It's relatively easy to father a child. Being a dad to one, however, is another matter.
Becoming a dad is something that can't be found in an instruction manual, though there are probably dozens of books that purport to teach it. Some men have the advantage of having been raised by a dad, which makes their path a bit easier since they had the opportunity to learn from direct observation. Even then, though, dadship is on-the-job training.
A man who is a father -- whether natural or adoptive -- has the capacity to make the transition to dad.
So, what makes a great dad?
First, he's there. He's in his child's life -- and involved in his child's life -- as much as possible.
He's encouraging. He tries to get his child to do his or her best, but keeps in mind that it's for the child's sake, not his. A dad doesn't relive -- or capture missed -- sports and academic glory through his child, but he takes pride in the child's achievements.
He's a guide. Action is a powerful educational tool. A child watches how a dad deals with life, both the good times and bad, the joy and the stress. Everything a dad does that a child observes is captured and categorized for reference years down the road.
He knows that at times he has to be a disciplinarian, but he also knows that he should never discipline his child if he is angry about something that his child did.
He listens. Rather than impose his hopes and dreams on his child, he listens and encourages the child to pursue his or her own dreams.
He demonstrates strong personal and professional ethics. Again, a child learns from observation.
He shows faith that his child will do the right thing. There will be the occasional slip and failure, but a child will do his or her best to live up to expectations.
He's never afraid to use the "L" word. A child should never wonder whether his dad loves him or his mom, and no child should grow up thinking that using the word "love" is something unusual or, even worse, a sign of weakness.
Love instilled by a dad is anything but a weakness. In fact, there are few things stronger.
-- The Albany Herald Editorial Board