What Does the Word “Father” Mean to You?


How would you define what the word “father” means to you?

To me, it’s a man who loves his kids enough to let them make mistakes. A father is a guide and teacher, but he also cares enough to say “no” to his child even when he or she might hate him for it in the moment. That’s because a father tries to do the right thing, not the easy thing.

Part of the “father mystique” to me is that dads often keep a sense of playfulness and fun about them, no matter how old they get. My husband will roll around on the floor wrestling with our son at the drop of a hat — or race shopping carts through the parking lot of our local grocery store, whooping with joy. (The best part is that he doesn’t care if he looks silly — or what people think of him. He’s focused on having fun with his kid.) And you know what?  It’s those small things my son talks about when he tells me what he likes best about Dad.

A father is also someone who loves their kids even when they’re at their worst. They might not like the behavior, but they try to see their child for who he or she really is — beyond the morning tantrum, the teen age eye roll or the perpetually messy room.

So here’s to all the fathers, grandfathers, stepfathers, and father figures out there making a difference in the eyes of the kids who love them. The big things you do are important, but some of those small, simple things are what your child will remember for the rest of his or her life.


What is your definition of the word father? Please share a memory of your own father, your kids’ dad — or of being a father yourself.


Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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