Being a dad isn’t about rules or one perfect situation that we should all strive to achieve; fatherhood isn’t a competition. Being a Really Cool Dad is an attitude; it’s about the relationship with the children you create and you raise.
Some parents are able to provide unlimited access to clubs, schools, vacations and experiences. Other parents work two jobs just to make sure there 2/3s of enough food available and a leaky roof over their heads most nights. Most parents are somewhere in between.
Either can be fine parents and raise great kids. A guy’s actions are situational, and his intent may be honourable, but it’s his attitude—and his attitude alone—that defines his quality as a dad.
I know plenty of healthy families that follow more traditional gender roles. Dad earns a solid paycheque and provides generously for his family. Mom is a homemaker, responsible for ensuring that family unit functions smoothly. Both parents respect their own roles and those of their partner, and they respect each other.
I also know plenty of families that divide roles differently, sharing the full spectrum of earning, caring and domestic tasks. They’ve shattered traditional roles in favour of their own mix. Again, both parents respect their own roles and those of their partner, and they respect each other.
I’ve even met great parents who are no longer one family. They respect their responsibility to parent their children, and don’t let the anger and frustration that broke the family apart define their role as a shared parent.
In each case, it’s the attitude the individual brings to their parent role—respect for their partner, their child and themselves—that makes all the difference.
So when people ask me what I think it takes to be called a Really Cool Dad, all I can offer is “attitude”. You have to want to be an active dad. You embrace being a parent for everything it is; imperfect, messy, chaotic and frustrating balanced with unique, adventurous, surprising, and rewarding.
No two children are the same, and no parent is best. There is no such thing as the ultimate dad. But you strive to be the best parent for the child you have in the situation you find yourself in. You grab on to this awesome responsibility and take it on. Full on.
After all, your kids are the only ones who can call you a Really Cool Dad.