to your children. Your time with them, your connection with them, the relationship that you build with them is what helps them develop their own sense of worth and value. From a lifetime of working with children and adolescents, I can assure you that the sense of self-worth and self-love that they develop from their time and interactions with you is essential to their success in life. Children blossom when they know and trust in their dad’s love; they struggle when that is absent or questionable.
To all the men who choose to be dads, I honour you today and hope that you know what a difference you are making in your children’s lives. To all the men who are fathers, but who haven’t chosen to be dads, I want you to know that it is never too late. Even if your children are older, they will always yearn for a closer relationship with you. It is up to you to build a relationship with your children. You have to earn that by choosing to be a dad.