By Chris Gast, Right to Life of Michigan Education Coordinator

Dads: thank you!

As we look around the state of our nation, it has never been clearer that we need more courageous fathers and more committed fathering in our communities. The power and influence a good father can have in society is nearly limitless.

The journey of fatherhood begins before birth, caring for and offering support to the mother. While it might mean running to the store for the 10th jar of pickles, often it means simply offering your presence and understanding.

Ironically, one of the most memorable moments of fatherhood is when the mother begins labor, then, of course, the birth of the child. As a dad, I can attest to the fact that we spend months looking forward to the day when we first get to hold our child in our arms, and then in just a few moments, everything changes. The sights and sounds of fatherhood we’ve only thought about become real experiences: we look into their eyes for the first time and hear their first cry. These experiences are so real, we take on a new role that almost becomes a new life for us. Once a father, forever a father.

Then comes some not so inspiring firsts. We change our first diaper—hopefully someone prepared us for those first few bad boys. We struggle with our first time changing a baby who doesn’t want to be dressed. We spend our first night thinking ahead, wondering how much sleep we’re going to get, and perhaps what challenges and opportunities we face in the years ahead.

From there, life is a whirlwind, with so many more firsts along the way. And even if we are the father of more than one child, each first is a unique moment shared only between your child and yourself.

We ask much of fathers on this journey. There’s a delicate balancing act to fatherhood: being hands on versus letting children learn to handle things themselves; handling the needs of careers and other aspects of life versus the desire to be present; being the stern leader and being the entertaining joker.

Throughout life, a father’s encouraging voice and acts of service should help provide support and a safe haven as well as build confidence. A father’s leadership and care often extend far beyond his immediate family, guiding children throughout a community in choosing the good and helping friends and neighbors in this journey we call life. Sadly, not all children have a father present or a strong bond with their father. Thankfully, many steadfast fathers have taken the extra step to fill in the gap, offering love and support to children throughout our communities.

There are many hopes, dreams, and fears we confront through the years—for ourselves, our children and the broader community together. Mostly, we hope we did the best job possible before we have to turn them loose on the world and see where life takes them. Though we can strive to always live up to the “Best Dad Ever” slogans emblazoned on 10 million baby onesies, we also bear the burden that as much as we might wish to, we can’t fight all our child’s battles for them. All we can do is equip them with the best tools to face the challenges and opportunities of life. Despite all it can throw at us, life is a field of opportunities.

For all fathers continually taking opportunities to pour their own lives out into their families and the broader community, our deepest gratitude. What you do is irreplaceable and appreciated. May your Father’s Day be a joyful reminder and encouragement for days to come.