Several years ago I nervously left my son at home alone in my new apartment for the first time since my divorce. When I came home from the birthday dinner I had gone to, I didn’t know whether to be proud or sad.
With a tie sloppily hanging from his neck, my son said, “YouTube is my daddy.”
I asked, “Why do you say that.”
His response was, “YouTube taught me how to tie a tie.”
I smiled on the outside, cried on the inside, couldn’t say a word, and just hugged my child. When I finally could speak, I told him I was proud of him for being so resourceful and that it was important to learn how to figure things out when we didn’t have people to show us.
I always knew he needed a daddy, and I really needed mine. But in that moment, that feeling was magnified.
When a girl knows that no matter how a good a man treats her, he could never love her more than her daddy. Or no matter how bad a man treats her, her daddy will be there to protect her. When she needs help, support, or love, she doesn’t need to run to a man, settle for less, or depend on her friends or just on herself. Having a daddy changes everything about her life.
When a boy sees his daddy, he see himself and what he can be. What it means to be strong and lead your family. How it’s okay and necessary to have and show your feelings. The lessons about what it means to be a man don’t all have to be learned the hard way because many are demonstrated daily. Having a daddy changes everything about his life.
Unfortunately, these scenarios with daddy are foreign to a lot of people. Or maybe some people experience some small aspects of this and are grateful for anything they get because so many get none of this. And everything about their lives changes because of it.
Not having a daddy to fix her car, cut her grass, give relationship advice, support her with her kids, or defend her in challenges, can make a woman strong and independent. It can also make her defensive and dismissive. Daddies provide the balance.
Not having a daddy to teach him how to treat women, be providers and protectors, discover his passions, can make men driven to do better. It can also make men hardened, abusive, and insecure. Daddies provide the lessons.
When a young woman has a daddy to ask how she’s doing then pushes for the real answer past, “Fine.” Or when a young man has had a daddy and knows that he can express his feeling and get help and advice on manhood. Daddies change everything about a person’s life.
Raising my son without a dad has hands down been the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it has made me who I am. Although my son has not always done what I wanted or expected of him, he has done his best figuring out life and manhood without his father and with the men who tried and are trying to guide him.
This morning, he called me with his daughter, and they told me Happy Father’s Day. No, I’m not a father. I’m not a man. Never have been, never will be, and never want to be. I’m not getting into the debate about mothers being celebrated on Father’s Day, but I appreciate my son for recognizing me for filling in the gap as best I could. For doing what his father didn’t. And I’m thankful he is starting to appreciate and acknowledge that.
On Father’s Day without knowing it, he took me back to that tie moment and made my prouder than I’ve been in a long time. When his dog made his daughter cry, I heard him tell her in a calming, yet definitive voice, “I got you.”
That gave me chills. Such a beautiful thing for a daddy to say and show his daughter. Such a powerful thing for a girl to know.
Many daddies know their roles are important, and I applaud each and every daddy doing their job and the jobs of others.
But daddy, do you know that your role is more than important? It is crucial. No matter the age of your child and for so many situations; you are so needed.
Daddy, do you know that the smallest thing you do (or don’t do) can change everything about your child’s life? Daddy, do you know that your child loves you even when you don’t show you love them and even when that love may show as hate…which is hurt?
So daddy, and when I say “daddy”, I’m talking to anyone who is called daddy and even those who aren’t daddies but are fathers because of genetics. To anyone who feels it or shows it or does the job. You are daddy.
And, daddy, I want you to know.