Father and son playing by pool
Father and son playing by pool (Image Source White)

I don't need to tell you that we, in the United States, will celebrate Fathers' Day (yes, Fathers', plural possessive). You already know that because we have been bombarded with ads for gifts for fathers. Frankly, do they really need more automatic screwdrivers, ties (Do they wear ties anymore?) and shaving lotion or Old Spice deodorant? I don't think so, but that's just my opinion.

I wager that a father will cherish an unexpected hug and a whispered, “I'm glad that you're my Dad/Father/Pop/Tata" more than he will appreciate a $3.45 Father's Day card from American Greetings or Hallmark. At least the fathers that I know, and have known, would.

Here are my answers to the question “what makes a father?'

A father pushes a stroller with a little one in it, through the hospital lobby, on their way to an appointment with the pediatrician.

A father comes to church with his 7-year-old when mother isn't feeling well and can't come with them.

A father tells his daughters that money cannot be spent more than once. He refuses to acquiesce to their pleas for an advance on their allowances. He endures, quietly, the accusation “you're mean, Daddy.' He hopes that they learned to spend their funds wisely.

A father gently, tenderly, helps his daughter to the emergency room after she catches her flip-flop in the gears of her bike and suffers a severe laceration to her foot. He bites his tongue, although he's tempted to say, “I told you so' after repeatedly cautioning her to “wear your sneakers when you're driving your bike.'

A father reads sections of Time magazine to his young sons and/or daughters — after he has finished reading the funnies to them.

A father accompanies his wife to birthing classes before their child is born. After the baby arrives, he puts to practical use the lessons he learned about feeding, burping, and diapering his son or daughter.

A father cries when he hears that his now grown-up child is getting a divorce, especially when he didn't know that there was anything wrong with the marriage.

A father wishes he could do more for his children, wishes he could be a better father, wishes that responsibilities outside the home were not so great that he could spend more time having fun with them.

A father respects and loves his children's mother. He teaches his sons to respect their mothers, sisters, teachers, girlfriends, and wives.

A father sweats it out at the swimming pool until his child gets ready to compete in the breaststroke, butterfly, or backstroke competitions. He gives them a “thumbs up' to commend them, even if they come in third or fifth. He knows that they trained hard and tried their best. He is proud of them and congratulates them for their efforts.

Alec Smith, 16, and his father, Justin Smith, at home in San Jose, Calif., on April 11.
Alec Smith, 16, and his father, Justin Smith, at home in San Jose, Calif., on April 11. (Josie Lepe/San Jose Mercury News)

A father laughs at his youngster's corny jokes: “Why did the silly guy put a clock under his bed? ... He wanted to sleep overtime.'

A divorced father doesn't badmouth the child's mother. He patiently explains that sometime fathers and mothers decide that it's better for them not to live together anymore and that in no way is it the child's fault that their parents have separated.

A father puts aside his cell phone, iPad, smart phone, and other devices and listens, really listens, when his child talks to him, whether the child is 10 or 28.

Sometimes a father has to say, “I wish I had the answer, son,' or “I'll have to think about that,' or “In my opinion, I don't think you can afford to buy a house/car/boat at this time." Sometimes it's hard to be honest, but being honest means that you don't have to remember what you said.

To fathers, single dads, adoptive fathers, foster fathers, unwed fathers, teachers, priests, stepfathers, fathers-to-be, fathers-in-law and fathers estranged from their children: I hope one or more of your children makes a good day for you, not only on June 16 this year but also for many days to come.