By Mark Bulgutch
Everybody likes to be recognized for their achievements. A ribbon for finishing a race. A certificate for learning CPR. A plaque for raising money for a worthy cause. But there's no medal for the one achievement that, for a man, is head and shoulders more important than all the rest. Being a father.
The third Sunday in June is Father's Day. Across the country kids will scramble out of bed early to prepare a pancake breakfast, present a bookmark they made at school, or hand over a new tie they bought with help from Mom. All very nice.
But here's a secret I think all fathers share. We don't have to be thanked for being a father. Being a father is reward enough. To love a child unconditionally, and to be loved unconditionally, is a human experience like no other.
When I was very young I remember watching hockey players after they'd just won the Stanley Cup. They looked thrillingly happy. For a frozen moment in time nothing else in the entire world mattered to those players. It struck me that I was watching pure joy, ecstasy. And I wondered if I'd ever know that feeling.
Well, I have. Becoming a father is my Stanley Cup. When my children were born I felt the wave of emotion flow through every cell in my body. I had enough energy to light up every city in the country. I wanted to climb a mountain and shout my good news to the world.
We fathers can't maintain that level of excitement forever. But there's never a day that we don't understand the great good fortune that has been granted to us.
Grown men have many responsibilities in life. If you're a father, none carries more weight than raising a child. But weightlifting was never more satisfying or fulfilling. It's not a chore or a burden. It's a privilege.
Some who read this will say I'm being over sentimental about fatherhood. They'll say I'm writing from an idealized point of view, free of poverty, unemployment, illness, impairment, or any kind of hardship. I know.
But some things about being a father are so simple, and the return on investment so staggeringly high.
What is it about watching your child sleep that is so overwhelming? Here's the child who couldn't stop all day - whipping down slides, digging ferociously in the sandbox, pedaling little feet to bike along the sidewalk - now completely still. Breathing in and out. I could stand in a bedroom, reflecting on that innocence, for a very long time.
They do grow up fast. It's important to pause for every accomplishment. None is too small. The first teetering footsteps. Learning to read. A role in the school play. Dance lessons. Baseball games. Graduating from elementary, then high school. A university degree. A job. Marriage. Grandchildren.
There's a Yiddish word to express what a child can bring to a parent. The word is nachas. It's a special kind of pride that leaves you beaming from a place so deep inside you're surprised it exists. I'm smart enough to know that my children's success in life is not entirely due to me. But I'm happy to take credit anyway.
Putting aside one day every year for Father's Day? Why not? But the truth is every day is Father's Day.