A look at what it means to be a dad, not just a father

Dad of four tells it like it is

When asked the definition of father vs. dad, Google’s answer is: “A dad is someone who is present. A father is more of a biological term than a role or relationship.”

I think it is not so simply defined. Being a dad is, in my opinion, undefinable. Being a dad is raw emotion. Everything from frustration and anger with no discrete target to the most joy and pride you have ever experienced or will ever experience in your lifetime; and everything in between.

My wife, Laura, and I started our journey knowing that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to have a family of our own. We have been blessed not once but three times and have four children. A set of boy/girl twins, Ayden and Elnora, who are now 4 (yes, we kept them alive for 4 years now!); a girl, Addison, who is almost 3; and a boy, Erron, who will be 1 soon.

We endured a twin pregnancy with a neonatal intensive care unit stay, followed by a miscarriage just six months after bringing the twins home. The next month, before I was even healed from the loss of our unknown yet missing child, we were surprised with our now almost 3-year-old daughter letting us know she existed. We planned our next child down to the day to keep my wife and our future child as safe as possible; and now have another son.

Being a dad …

Being a dad is being part of something greater than you could ever be on your own. My wife and I are a “team.” When I am weak, she is strong. When she is unsure, I have conviction. We work (yes, work) with a common goal. At times, that goal is simply surviving the next minute, hour or  toddler meltdown. Meltdowns over the fact that whatever object is red and not blue, or that you’re not putting diaper cream on their sister’s butt. At other times, it is instilling the values that will help our children become productive members of society.

Being a dad is knowing limits: yours, your partner’s and your children’s; and being able to tell when that limit is reaching its max. I know when my children are about to meltdown before they do. I know by sound alone that my child is doing something they are not allowed to do. It’s like a sixth sense.

Being a dad is adapting and overcoming in situations that never seem to end. Adapting to lack of sleep, teething toddlers, fussy kids; even missing ingredients for the dinner everyone is wanting.

Being a dad is chasing your now crawling child around the house so they don’t chew on the power cords to the laptops, or playing a game of hide-and-seek that you didn’t know you were playing (because well, he was here a second ago. Where did he go this time!)

Being a dad is doing what has to be done to keep everything moving in a forward direction. I change diapers because it is needed. I get up in the middle of the night because that is what my child needs or what he thinks he needs. I do the dinner dishes so that my wife can nurse our child without having to worry that the dishes are waiting on her.

Hope and fear

Our newborns have always slept next to my side of the bed so that I wake with them. This ensures that I am awake to help my wife. While I am not able to nurse our children, I am able to change their diaper, burp them, and re-swaddle them. This allows me to form a bond with them and develop an understanding of their needs, so that if all they really need is some soothing or a pinky finger, my wife does not have to be woken up.

Being a dad is having to discipline your child when all you want to do is cuddle with them. You do it because you know it has to be done.

Being a dad, you come to know the meaning of simple pleasures. The best place in the whole universe for me is giving our baby a shower and having them fall asleep on my shoulder. This is compounded with sorrow because no matter how hard I try, this moment will only last as long as the hot water holds out, and that is never long enough.

I find myself waking up every morning hoping I don’t mess them up too bad and going to sleep fearing that I have done just that. Maybe this is what being a dad really is — hoping that you don’t mess them up too bad and fearing that you have.


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