Many years ago, I realized the difference between a father and a REal Dad.
They both may get up and go to work to provide for their family even if they dislike their jobs. Not just to put a roof over their family and food on the table, but also to give them the ability to afford extras like private school, basketball camps, personal trainers, or a family vacation.
They both may be physically “present” at their kids’ sports games or events.
However, the “difference’” I’m speaking of is deeper, more under-the-surface and more vital to each and every kid. It’s a difference, that for me, truly encapsulates what “REal Dad” means.
Here is a list of these attributes in no significant order. If your dad has these count yourself lucky, if you have them then you have earned, in my mind, the title of REal Dad.
REal Dads think before they comment. Sounds simple right? But how many times have you caught your own tongue when about to answer your kid’s question “What do you think about this Dad?” There’s a big difference between being brutally honest and being thoughtfully honest. Consider your child’s real reason for asking, perhaps it’s more out of seeking your approval or in the hopes of making you proud instead of really wanting to hear your philosophical understanding of the issue.
REal Dads interact and engage with their children. This reminds me of the saying “Anyone born a male can be a father but it takes a REal Man to be a REal Dad.” A REal Dad does things that their child shows interest in; he doesn’t just interact with his child when it’s something he’s interested in doing himself. He works all night, gets five hours of sleep and still finds the energy to take his son or daughter to basketball camp. Which by the way is a thirteen mile commute but takes an hour with traffic and he watches annoying and boring Avatar movies over and over, and he’s even willing to put aside his personal fears of dogs and buy two dogs because his son love dogs. Everyday he sacrifices his personal wants for his children’s needs. These may be minor moments in the day for a dad, but they are lasting memories for his children and they help to form a level of trust and comfort in his son or daughter that will solidify their loving view of him.
REal Dads lead by being a good example; one that he wants his children to follow. A REal Dad shows love, compassion and patience not only with his family, but with people as a whole. He doesn’t participate in road rage when someone flips him off. He doesn’t verbally or physically abuse people, or belittle them when they disagree with him. A Real Dad doesn’t insult his kids’ Mom or use his kids as pawns to get revenge on his ex. A REal Dad is always conscious of what their children witness, especially in their home. You may think some of these examples are obvious, but many times when emotions are running high people don’t stop and take a minute to think how their actions might be physically endangering or emotionally harming to their child. This doesn’t mean you’re expected to be perfect and untouched by the stresses of life. We are all affected by these tensions. What I’m saying is take five seconds to refocus and think before you act. Five seconds to bring yourself back to the reality of what is really important.
REal Dads protect their children. If your child ever comes to you and tells you someone has acted inappropriately towards them, your first comment shouldn’t be to tell them they are probably misunderstanding the person’s actions. REal Dads don’t assume the kid has gotten it wrong; they listen. They ask questions and then they act. REal Dads immediately reassure the child they did nothing wrong and tell them they did the right thing by confiding what happened to them. They let their kids know they’ll do everything to make sure nothing bad happens again. It’s hard to believe that in this day and age, some people still assume a child is mistaken if they report that a family friend or relative has touched them, that the child somehow misunderstood the intention of the action or a school official verbally, emotionally or physically abused them. A REal Dad first and foremost, sees and understands something has occurred to make their child uncomfortable enough to seek comfort and protection. A REal Dad immediately lets this person know that their actions are not going to be allowed. If it makes your child uncomfortable, respect their physical boundaries and personal space. This differs from teaching your child to show people respect. Yes, they should be polite and say hello, please and thank you but they should never be made to compromise their emotional and psychological development. Obviously it goes without saying, if your child reports something much more serious in nature than an uncomfortable hug you need to take things to a more serious and legal level to ensure their safety.
Being a father is easy and requires little emotional investment. Being a REal Dad, to me, is a dedicated, challenging and lifelong responsibility. You automatically become a father when your child is born, but you have to earn the title of REal Dad.
I hope you enjoyed this special Father’s Day message from “The Coach of Champions.” Comment, Like and share with all the REal Dads. Bo Porter has over 26 years of MLB experience as a player, coach, manager, front office executive, and baseball analyst. He’s also a motivational speaker, mentor and author. Read his books, subscribe to his upcoming podcast, and follow him on Twitter at @BoPorter16Bo, Facebook @OfficialBoPorter, and Instagram @therealboporter.
The Coach of Champions