What’s in a Dad?

What’s the difference between a Father and a Dad? They mean the same thing right? Wrong.

To me, any man can impregnate a woman and become a father. It takes something special to be a dad. Here’s my take on it.

According to research done by someone else, the word “Father” has been around forever, originating in the following ways:

From Middle English: fader
From Old English: fæder
From Proto-Germanic: fadēr

Since then, it’s evolved into the word we say sometimes every day “Father” (more so around this time of year). It’s always carried the same meaning anywhere. “This is my father, the one who did a special dance with my mother and had the stork come down and deliver me.” A father was one-half of the equation that equaled you, but they were so much more than that at the time. They’d do everything with you, teach you about life, manners, self-defense, etc. They were usually a man’s man, someone to look up to.

Then came “Dad”. According to the above source, the first recorded instances of the word “Dad” came around 1500 AD, and are believed to be derived from the first sounds a baby makes. Now I’m sure babies made the “da” and “dada” sounds before it caught on, but only then “Dad” suddenly steal the meaning of “Father”, leaving “Father” to find its own meaning again. It did, as the words evolved, but it didn’t really do so well for itself. In many parts of the world, you can use either word interchangeably and nobody would bat an eye. In others, you would spark a lively debate, perhaps even offending a couple dads with your use of the word father directed at them because they understand the difference.

So I know you’re probably wanting me to elaborate on my own definitions of father and dad, not wanting a history lesson. Well, congrats, through your curiosity, you’ve unlocked some backstory!

My father is a Marine Corps veteran, served in Desert Storm, helped make me…. and that’s all he’s really been there for. My parents divorced when I was about two years old, he was ordered to pay a certain amount in child support until I turned 18, and he never paid a single cent. I’d visit him in the summer in either New Hampshire or Massachusetts and still for those two months out of the year I’d still feel very underwhelmed at the amount of love and attention I’d receive. He was an alcoholic for some time and used to consume hard drugs. To his credit, he’s since cleaned up a lot, no longer drinking alcohol and doing hard drugs (though he still smokes weed). So needless to say, I’ve never felt a very strong connection with him, certainly nothing I’d consider “dad-like” affection. Anytime we’d talk or hang out he was always trying to be my friend instead, trying to get me to like him over my mom. It was a mess, really.  But you see, this is what I consider a father, someone who gets a woman pregnant whether by accident or for the purpose of your creation, thinking he’s done his duty for the world and more or less leaves you to figure life out on your own.

Then there are the ones that reach “Dad” status. These are the ones that you feel a connection to, the ones that are there for every step of the way, supporting you in all your endeavors, someone who’s present in your life. Dads guide you towards success, help you grow up to be the best parts of them. If they do it right, Dads leave the world better than they found it. Here’s the best part: Dads don’t have to be related to you! I’ve met many men I’d proudly “adopt” as my own dad if given the chance. There have been true Dads that have treated me more like their own son than my father ever did.

Did you know that moms can also be dads? Now hear me out! Some moms (like mine) had to pull double duty in the parenting department, fulfilling the roles of both the mom and dad. My mom was always there when I needed her, and even during the times that I hoped she wouldn’t be the one teaching me about something (think the “birds and the bees”, etc.). Overall, she was every bit the dad that I needed.

I’m sure I have a few more words about all this but I’m a little pressed for time and all this was off the top of my head anyways. So here’s to all the Dads today. Cheers!

-J

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