Allmen can be fathers, but only great ones are dads

Published June 18, 2006

There's a big difference between being a father and being a dad. The former is biological, the latter emotional.

Fathering is an act of nature. Being a dad is all nurture.

I consider myself a dad because from day one - actually, minute one - our sons' presence has been something special and even sacred to me.

I don't mean to boast, but I believe that I've learned that essential lesson of parenting: Become someone who learns how to love from our children and who loves them back unconditionally.

Father's Day might be misnamed. I vote for Dad's Day. Every child needs a dad, who might not be his or her biological father.

A dad is someone who's there when a child needs them most, in good times and bad, when guidance and the gifts of an open ear and caring heart are most important.

Dads come in all ages, shapes and sizes. Grandfathers and uncles, cousins and big brothers, even neighbors, family friends, teachers and coaches can play Dad at critical moments in a child's life.

Foster and adoptive dads are among the most special people because their gifts are often the most timely in the life of a child. Opening our doors and hearts to children whose needs are great and emotions fragile takes a certain brand of kindness and leadership. How many of us have the core values to accept another's child as our own?

The absence of dads in the lives of children, either physically, emotionally or both, is certainly one of the most obvious factors in creating childhood stress.

While I know that many moms are heroic and provide a phenomenal level of care, loving support and family leadership, I hold fast to the belief that children need more than one primary caregiver.

Having studied the family for more than 30 years, I am convinced that when a child is not afforded the advantage of a loving and caring male model, problems are more likely.

Call me a traditionalist, but I think children live what they learn, and who among us has not benefited from the generous gift of male guidance?

Of course, I certainly do not advocate keeping children in peril if a parent is dangerous or their influence detrimental to the child's health and safety. But given the reality that child rearing is at its best a team sport, let's develop a consensus to empower dads, support dads, and when necessary, recruit dads to be there for our children.


Jack Levine is founder of the 4Generations Institute in Tallahassee and can be reached at Jack.levine@comcast.net.