I spend each Father’s Day reflecting on the shortcomings of my father throughout the milestones of my life. It all boils down to one thing: he wasn’t there. He missed my best moments, my worst moments, and almost everything in between. I have to beg him to show up to something that is important to me, and when he does, he uses the occasion to show me off to everyone he knows, even though he contributed absolutely nothing to my development as a human being.

The more people I talk to, the more I hear stories about fathers who abandon, abuse, or just simply don’t care about their children. It’s heartbreaking. It’s like the expectation of people to actually act like parents isn’t there anymore. The title of being a parent needs to be earned. It’s one thing to be a biological parent, it’s another to stick around and do the hard part. Unfortunately, not enough parents are willing to do the latter.

It takes more than conceiving a child to become a father. It’s too often that I hear “because I’m your father”. What did you do that makes you my father? When were you there? How much did you do to actually raise me?

Being a father is sacrificing your time to enhance your child’s life. It’s waking up unthinkably early to drive them to a sports game that they’ve been training for for months. It’s going to work everyday in order to save money so that your child can live the best life they possibly can. It’s teaching your child the hard lessons because you want them to grow up to be successful. It’s making promises and keeping them. It’s being there when your child gets older, and eventually, maybe, becoming a grandfather.

It’s not neglecting to pay child support because you’d rather spend the money on vacations. It’s not discouraging your child from doing what they love because it’s inconvenient for you. It’s not infidelity in your marriage. And it’s certainly not hiding out when the going gets tough, but then showing up to graduations and parties, pretending that you helped guide your child to success.

If your father puts your happiness above his, treasure that. If your father wants to be present in your life, recognize that. If your father would do absolutely everything he could to preserve your well-being, appreciate that. If you have a stepfather or mother who stepped in to fill that void, be thankful for them.

Don’t give the absent father the satisfaction of honoring them today. Conceiving a child is easy. Fathering a child is not. The difference between being a man and being a fraud lies in between those two.

I hope that, this year, your Father’s Day is spent celebrating someone important to you and not resenting them for their shortcomings.

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