Some of my friends have children, but many do not. Raising offspring is not for everyone, and I fully appreciate anyone who comes to that realization on their own as opposed to having it pointed out to them by social workers or law enforcement officials. (That's not to say that I am not saddened sometimes that some potentially awesome parents have opted out, but that is neither here nor there!) There has to be more to the ideal of fatherhood than simply the ability to biologically sire a child, or even the ability to raise a child that is not of your blood, as we see so often in blended or adoptive families. This profane but heartfelt open letter on Jezebel.com is certainly on the right track, and echoes a lot of my own sentiments with regard to my daughters, but it's not where my thoughts are leading me today.
I firmly believe that we make the world a better place by making better people, and being a decent parent is only one of many ways of achieving this. Having a positive influence on the people around you, whether they are parents or children (of any age!) can help everyone live a little better. This is my second Father's Day without my dad, and it's got me thinking about the other men in our lives that shape us, prepare us and support us as we stumble about our world, trying to make a way for ourselves and those we care about.
- The teachers who reached out to us and encouraged us to nurture our gifts.
- The coaches who taught us healthy competition.
- The uncles who spoke truth to us when we needed to hear it.
- The bosses who balanced compassion and firmness.
- The family friends who stepped in when our Dads couldn't be there.
- The mentors who pointed out a better way.
- The volunteers who fill the gaps of time, talent, treasure, and even blood.
We aren't always conscious of when we step into these roles ourselves, they just seem to happen. One moment you might be a carefree bachelor with a clearly defined and widely respected zone of personal space; the next, your girlfriend's children are crawling all over you like a set of organic monkey bars. And maybe that's all it takes, is being there at that moment, not defining it, not labeling it, but simply doing it. The simple act of being there for their children is often too much to ask for some parents, so I am extremely grateful for any who try to draw up that slack, whether formally or informally.
On this Father's Day, I ask two things: that we recognize those transitory fathering moments when we have a divine opportunity to make the world a better place through a sometimes insignificant act of kindness, firmness, clarity or openness, and that we perhaps take a moment to appreciate those who have done this for us, or for others in our lives.
For myself, I had a great (but certainly not perfect) example of fatherhood to set me me on my way, good examples from uncles, coaches, bosses and friends to fill in some of the gaps, and a great family to help me learn the rest; like the Google doodle says, I'm Feeling Lucky.