A father, defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is a man who has begotten a child or a male parent. That’s it. That is all that is written about what the word father means.
Oh, but that is not it at all. Making a baby does not make one a father, any more than making a sandwich makes one a chef. There is so much more that goes into being a dad, and I think it is time to amend that definition.
Being a father, defined by me, is when Paul placed his hands on my belly every night after dinner when Maylie would get the hiccups inside my womb. It is when his fingers shook with excitement and fear as he helped with her first sponge bath in the hospital after she was born.
It is when he came home after working hard all day, and I would hand over a newborn just to get a break. It is when he let me sleep in on Saturday mornings, and they danced along to the music countdown. It is when I went back to work, and taking care of our daughter was not my task but a shared experience between us.
Being a father is calming my anxiety with her first cold and sitting with us in the bathroom with the shower on steaming hot to try to clear her stuffy nose. It is cheering on her first steps, her first words and her first pee on the potty. It is simply being there for those firsts. It is playing ring around the rosie 20 times before dinner (and actually falling down when my pregnant with baby No. 2 self could not) and then playing it another 20 times after dinner.
It is being there for the changes that a second child brings, which ultimately makes it a two-on-two situation. It is not shaking as much when they hand over the second baby in the hospital because he has done this before and then learning a new baby who doesn’t like sleep and chokes on spit-up.
Being a father is tag-teaming naps, chores, diaper changes, bottle feedings, clean-ups and middle-of-the-night interruptions. It is putting together a toddler bed at midnight when the oldest figures out how to climb out of her crib, only to find her asleep in said crib once completed.
It is supporting me and my wild idea to switch careers and start a swing shift with a 2-year-old and 7-month-old. And figuring out how to manage bedtimes and weekends while I was working. It is cleaning up puke – or laying a towel down just to get back to sleep and cleaning it up in the morning.
Being a father means kissing boo-boos when knees are scrapped, being kicked in the face half the night when one (or two) kids come creeping in, and listening intently to half-stuttered sentences that make absolutely no sense and yet following along.
It is “I love you, Dada,” as the child climbs up to cuddle on the couch and inevitably kicks you between the legs at least 10 times a week. It is secret sharing and stupid show watching (Paul’s history and food shows). It’s two baby girls who honestly believe daddy knows everything and is smarter than mommy (hey, I will let them dream — ha!).
Being a father is learning to put baby thin hair up in bumpy pony tails, picking out outfits that seem to match, spending countless nights at dance class in a waiting room full of dance moms, coloring at the living room table, impromptu dance parties in the dining room and making sure that the kiddos brush their teeth. It’s the comfort within our baby girls to go to either Mommy or Daddy when they need something.
It’s making sure that our kids have a good, healthy dinner nightly, and taking them to and picking them up from the sitter’s daily. It’s knowing and getting their favorite snack at the grocery store. It’s handling bedtime when I have a work call or simply just had enough for the day.
Being a father is being equally involved in both the fun and discipline. It is utilizing timeout, taking prized possessions away and saying no. It is instilling self-control, regimen and really just trying to raise a good person.
It is truly being present — listening, explaining, laughing and even nixing kindergarten crushes. And sharing so much love with those baby girls that they could not for one second forget just how much their daddy loves them.
That, my friends, is the true definition of a father. And I could not be more thankful to have a prime example as the father of my girls.
Happy Father’s Day, Paul. We love you so much!
Sarah (Pitson) Shrader was born and raised in Lima. She is a Lima Central Catholic and Tiffin University graduate. Sarah is a full-time working mama who enjoys writing about her somewhat crazy, always adventurous life as a mother. She lives in Bath Township with her husband, Paul, and their daughters, her writing inspirations, Maylie and Reagan.