Dad, I Finally Get the Whole Father’s Day Thing

I realize how lucky I was to have an amazing father growing up.

My dad was around. He was present, loving, patient and kind. He was everything you’d want a dad to be.

Every year when Father’s day rolled around, we’d make cards, my mom would buy a gift that was from “all of us,” and we’d either make dinner (which really meant my mom made dinner) or we’d go out somewhere.

Father’s Day was always a thing that existed, but never really a thing that I understood or cared about too much.

Don’t get me wrong–I loved my dad–and still do very much. I was glad that he had a job so that we could have a home to live in and clothes to wear, and that he knew how to fix things that I broke, but I never really “got” the whole Father’s Day thing.

Like really, you need a whole day for people to tell you how great you are? You need a whole day for construction paper cards, homemade “gifts” and dinner out at a restaurant with plastic menus and cheap kids meals?

It just never really made a whole lot of sense to me.

Then I had children of my own.

I don’t mean this in a Now that I’m a dad I want people to make a big deal of me and shower me with gifts and affection and appreciation kind of way.

I mean this in a Holy smokes I get how hard it is to raise children kind of way.

Being a dad is hard work. Whether you work a traditional job or are a stay-at-home dad, it’s exhausting.

In my family, I head off to work every day, and by the time I get home from work I’m exhausted from dealing with oversized children (colleagues at work) and am ready to unwind. But there’s always a fight to break up, or an injury to soothe, or a new made-up joke to be told (my oldest is really good/bad at jokes.)

Father’s Day means a little more to me now.

It makes me appreciate the things I did when I was a kid that must have just stretched my dad to his breaking point, but somehow, never actually made him snap.

Like the time I dropped something behind the couch, and in the midst of trying to retrieve it, ended up breaking out a window with my backside. Lord knows how much those old windows in that house cost to replace.

Or the time we went to the rodeo, and the next day my sister and I decided to recreate the bull-riding event. She climbed onto my back, and the first time I “bucked,” the back of my head slammed into her mouth and she spent the next hour bleeding profusely all over our carpet.

Then there was the time my best friend and I decided that we wanted to learn how to “drift” in my truck, only to end up plowing through someone’s fence until we were stopped by a tree in their backyard.

Needless to say, I get it a bit more now. Because though my kids are only 8, 6, and 2, I can already see them doing some of the same ridiculous things that we did as kids, and suddenly my dad’s hair loss starts to make a little more sense.

The point is, be kind to the dads in your life this Father’s day. In all likelihood, whether they’ll admit it or not, there were multiple times when when we were growing up that they weren’t sure about the whole fatherhood thing. There were things that you and I did that made them, in the deepest part of themselves, wonder whether they’d made the right choice.

But as any dad will tell you, yes, kids are a good idea. Because no matter how many grey hairs my kids give me, or how many windows i have to replace, or how many bones need to be reset, my children are the best things that have ever happened to me.

I didn’t understand that before, but I sure do now.

So thank you, Dad. And thanks to all the dads.

Happy Father’s Day.

Stephen Carter is a writer, husband, father, & friend. He lives in Portland with his wife Rachel, and 3 beautiful girls, Avery, Rylee, & Hattie. When he’s not reading or writing, he enjoys a local micro-brew, or a strong cup of coffee. He is passionate about literature, theology, justice, Daniel Day-Lewis movies, U2 records (but with strong reservations about No Line on the Horizon), and believes that the right words can change the world. He can be found on: Twitter: @stephenedwardc

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