What It Means to Be a Father

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My dad and me in 1994 on our family summer vacation

What does it mean to be a father? I have always made a clear distinction in referencing my biological father. I have never, that’s right—never, referred to him as my father and have always consciously and distinctly added the preface – biological. I correct people if they refer to him as my dad or father, “Ahem…biological father,” I say automatically. This serves to differentiate between the father figures who’ve contributed to my life and those who have not.

As a parent, certain truths become clear. I’ve watched my husband transform from the love of my life to the love of my life and the father of my children. It astounds me that a man would choose to ignore one of his offspring.

Steve, my husband, always says that as a father he would maintain contact with his children, no matter how complicated or covert the situation. He finds it unfathomable that my biological father has abstained from contacting me for my entire life, 33 years.

My flippant retort is always, “Yes, but you don’t know his story.” I find myself excusing my biological father and ultimately championing his lack of involvement in my life. Why am I sticking up for someone I don’t even know? Maybe this has been a coping mechanism. It is easier to think fondly of the man that created me than to harbor contempt toward him. I don’t think I’m angry with my biological father. But maybe I am and don’t want to admit it.

I never knew my biological father, but I have a father. Although he’s technically my stepfather, he’s the man who stood by my wobbling two-wheeler bike as I braved bike riding for the first time. My father proposed to my mom and me when he knelt down on one knee and slipped the engagement ring on my mother’s finger. My mom and he included me on their honeymoon.

Together we explored the rugged terrain and vast beauty of Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho each summer on our family vacations. He is the man who acted silly and made my friends and me laugh until we nearly peed our pants during slumber parties. He proudly took my arm as we attended my school’s father-daughter dance. Standing behind the video camera, he’s the man who filmed my goofy basketball games, and my awkward ballerina leaps and pirouettes on the court. When I was tearful and confused about boys, my dad always listened and was the voice of reason. He is a man and will always be my father.

This article first appeared on TheDad.com

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