Whether deliberate or by circumstance, whether planned or unplanned, becoming a father is the most important event in a man's life. I first became a father nearly 14 years ago, and I will never forget holding my oldest daughter for the first time. She was the most beautiful baby I had ever seen, and I couldn't believe that I helped bring this little angel into the world. I was a father... that was so shocking to me, I almost had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming. Months would go by before I fully accepted that yes, I was a dad and this is now my life; however, I would not realize the full gravity of fatherhood until years later. Over those years I would go to work every day to help feed and clothe my children. I would take my children to school, and park on the weekends. I would take my children to doctor's appointments and to church on Sunday. I thought of all those tasks as being a good father, repeating things I had seen from my father and grandfather. I eventually realized that my daily routine was much bigger than just being a good father, I now understood what I was really doing was building a legacy.
Everything about fatherhood is rewarding. There is no aspect of fatherhood which is more important than another. I enjoy taking my children to the playground, and playing games with my daughters. I like watching sports with my son and playing basketball with him at the park. I enjoy taking my children to the movies and watching TV with them. I like telling the kids about my life and experiences (both my triumphs and missteps). I understand the importance of discipline even as I don't always enjoy the sadness on my children's faces when I have to do it. I appreciate the gravity of teaching my children about life lessons, about God, as well as the importance of being a good person and valuing life. I always wanted to be a father and am blessed to be living my dream. My children are my legacy, which is true not only of me but for every father. Our children are our legacies and for most men, the only legacy which they will leave behind.
There are few men who have the opportunity or ability to create legacies which are recognized throughout history. Men who are renown for their inventions like a Lewis Latimer, Garrett Morgan, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, or George Washington Carver. Political activist who have changed laws and society like a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, or Nelson Mandela. Successful businessmen and philanthropist like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, or Reginald F. Lewis. Famous athletes like the late Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Lebron James, or Babe Ruth. While few men can build legacies like the aforementioned, every father leaves the legacy of his children. It is your children who will carry your name and your lessons across generations (from your grandchildren and beyond). It is your children who share their memories of how passionate you were about sports, the recipe of your famous chili, your concern about community, or belief in the value of a good education. It is your children who will miss you and ensure your name will still be mentioned (even though you were never rich or famous). Every father is a branch of their own family tree and through our children, we will always be remembered (even after we've passed away). This is what legacy is truly about, and it is why being a father is important. Happy Father's Day Dads! Enjoy this day and know that you are building a legacy with your children, let's leave one worthy of always being remembered.
Dr. Mark Echols has been working with children and families in both educational and social service settings for the last 16 years. He is a Fatherhood advocate and the creator of Black Dads: Changing the narrative on Fathers in the African American community on LinkedIn. You can connect with Dr. Mark Echols on LinkedIn.