When I was growing up, there were lots of father figures in my life.
I had an uncle who was a terrific role model. He gave me my first real gun. A beautiful .22 rifle. I used to shoot it on his farm when I was growing up. He had his farm in addition to his real job, which he spent 40-plus hours at each week. He also had two stepchildren. All three of my cousins called him daddy.
Then, my mom's dad was an awesome grandparent. I called him Paw Paw. For my mom, it was different. Her own father died in 1952 while working. So, my Paw Paw was technically her stepfather. That didn't matter to her. At well over six feet tall, he was a towering man. He had the heart of a child though. What did she call him? Daddy.
As I grew older, those two strong men in my life passed away. It is unfortunate that none of my children ever got to meet them. They would have been a great set of men for my kids to have in their lives. Life isn't fair sometimes and that is true in this case.
As this time of year rolls around, when we celebrate Father's Day, I can't help but remember these two men. Father's Day is that day when we honor fathers for their sacrifices and all they do. It is different for me now, being a father for my own kids. It is much different because I am a stay-at-home dad, too. Back in their day, that would never have happened.
I am the one now that has to be the role model. Each day, I am faced with the task of making sure I am doing the right thing, not just doing things right. When you have six eyes watching you, and four of them more closely than the newest baby, it can be tough. Watching what you say, how you react to things and the like can all be trying. Not to mention finding time to make everything fit into the day.
Now, I find myself thinking of another very important thing I heard growing up about fatherhood. And this is my challenge to all the other fathers out there. Any man around can be called a father when his child is born. It takes a special man to be called dad or daddy. I want to challenge all of the fathers who read this to be known as a dad or daddy. Not simply as a father.
Some people may ask what the difference is or if there is a difference. It's a big one. A daddy takes the time to be silly. He will let his nails get painted. He sees no problem in wearing a dress to the tea party at his home with his girls and their stuffed animals. At night, you can find him chasing monsters out of the bedroom. He isn't too old to play with Matchbox cars or G.I. Joe figures. Nor does he mind playing the role of Ken when it comes time to play Barbies.
A father won't find the time for these things. Nor will he make the time.
To all of you dads, daddies, and even to you fathers, happy Father's Day! Remember the reason why you are being celebrated this day. You could very well mean the world to them!
Mike Slawter is the stay-at-home dad of two girls and a baby boy in Raleigh. You can follow him on his blog.