What is a Dad?

The man jogged down the path, paying no mind to the family of geese that were doing their goose thing not too far ahead. Young goslings hurried out of the way of the sneaker-clad feet, making their way to the safety of the grass. Their dad reacted, though, and flew a few feet off the ground, flapping his wings in the face of the man. His display of parental concern for his young impressed me. It reminded me of another male goose I had known of, who would aggressively fly at anyone who was remotely near his family. We named him Satan. But I digress.

It doesn’t take much for any male animal, human or non-human, to be a father. It takes something more to be a dad. I have a father, and he has never done anything to impress me when it comes to parenting… because he was never there physically, emotionally, or financially. On the other hand, I had a dad, and he impressed me because he was willing to be my dad from the beginning (as a guy in his twenties), even though he was not my father. If we were geese, my dad would probably have reacted like the one in the park this morning. My father, however, wouldn’t have even been there. (And make no mistake – there are plenty of single-parent goose families in the park, too.)

As I lapped the park, I made sure to leave space between myself and these new families. I respect the family dynamic. Far be it from me to disturb a few goslings trying to make it through childhood. It’s a tough road for all of us. I give thanks for the dads who stepped up to make some of those roads a little easier to travel.

This essay was originally written in May, 2010. It is published here with minor edits.

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