Merriam Webster defines a litmus test as “a test in which a single factor (such as an attitude, event, or fact) is decisive.” Though a dad could be classified as either “good” or “not good,” this determination does not hinge on a single factor alone, rather I believe there are a few traits that all good fathers have in common.
They are there.
I believe that participation trophies are an injustice to winners and losers alike. That being said, I believe that participation in one’s child’s life is the key to being a good father. If a father is not present in his child’s life, they have a 0% chance of being a good father. In today’s world where divorce is more and more common and children are more often born out of wedlock, this can be truly challenging for some fathers out there.
My advice to the dads is: be there. My advice to the moms: let him.
Even if a father may be around, that is not enough. He must care about his children and their well-being. This can occur through countless ways including protecting, being a role model, spending quality time, and teaching lessons.
Unlike some of the incredible moms out there, a good father might not spend years researching the right school for the children or researching organic apple sauce vs. non-organic apple sauce, he surely makes sure his kids are fed, rested, safe, and generally happy.
As someone who cares a great deal for his children, I personally find that “caring” can often be like trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube with missing and misplaced stickers. Does caring mean ensuring that my children have a proper routine, are well-rested, are properly nourished, and never do anything remotely dangerous? Or does caring mean giving them non-organic cookies and non-organic juice, letting them climb non-organic trees, and letting them stay up non-organically late? In my opinion, caring requires all of the above!
Caring is a balancing act that warrants balancing safety with fun, health with taste, short-term happiness with long term well-being, and quite often what mom wants to do with what dad wants to do. There is no recipe for caring.
My advice here to both moms and dads is that if you find that these decisions aren’t easy ones, you are doing a great job. Very simply, if a father takes the time and cares for his children, he is a good father.
They support their children.
In our world, even though many fathers are the family breadwinners, simply providing financial support does not a good father make. This leads to yet another inevitable struggle that fathers (and mothers) face in the journey of parenthood: spending time at work and spending time with one’s children are almost always mutually exclusive. This struggle goes hand in hand with caring. To be a good father, the “tug of war” between work and children must have no winner.
A father must also support his children in: sports, academics, beliefs, interests, choice of friends, choice of significant others, choice of music, and anything else. As a father of young children, though I currently struggle most with my daughter’s choice of music, my son’s obsession with throwing everything, and my daughter’s love of Umizoomi, I can only quote Game of Thrones and say that I know “Winter is Coming” and supporting my children in the future is impending doom.
A good father supports his children in every way possible, unless truly “caring” prohibits the same.
They are fun.
Let’s face it, moms are also often parenting their children’s father on many levels as well.
Though my wife is certainly fun in her own right, she is certainly far more responsible when it comes to issues where speed, gravity, sugar, rules, or routine is concerned.
Even if my wife approves something inherently dangerous, I am often unanimously appointed to spearhead any such adventure. And that’s the way it should be (because she knows where all the hospitals are).
I’d like to close by personally wishing all of the fathers out there, especially my own, a Happy Father’s Day!
Daniel, originally from a small town south of Houma, Louisiana, transplanted to Baton Rouge in 2000 to attend Louisiana State University. Daniel loved Baton Rouge so much, he decided to stick around. After finishing school, starting a career, and marrying his lovely, loving, and lovable wife (Jennifer), he now has the pleasure of being called “Dad” by his beautiful and inquisitive daughter (Kendall, 5) and a persistently curious and adventurous son (Keller, 2). While Daniel used to enjoy fishing, golfing, and what he used to call “spare time,” he now celebrates his role as a father and husband to what he believes to be a perfect family.