Why Everyone Should Celebrate Fathers & Men Who Mentor Like Dads, On Father's Day

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Father's Day Isn't Just For Dads, It's For Male Mentors, Too
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Thank you to all the men who care for children who aren't biologically their own.

Not every child grows up with a father in their life. That's the sad reality of today's society. 

Although some may say having dad not around is better when the example is unhealthy, children are curious by nature. Growing without experiences that they see their friends having raises questions. Some children DO grow up with a dad or step dad in their life. So when a kid doesn't they wonder what it feels like to have a man in their life? 

And this is where the role of a father figure comes in: a man who is old enough to be a child's dad, but isn't. A man who is acting just like himself, but also points in the direction of personal responsibility and what it means to be a good human being. From a (fatherly) perspective.

What makes someone a father? Of course, the simple answer is biology. But father figures can be a fill-in dad for kids who don't have one.

They can provide an image of what father's do: protect, exhibit a different version of strength, problem-solving and fun.

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A father figure could be the principal at school who recognizes that a child needs a bit of encouragement and they are there to listen in between classes or say a kind word just before they go home.

A father figure or mentor can be a football coach or a baseball coach who stays a little longer to practice throwing a ball or giving a bit of advice when a game didn't go the way as planned and a player needs to improve their team attitude.

A father is someone that brings life to a child, but mentors, father figures, stepdads, and all types of men in different leadership roles can play a small or large role in the upbringing of a child these days.

They can be the person who motivates a kid when there is no father at home.

The child doesn't even need to know that man in person. In fact, television has given us a few male role models that have shown the other side of fatherhood.

We don't often talk or think about that, even on holidays where dads are celebrated on Father's Day, but it's there.

A few father figures on television that have helped shaped the idea of what it means to take on the role of dad, when a father couldn't be around include:

  • "Bachelor Father", Bentley Gregg raised his niece, Kelly after she lost her parents in an auto accident. 
  • "Boy Meets World", Mr. Feeny was a mentor to Cory. He wasn't just a neighbor but he was the principal at his school.
  • "Breaking Bad", Hank Schrader was there for Walter Jr. (RJ Mitte) his sister.

I loved watching the movie, "Daddy's Home" where a stepfather and the biological dad have to learn to set aside their differences in order to be there for kids they mutually love. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it!

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Even in the movie "The Lion King", when Simba lost his dad, it was Rafiki took on the fatherly role as a mentor and helped him to heal his heart, and find his courage to take on Scar and become the real King of the jungle!

Kids are smart. They understand the difference between a biological father, a legal parent, like a stepdad, and a man who just feels good to be around and the only way to describe it is with the word, 'dad'.

There's enough love in the world for all these types of roles men can play in the life of a child. And, if it takes a village to raise a one, then it can take many men (and women) to teach a boy what it means to be a man.

As a single mom of three boys, I've seen a few men mentor them in one way or another. None of them ever tried to take on the role of a real father, but I found a similarity in the way they described these men in their lives. They often used the term 'my other dad'. 

For example, I have a brother-in-law, John, who is as goofy as a guy can get. He is the one who they love to hang out with, listen to him jam on his guitar or play video games.

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Although he'll never be their biological dad, he does a lot of dad-things, and in a way, that makes him more than an uncle in their hearts. One of my sons has jokingly referred to him as the 'other dad' because he's not only played with him but he's helped him understand what it means to be an adult.

My youngest son had a man in his life, who is the dad of one of his childhood friends. Even though they weren't related, he made a positive impact in his life.

He helped to teach him how to see things from a male perspective and helped him get over his fears. Those memories will last a lifetime.

There are a lot of kids who grew up with men in their lives who they considered to be a type of father figure who was there helping them learn what it means to be a good human being. A male role model doesn't have to be a stepdad, or a biological dad, either. 

It honestly doesn't matter how you are related when it comes to playing a role in the life of a child.

Of course, no one should ever take the place of a real dad in the heart of a child, but mentors can certainly fill in the gaps when a parent can't (or won't) be around by being a friend. 

Happy Father's Day to all dads, mentors and male role models, including the nonbiological ones.

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Aria Gmitter, M.S, M.F.A., is a theologian, astrologer, and YourTango's Zodiac and Horoscopes editor who covers astrology and celestial events. She's live on YourTango's Facebook page on Tuesdays at 10:30 pm EST doing tarot card readings and answering questions about your zodiac sign. Find her on Facebook.

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