Let me start with a bit of context: I’m not a dad, but I have a dad and I’m an uncle to four nieces, a nephew and a bunch of my friends kids. I’m also the godfather to three girls, two of which are my nieces.tim

I regularly have the privilege of getting to babysit (look after) my niblings (the collective term for nieces and nephews) and I know that that doesn’t make me a dad, but it does give me a taste of how amazing it must be to be a dad. I’m purposely using the term dad here in place of father (and not just because the title is “to be a dad”), because I think there is a major difference between being a father and being a dad.

The connotations of a father / child relationship is primarily biological to me, whereas for a dad / son or dad / daughter relationship is primarily an emotional bond. Only three of my five niblings are biological niblings, yet I feel that they all have equal nibling status to me.

Now to the being a dad bit and what that means to me… I feel it has a lot to do with being intentional, if I look back at my life, with reference to my dad , he made time for us (his three sons) throughout his life. (I’m blessed by the fact that he is still around.)

Some of the earliest memories I can recall, include working in the garden with him, working in the garage with him, working on the house with him, working on cars with him, working on boats with him… going fishing with him, going to fly kites we had built together, riding off road bikes with him, going camping with him… Did I always enjoy having to do all the “work” we did as kids? I honestly don’t remember it being “work”. Did I always enjoy having to do all the work we did as teenagers? No. Do I appreciate it now? Yes, because I got to spend time with my dad and learnt how to do things myself, how to work with my hands.

My dad has always been there for me, and still is. I feel that he made intentional choices to include us (my brothers and I) in what he did, he taught (guided) us to be the men we are today… He took time out of his schedule to watch us play rugby. He let jobs around the house take longer to do, because he taught us how to do them, instead of just doing them himself. As we got older he no longer needed to “supervise” us, so I think he may have had a long term scheme going so he didn’t need to do it all himself and could delegate.

Looking back at some of my earliest childhood memories, they are of spending time with my dad, most of them are of helping him with something or the other. Be it picking up stones on the lawn before he cut it, be it passing him tools as he worked on a car (when we were to young to do the actual work), be it waiting in the car on a Saturday morning for a spares place to open so that we could get the parts we needed to get going with fixing the well point pump… looking back it was work, but I didn’t mind, because I got to spend time with my dad.

He got the balance between work and spending time with his sons right most of the time. And as I look at spending time with my niblings, they don’t care that what they doing, what we adults see as work, they see as getting some attention (quality time) from an adult (their dad or in my case, their uncle). Think back to when you were younger and what it meant for an adult to include you in what the were doing, how it made you feel…

Yes, including kids in a job takes a lot longer (e.g. making them lunch, washing the car, pulling out weeds), but hopefully it is in those moments that we are building their memories of their childhood, in a way which lets them know they matter, just as my dad did for me.

Unfortunately so many children today are growing up with a distorted view of what a dad is, because of how men (dads) have been portrayed in the media over the last few decades. Spend a few moments and think of a current TV series where a father is portrayed as great dad? (I intentionally don’t have a TV for about six month now, so I don’t know if it has changed recently.) I can’t think of any, now think a TV series where a father is portrayed in a negative way? Much easier to think of…

I feel we all have a role to play in changing societies perception of what it means to be a dad. I’m asking myself the following question too, when last did you encourage / compliment / thank a father (yours or someone else’s) for being a great dad, for sacrificing something for their kid(s), for choosing to spend time with their kids in place of watching the rugby?

How different would the world be if we had a generation of fathers who were dads, that weren’t absent (at work 24/7); that made the spiritual / emotional well being of their children a priority, above excessive material possessions… that made time for there kids a priority over stuff for their kids… the most important things in life, aren’t things… Where kids see the dad as a provider, a place of safety, a place of being noticed, a place of acceptance, a place of being loved… a place of being taught and corrected… a place of stability… a pillar of strength… a source of wisdom… A world were fathers are revered and respected beyond the playground age of my daddy is bigger than your daddy and “it’s true because my daddy said so”…

To be a dad is a great privilege, but also a responsibility… fathers set the standard for their kids as to what it is means to be a man… both positively and negatively…

My dad isn’t perfect, but he is my dad and I feel he (along with my mom) did an amazing job of raising their three sons and I wouldn’t want any other dad. I don’t have a bucket list, but if I did, being a father that is a dad, like my dad is, would be high up on the list. Thank you dad, for all you have taught me, done for me and mean to me, I know I don’t say it often enough.

[To read John “Zippy” Benn’s story of ‘To Be A Dad’, click here]

[For a whole series of ‘To Be A Mom’ posts, click here]