If You Do These 10 Things, You’re Winning at Fatherhood

Loving a child is not particularly hard.  One look at that bobble head and beer belly and we’re sold.  Throw in a smile and we’re forever smitten.

But babies grow up. We believe that parenting will get easier. But it doesn’t. You go from late nights wiping stinky bottoms to late nights wiping uncontrollable tears.  How do you explain to an 8 year old why some kids are just mean?

Time goes on. Just when you perfect the art of parenting that 8 year old, she has a birthday and turns 14.  The game changes.  You dole out advice and wonder if she’s listening.  Someone is always in a funk, even when ice cream is involved.  Spending every Saturday coaching kids sports, watching kids sports, or working so that you can afford to pay for kids sports — that’s all hard stuff.

But a lot of fathers are doing what’s hard every day.  They show up.  And we moms appreciate it. And although we may not say it as much as we should, continue being awesome dads. For those who forgot what awesome looks like, here’s a reminder.

Great dads do things they don’t want to do. Spending a day at the beach is not my husband’s idea of a good time. He doesn’t swim. He sees no point to laying in the sun on an uncomfortable beach chair, surrounded by sand.  But the beach  =  hours of fun for the wife and kids. So he does his best to enjoy it at least once a year.

Zanzibar, Tanzania


Great dads clean up the big messes. Spilled milk? No problem.  Snotty nose? I got you.  But when my son got into the green paint, tag. Dad was it.  “Super Dad” protects little feet by sweeping broken dishes from floors and handles anything requiring a plunger.  When I don’t want to get my hands dirty, I don’t have to.


Great dads shovel snow.  Every year it snows in Maryland. And every year, this dad makes sure that a path is safe and doesn’t ice over.  This is isn’t just for our safety but for the safety of the mail carrier and any neighbors that might brave the cold to visit us.  He helps us enjoy the snow when we are completely over it.  I call it our “snow day rules.”  And yes, he builds snowmen.


Great dads teach their kids how to  “shovel snow.”  Snow shoveling, here, is a metaphor for any skill that dad imparts, which the kids can then go brag to their friends about.   Did your dad teach you how to shoot a gun? Build a fire? Do long division? Play basketball? Ride a bike? Change a tire? Catch a fish? Pick a lock? Drive a riding lawnmower, ATV, or a car? If yes, chances are you have an awesome dad.


Great dads don’t ask for directions.  Great dads, actually discard the directions when going anywhere or assembling anything that seems remotely intuitive.  At the expense of being a mild annoyance to me, ditching the instructions teaches the kids to trust their instincts, abilities, and talents and to also and to enjoy the journey; because without instructions, this just might take a while.SONY DSC


Great dads fix cars (or can at least keep a mechanic honest). I am lucky to have landed a guy who is talented when it comes to basic car maintenance and repair. He’s the “Dan” to my “Roseanne.” This is because he had a great dad, who taught him how to change a tire, to check oil, to bleed breaks, and that in a pinch, break fluid is a decent substitute for power steering fluid. Rarely are we in a serious car bind. And if we need a mechanic, he knows just enough to keep the mechanic honest. I look forward to the day when our kids are under the hood with him.



Great dads make holidays fun.  Even though he refuses to indulge the kids with fantasies about Santa Claus, he does his best to make the major holidays special for the kids. So while I am getting Halloween costumes together and putting up lights, he’s there with the camera in hand to capture all the special moments.

School Halloween Festival


Great dads encourage the building of forts. Kids can rest easy knowing that dad will not blink an eye at the impromptu building of a fort in the living room, especially since it was probably all dad’s idea. Great dads take time get on the floor with kids and play, whether it’s giving piggy back rides, indoor hide n’ seek, or spending hours zoned out on the video games.


Great dads take you to see real life forts. This future Jeopardy-contestant dad never misses an opportunity to teach the kids. When our son was doing a report on the Wright Brothers, we drove 30 miles south to the National Air and Space Museum to check out one of their first planes up close.  Our Hamilton-crazed daughter was able to see a special exhibit and tour on his life by taking a 2 hour drive north to Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center. Near or far, he’s usually up for an experience that will bring the story books to life.  Yes, those pyramids in the “Prince of Egypt,” are a thing.

Dad & Son Atop the Fort
Dad & Son atop the Nizwa Fort, Oman
Kids enjoy Gondar Castle, Gondar Ethiopia
The Blue Nile Falls, near Bahir Dar Ethiopia

Great dads look good on mom’s arm.  After great dads are done cleaning up green paint and cleaning engine oil from under their nails, they clean up well. I never miss an opportunity to dress him up and step out on the town.


Enjoying coffee on at Wude Coffee, Bahir Dar

Hats off to all the great dads in the world.  And if you have a great dad in your life, make sure that he knows it this Father’s Day — show him in his love language or the best way you know how.  For everyone appreciates sincere, kind words of appreciation spoken from the heart.





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