If a per capita spending comparison of the major gift-buying holidays were done, I’m sure it would rank at or near the bottom. If you’re not into tools or lawn maintenance you’re pretty much out of luck. Your gift will quite often: a) require some time figuring out exactly what it is; b) be quickly determined to be of no practical value; c) make a fashion statement you have no desire to make; or d) be something that can cause you serious harm due to your lack of skill in its operation.

Happy Father’s Day!

In all honesty, though, that’s the beauty and charm of dad’s special day.

The first Father’s Day observance was June 10, 1910, in the state of Washington. Although only six years passed between the first commercial Mother’s Day observance on May 10, 1908, and its being turned into a national holiday, it would take about 62 years before Father’s Day, through a proclamation signed by President Richard Nixon in 1972, was recognized as a nationwide holiday.

That doesn’t mean that throughout much of the 20th century fathers were regarded as insignificant. Presidents from Woodrow Wilson to Lyndon Johnson in some way publicly acknowledged the importance of fathers in American society. In fact, there was little disagreement with the great psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud’s observation that “I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection,” or that of the poet George Herbert, who declared, “One [good] father is [worth] more than a hundred schoolmasters.”

Today, a dad’s importance is not just based on anecdotal knowledge but grounded in research. Being social animals, we humans learn by modeling the behavior we see. It is well documented that a dad’s interaction in the life of his kid(s) can have powerful ramifications. Boys, for good or bad, tend to model themselves after their fathers and girls later in life tend to gravitate to men who possess characteristics displayed by their father.

Studies have shown that an involved, supportive and affectionate father can contribute greatly to many areas of a child’s life. From academic achievement, language and cognitive development to a strong sense of well-being and healthy social development, dads are important. Sure, on many television sitcoms and in movies dads are often the clueless, hapless and almost unimportant figures in the home, but nothing can be further from the truth. An aware, engaged and loving dad is of immeasurable value.

My own journey down the path of fatherhood began about eight years ago. It was not only one of the most monumental events in my life, but also one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring. To this day I’m still in awe of the love and commitment I feel toward the child I have helped bring into this world. It’s a feeling unlike any other.

Fatherhood has helped redefine my understanding of manliness. Like many, I was more inclined to associate it with toughness or grit. Now, for me, there is one word that seems to define and exemplify manliness more than any other: responsibility.

As a father you become responsible for being, among a number of things, a protector, nurturer, leader and provider. Singularly and collectively, such responsibility is among the most important a man will acquire and carry out in his life. The consequences of not taking this responsibility seriously and executing it faithfully can be costly in many ways.

To me, responsibility comprises three crucial components: concern, commitment and action.

There is a genuine and consistent concern for the welfare and well-being of the life you played a part in bringing into the world. That concern leads to a commitment to always care for that life. The commitment leads to action on one’s part to display that concern and commitment in tangible, concrete ways. That’s the essence of fatherly responsibility. That’s manliness. I have found that embracing and walking in this mindset is a reward in itself.

The short poem “A Father’s Love” sums it up well:

A father is respected because
He gives his children leadership
Appreciated because
He gives his children care …
Valued because
He gives his children time …
Loved because
He gives his children the one thing
They treasure most — himself.

Who needs or cares about a Father’s Day gift when this type of relationship is present between a father and their child or children? I feel so blessed to have it.

To those dads out there being dads, I salute you and encourage you to continue on in this noblest of callings we’ve been given. And to those who have not fully embraced their calling, their responsibility as fathers, I say to you: There is nothing more important in life that you will ever do and no gift as precious or valuable to you will ever receive than being called “Dad.”