Thought Catalog

This Is What Being A Dad Means To Me

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Andre Hamilton

I realized something last week.

I’ve been a dad exactly half of my life.

28 years being a dad which followed 28 years of being a non-dad.

I’m a 50-50 kind of guy. My experience and perspective as a man is split right down the middle. Does one of those halves have a bigger impact in my journey through life as a man? Or are the sums of the two equal parts – when mushed together – the definition of who I am?

50-50 is an interesting thing.

Were I a baseball player, batting 500 would make me an instant legend. So perhaps as a man, I’m now a legend.

But let’s say I’m a hockey goalie with a 50% save percentage. Were that the case, I’d be looking for a new career really fast.

A new career – it’s interesting to write those words.

No, I’m not thinking about a new career in a professional sense. But I have been thinking a lot lately about a refined – and fresh – purpose as a dad.

When I look at my 50-50 life thus far, the second “50” was consumed in a 24/7-kind-of-way with being a dad. Three kids spanning seven years. I was all in. Hook, line and sinker. And like every dad I’ve come to know, I hadn’t a clue as to what it meant to be a father.

If I had to paint for you an image of fatherhood in the first 28 years of my life, it would look closer to fields of grass, waving in the openness of Nebraska, with a picture perfect family visible on a faraway hill, flying kites and being chased by puppies.

Yup. My first 28 years saw me sporting rose-colored glasses often.

These recent 28 years have been a back-and-forth combination of regularly experiencing fatherly bliss. And being hit over the head with a 2 x 4.

Fathering bliss. I say it as though it was something only those with biological offspring have rights to.

Which brings me to, in ways, what I look forward to for the next 28 years of my journey.

It still involves fathering. Just in a different way.

Oh, my priority will always be my own three children and the lives waiting in front of them. That will never change. (Sorry kids, you’re stuck with me).

But I’ve also come to realize – in both halves of my life – that being a father figure in the lives of children doesn’t require a DNA connection.

In the first half of my life – there was no other man more important to me than my own father. Effectively, he raised me alone after my mother died at an early age. Boy, did I hit the lottery with my dad. But I had another “dad” in my life – and that would be my Uncle Jack. He was my father’s older brother. He was the oasis I would go to, travel to, hang with – when my own father’s touch just needed a rest. They are both gone, now. And when they died, the loss I felt was virtually equal for each of them.

More recently, in the second half of my life – I’ve had the opportunity to work with a rather amazing nonprofit, Camp Kesem. It’s an organization that provides support to children impacted by a parent’s cancer. Everyone at Camp Kesem has a “camp name” – mine being “Pops.” That’s who I am to the thousands of volunteer college students who are our secret sauce. That’s who I am to the over 7,000 children who are provided free summer camping experiences through our programs around the country. And that’s who I am to our staff and many of our supporters.

Pops.

Not a substitute father to anyone. Not at all. Just another guy in the world. Offering a caring, loving ear – and heart – to any child when they need it.

Kind of like Uncle Jack.

That’s where this dad is taking his fathering talents.

So as we celebrate Father’s Day, let’s also remember to celebrate all of the “Un-Fathers” out there. The uncles, the teachers, the coaches, the grandfathers – the men who selflessly step into a child’s life and show that they care.

Their gifts matter to the children in their lives. TC mark

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