In Focus

Father vs. Dad - One Man's Journey Through Parenthood

by Bill Stephens, Metro News Photographer | Sunday, 16 June 2018 | 12:00 a.m. CT | Overnight Edition

Photo Credit: Pixabay/Yola.com

CHICAGO, IL -Thirty four years ago I became a dad – the most exciting, proud and frightening time of my life. My dad always said, “Any man can become a father. It takes a real man to be dad.”

On this fathers day, I'd like to reflect on my experiences, beliefs and how I got to where I'm at today. While the responsibilities of being a dad can vary, the basics are the same for most all of us.

In the traditional sense, we share with our “significant other,” spouse or partner the responsibility of caring for, feeding, housing and most of all guiding our children to be the best they can be.

Of course, rearing a child is not always a piece of cake. Kids grow. And while they grow, our job is to teach them about life. They learn to roll over, crawl, walk and then they to speak. While the excitement of them speaking is a milestone to be celebrated, we will experience those cringe worthy moments when they learn not so great words as their little minds are a sponge and kids will repeat what they hear, good and bad.

As a dad, you also get to worry. Yes, worry – about making sure there is enough of all sorts of things. Enough support to care for, feed and clothe them. Love is important if not the most important thing as each of us has a need to be loved by not just one but both parents, even if the parents cease to be a couple. Our children need this so that they can form their own personalities. They will convey this trait to you mostly starting around the age of two. In my experience, this continues forever.

Their first words? Usually, “NO!!!” I would guess this because we are always telling that to them.

A-year-and-a-half later, my son, my child number two was born and he arrived quickly after very short labor. It was so short I almost missed his arrival. Both my children were born at home and yes it was planned that way. My wife was a nurse. I was a volunteer first responder. Our doctor from my home town specialized in home births. The inset photo says it all, taken less than a half hour after my son arrived.

Now there are two. Yes twice the responsibility and worry. Life moves pretty fast. My family of three just grew to four and our small west suburban home just became a bit too small for out growing kids.

Time for a change – Mom and Dad faced decision time. Job changes and a new house in a new much smaller town. I've been here 30 years now a true definition of putting down roots. In fact, I never imagined trees I planted three decades ago would be as big as they are today.

Things have changed in the last 30 years. 24 years ago, Mom passed leaving me with an eight and ten-year-old to rear on my own. Suddenly, then I became both mom and dad. It was a BIG, HUGE responsibility. if it wasn’t for my family and friends, it would have been much more difficult.

So I made another change – becoming self employed. It blessed me with the ability to be flexible and be there for school programs and homework while eking out a living, pursuing three different jobs and giving them children love and support they needed while they developed into teenagers and young adults.

Yes, rearing teenagers was hard – doing it as a single parent can be terrifying, especially a dad raising a daughter through puberty. I did survive it all and guided both through high school and eventually into college.

I am proud of my kids! Both have settled into careers of their choosing. My daughter has become a very talented graphic designer and is also a very good photographer. My son has followed in my footsteps and is in the fire service. He serves on two fire departments as a firefighter / paramedic and holds the rank of Lieutenant at one of those departments. He is also a fire investigator, rescue diver and continues to take training courses to further his career.

So, if you were to rate a dad, the success of his children could be an indication that he did his job well. But, you knew that was coming. It doesn’t end when they move out and onward. I recollect my dad. Even though he has been gone over 20 years, he was a success as well.

If you set a good example, things will all fall into place. Changes will continue to develop. For example, my daughter is in the process of relocating to the Southwest. And while it will give me an excuse to travel and visit, not having her close will leave a hole in my life back where I will be. Since I am single and living alone, I could always count on seeing my daughter and talking with her sometimes multiple times a day.

The old saying is true. “A daughter is a daughter for the rest of her life, but a son is a son till he takes a wife.” Think on that for a while.

So, to all of the dad’s out there, be an example to your children. Show them you are much more than a father. Be a Dad!!!

IN Focus

Bill's Family Album

This gallery contains photographs from years gone by of Bill's family.
Bill & Samantha StephensSamantha & MomSamantha Found The GrapesMum & SamanthaSamantha By The PoolBill & Samantha StephensBill Stephens & FriendsBill Stephens At Home