Dads, you are needed each and every day, but today, you are celebrated. I want to wish a very happy Father’s Day to all of the wonderful fathers out there. The work you are doing in your child’s life cannot be underestimated. In fact, the research proves it.
Children with stable, involved fathers have much higher levels of self-control, confidence, and sociability. They are less likely to engage in risky behavior as adolescents, and they are far less likely to have behavioral or psychological problems1.
Dads, you are important, valued and loved. Even when you don’t feel like it, you are making a huge impact on your child. I know this not only from the research but also from being a pediatrician for over thirty years. Again and again, I have heard children talk about their dads in my office like they are their everything. Trust me, they worship the ground you walk on.
This is why today I want to honor you by letting you in on some of those conversations I’ve had with your kids. Because you deserve to know what your child really thinks about you.
You are the center of their world.
I remember holding my father’s hands for the last time several years ago. I felt intense anxiety. It was more than grief or sadness, it was panic that something in the center of my life was about to collapse. My dad was my safety net. He was the hub at the center of our family and when he was gone I wondered, What would happen to me?
There’s a misconception that mothers are the center of a child’s world. Mothers are vitally important—I’m a mother of four myself—but too often we have the idea that fathers are optional, and mom takes center stage. But the fact is that the human family was meant to have mothers and fathers working together. Moms might bend a sympathetic ear or bandage the scraped knee, but kids look up to their dad as the one who can meet any challenge thrown at their family. He is the one whose presence makes everything right and good, and whose absence throws off the balance.
Dads you are and will always be the central figure of your child’s life. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
You can make time stand still.
Every minute you spend with your children multiplies in their minds. I remember how one teen told me, “When my dad was around, he and I talked for an hour every night before I went to bed. I miss him so much and I miss those times together.” Later, when I talked to this teen’s mother, she said, “No, they didn’t talk every night. He sat on the edge of her bed every other week or so they chatted for fifteen or twenty minutes.”
I’ve heard stories like this in my practice hundreds if not thousands of times. Do children lie about their fathers’ spending time with them? No. What happens is that when a father spends meaningful time with a child, the experience is magnified. As a father, you have the power to make time stand still.
You are the hero of their story.
All dads are hardwired with everything they need to be their child’s hero. Many dads are perfectionists. When their baby is born, they immediately fear they will mess something up or do something wrong. Let go of this fear. To be a hero dad you don’t have to do anything but live into who you already are.
Your child, similarly, is hardwired to believe you are her hero. She sees you as capable of anything, as her protector, as her ultimate hero. No matter what she says when she becomes a teenager, she will always believe this, as I did with my dad. Believe you are your child’s hero because that’s what your child believes about you.
Happy Father’s Day to all dads everywhere. You deserve to be celebrated for the wonderful humans and parents that you are and you deserve to know what your child is really thinking about you.
1A. Sarkadi et al., “Fathers’ involvement and children’s developmental outcomes: a systemic review of longitudinal studies,” Acta Paediatrica 97 (2008): 153-158.