After a recent reflection about my life, both past and current, I realized that my children were lucky. They had both a father and a dad, but it got me wondering what the definition was of each word? Are they one and the same? Or are they two entirely different things?
To find my answer, my thoughts teleported me to my childhood. Not in general, but to a specific event that provided me with the clarity I needed to answer those questions. So, let me set the stage for you.
It was a scorching summer, and I had just turned 8-years-old. This particular summer held great promise for me because for the first time, I was going to my dad’s house for the summer (my mother and father divorced when I was a baby). My mom told us (me, my sister and brother) that our dad called, and said he would be arriving around 6 PM to pick us up. To me, this meant two months of exciting adventures, with the bonus of playing with my dad, snuggling in my dad’s lap, spending long-overdue hours with my dad, and meeting my dad for the first time in my life.
The fact that he was a stranger didn’t bother me. All I felt was joy and excitement. I can still feel the overwhelming sense of young hope. So, I decided I was going to sit on the front stoop of our house all day and wait for him. My mother, bless her heart, agreed, and brought my lunch and dinner to me so that I could wait to see him driving up our street to pick up his kids. I sat there all day. I didn’t even get up to go to the bathroom, which at the age of 8 is a daunting task, but I did it.
As the 6 O’clock hour arrived, my anticipation was at its height. My every happiness hinged on that moment, but as the moment slipped by and faded into an hour , it waned. Yet I was stubborn, and each time my mother came outside to check on me, all I would respond with is “he’ll be here soon.” After the sun had dipped below the horizon, the stars no longer twinkled against the black sky, and I curled up on the hard-concrete step, closed my eyes, and cried. My dad never showed.
Fast forward almost 20 years. I was a young single mother by the age of 22. My kids did have a father, but they did not have a dad, just like me. I played both roles for 6 years, and during that time I focused on myself; getting a job, going to college, and helping my daughter learn to communicate (I found out she was deaf). While I was happy, something was still missing for both me and my children until I met my husband, Todd.
Todd changed our lives, in the best way possible. While he wasn’t the biological contributor to the process of conception, he filled the shoes of a dad. The thing I find most special about this is that Todd chose to be their dad. He didn’t have to. It wasn’t some genetic calling or long-held fatherly instinct. He made a conscious choice to protect them, guide them, and love them. That’s not to say that his fatherly instinct isn’t strong, because it’s stronger than their biological father ever exhibited, and over the years, he has become not only their dad, but their father as well.
So, let’s get back to the questions at the beginning of this article. In my experience, a father is the biological donor that is critical to creating a life. A dad is the man who steps up to the challenge, regardless of their biological contribution to the life of a child. But an amazing thing happens when a man chooses to be a dad; he becomes a father, in virtually every aspect of the word.
I’ll close this with one last thought. Kudos to my husband, Todd! He’s been the only father and dad my children ever needed.