I’ll be celebrated this coming Sunday like millions of other dads on our officially designated “Father’s Day,” but I prefer to celebrate my four other father’s days.
Here’s how I figure it: These are the birthdays of each of my three daughters and the day I said “yes” when a 32-year-old adult asked me to be his father.
Yes, it feels good personally to be celebrated each year on the third Sunday of June and for the nation to have an opportunity to acknowledge the importance of fathers, but it may be of even greater value for dads to consider celebrating the birth of their children as the true father’s days.
To distinguish between the two, we might consider renaming the latter “Daddy’s Day.”
There is a big difference between fathers and daddies. Becoming a father is a onetime biological act that occurs in a matter of seconds and does not require a commitment beyond the provision of sperm. Being a daddy is a lifelong process — a repertoire of actions that requires ongoing and demonstrable commitment.
Daddying occurs at the juncture of fatherhood and nurturance; it can be a force that encourages a child to thrive. At its most sublime it can be reciprocally nurturing — providing the parent an opportunity to be nourished by the child’s response to daddying.
Although ideally carried out by the birth father, a daddying role can also be played by a grandfather, older brother, uncle or close friend. Providing a daddying role is not only good for the child whose father is not around (and there are 25 million waking up this morning into daddyless households — by biological definition there is no such thing as a fatherless child). This is also good for the men who take the opportunity to step up to play such a role and fill such a void.
Here’s why: The hundreds of dads, granddads, and great-granddads I’ve interviewed during the past 16 years have told me that as fathers, they experience a different kind of love, they are less self-centered and they appreciate their partners more. Being engaged dads, they also get to experience the valuable childlike qualities of curiosity, imagination, the propensity to question, a willingness to make mistakes, enthusiasm, flexibility and humor — qualities that may be as valuable to adults as they are to children.
As we celebrate dads on Sunday it is also important to be mindful of the sad fact that the U.S. is the world’s “leader” in fatherless families. Every day in America, 11,000 babies are born, each baby has a father and each of these fathers has the opportunity to become a daddy. So let’s use our official Father’s Day each year to Daddy-up — it’s not only for the good of our children, but also for our fathers, families, communities, and our nation.
Happy Daddy’s Day!Allan Shedlin is founder and president of Reel Fathers (reelfathers.org) and a member of the leadership team of the New Mexico Alliance for Fathers & Families. He is the father of three daughters and a son and the grandfather of eight. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He wrote this for The New York Times.