When I was younger, I thought being a dad was pretty easy. As I grew up, I realized what an amazing man my father is, because he made such a difficult job look like a walk in the park. While as of yet I have no experience in fatherly ways, I’ve learned from the best, so in that respect I feel qualified to explain some of the reasons great fathers are, well…great.
1. They listen to their children.
I don’t just mean they let their kids chat away while smiling and nodding. Anyone can do that. A great father will dive into the silly story his son is telling about some cartoon, creating conversational points around a topic he would not be talking about at all if it wasn’t with his own child. He’ll also be there for the tough conversations when his children need a shoulder to cry on, and be ready with actionable advice on how to move forward. Great fathers know their kids inside and out, because they’ve spent their parenthood listening to what their children have to say.
2. They’re interested in their children’s interests.
The best fathers take a genuine interest in what their children like to do. All fathers would absolutely love it if their children took up similar hobbies, but great dads let their kids pursue their own interests. Not only do they let their kids follow their own dreams, but great fathers also become interested in these dreams as well. They seek out information about their children’s hobbies on their own time, so they can spend more quality time with their kids. Great fathers take time away from their own interests in favor of watching their children thrive.
3. They care deeply.
They don’t just act as a shoulder to cry on, either. Amazing fathers preoccupy themselves with their children’s well-being, and take their kids’ burdens on themselves. Their mood depends on their children’s. How can they enjoy themselves if they know their kid is upset? On the other hand, on their worst days, how can a father be upset when he sees how happy his children are? Not only do great fathers care about their own family, but they also care for everyone, and everything, around them as well.
4. They show they care deeply.
The best fathers drop the stoic act immediately, and only seldom pick it back up. My favorite part of A Christmas Story is the look on the father’s face when Ralphie finally gets that Red Ryder BB Gun. Throughout the whole movie, you got the feeling his father was a strict, no-nonsense type of guy—that is, until you see how happy he is to have made his son so ecstatic. The mark of a great father is the ability to let down his guard, and show his children just how much he cares.
5. They help their kids find the answers to their questions.
I’ll never forget this moment, and whenever I think about it I hope that this man was an uncle or relative without any kids of his own: At a local destruction derby event (which I was at for some reason I can’t remember), a young child behind me kept asking questions about the trucks and cars on the field. The adult with him eventually said “You sure do ask a lot of questions,” and that was the last time I heard the child speak.
If I was in that man’s shoes, I would have immediately taken the child’s hand, brought him down to the pit area, and found a friendly mechanic to answer those innumerable questions the boy had. By doing so, a father can not only get the answers his kid is looking for, but teach his child how to find answers when they aren’t sure of them.
6. They let their children’s imagination thrive.
Just like a father should guide their children toward the answers for questions they may have, he should also allow his child to spend time in wonderment. Remarking that a child is “just being silly” will shut them off to their own imagination, which at one point they may never recover. On the other hand, a father who provides a cardboard box, scissors, tape, and paint to their child will be absolutely amazed at what his kid can come up with in a short period of time. Great fathers provide endless opportunities for their children to expand their minds.
7. They read, and read to their children.
One day when I was six years old, I ran into my parents bedroom at 6:30 in the morning crying because I had just read that Dr. Seuss had died. I was six. And I habitually read the morning paper. I’ll give you one guess where I picked up that habit from. Although my mother was usually the one to read a bedtime story to me, my father has always read the morning paper, and could always be caught reading a sports or fishing magazine throughout his day off. By doing so, he modeled the importance of reading for a variety of purposes to his (incredibly amazing) children every day of his life.
8. They handle the dirty work.
I’m sure my wife will hold me to this when we have kids in a few years, but here it goes: great fathers have no qualms about changing diapers, cleaning up vomit, or handling any type of grossness related to their children. They can look past the disgusting bodily fluids and know that not only are they helping their beloved wives, but they’re also bonding with their babies.
Cut forward about 12 years. Great fathers will also be able to talk to their growing children about adolescence, and have all the difficult “chats” that come up around that age. Again, while it might not be the most comfortable thing in the world, awesome fathers will push past the discomfort knowing that it will benefit their children in the long run.
9. They exhibit self-control.
Super dads never lose control. They might be seething, upset, or even frightened on the inside, but great fathers never let their kids know it. They deal with issues in as calm and collected a manner as possible, and keep their negative feelings to themselves knowing that a break in their armor could lead their children to even worse fright. Fathers who act this way are the reason children brag about them to their friends: their fathers’ actions have allowed them to truly think their dad is the most amazing person in the entire world.
10. They put away childish things.
Becoming a father means losing a part of yourself, while gaining a lot more. It’s no longer acceptable to go out to the bar with your friends until question mark o’clock. It’s no longer an option to spend Saturday afternoon in your underwear watching ESPN. And it’s definitely not okay to blast Sublime in your car on the first day of summer anymore.
But, the best fathers know that there is no point in drinking until you can’t stand up when you could be watching over your child as he sleeps peacefully. They would rather get up and go fishing at six a.m. than stay in bed until ten. They would rather see their kid dance in the backseat to some silly kids’ song than blow out their eardrums listening to SoCal ska. The best fathers know that letting go of a past life can lead to bigger and better things.
11. They put others before themselves.
Okay, I have to use my own father as an example again. Every year for Christmas, he’d always joke that “this year would be the year he got that bass boat.” He easily could have gone out and bought a boat at any given time throughout my childhood, but it would have been at the expense of a family vacation, or a few years’ worth of “just because” presents for his children and wife. That never mattered to him. Being a great father, he constantly put his own interests on the back burner, in favor of his family members’ happiness. (By the way, he finally bought one a few years ago :-D)
12. They provide for their families.
The greatest fathers aren’t the billionaires who can buy whatever their kids want. They’re not the ones who can fly their family to the Bahamas every winter for two weeks. I’m not saying those who can do these things aren’t great fathers—just that these examples aren’t the only great fathers out there.
The man who works two jobs so his family can eat; the man who works the graveyard shift but manages to pick his kid up from school every day; the man who hates his boss but goes to work with a smile every day so his family has a roof over their head—these are the great fathers. The ones that know that no matter what hardship their going through, they’d rather go through them than see their family suffer.
13. They’re always there when needed.
We talked about dads being a shoulder to cry on, but there’s more to it than that. Great fathers will absolutely drop whatever they’re doing to support their children. He just lay down after a hard day’s work, and his kid needs a ride to soccer practice? No problem. His boss asks if he could stay late on the day of his daughter’s recital? No can do. Even if he knows he won’t be able to get a nap in later, or that his boss will be on his case tomorrow, a great father never disappoints his children, no matter what.
14. They truly want all of it.
The best fathers know there is absolutely nothing more rewarding than everything involved in being a father. No amount of money, possessions, nor any other accomplishment can mean more than raising a son or daughter that you can be proud of. He may have to change who he is, but he welcomes the change with open arms. The best fathers have waited for the day they became a dad since they were young, and have simply been waiting for the right moment.