Do you recall the day your son or daughter was born? Could you feel your mindset shift from normal to full-throttle panic?

Usually, guys don't sit around with their buddies drinking beer and discussing how much they look forward to being fathers. Nevertheless, fatherhood happens anyway. (For an in-depth explanation, chat with your wife.)

So, after the congratulations and the obligatory, stinky cigars, you and your wife are faced with a new member of the family who basically cries, eats and makes stinky deposits in diapers.

The good news is the majority of dads do a great job of participating in the child rearing process. In fact, young fathers today can speak with authority about which baby foods taste the best or whose baby does the best projectile pooping and other similarly edifying topics.

What is the reward for your mostly unsung efforts to be a good father? It may come in the form of an unexpected hug or a peanut-butter-and-jelly-smeared-on-the-face kiss from the little munchkin who resembles you in looks and sometimes in mannerisms.

If you, the modern dad, think it was hard adjusting to fatherhood, imagine how daunting fatherhood must have been for dads of my father's and prior generations. Unaccustomed to discussing their feelings, they had to show their love for their children by action rather than words.

Consider Ug, the caveman. He spent most of his time hunting for food or being chased by the food he was trying to catch. When Little Ug came along, Papa Ug taught the little tyke how to hunt and keep from being caught by their prey.

But if Little Ug did not learn his lessons well, he became some critter's lunch and Papa Ug had to face the cave mother with the bad news. Although rolling pins and eloquent speech were not invented yet, she probably conveyed her feelings using a rock or a large stick to beat careless Papa Ug.

From then on, men decided it was safer to keep their distance from the little tykes until they were fully grown. The problem with that approach was that by the time the kids had grown up, the window of opportunity for romping and playing had closed.

As the first born, I was lucky enough to have quite a bit of my father's attention, especially if I misbehaved (and I had a real knack for that). We would take long walks together and have serious discussions about donuts. I maintained the hole in the donut existed and he tried to explain that the hole was the absence of the donut.

The best part of our time spent together was I trusted him enough to discuss anything and everything in my life with him. But as the family grew and his focus narrowed more and more on philosophy and teaching, we referred to the time he spent with the children as a "papal audiences." Brief.

When she was a child, my friend agonized over choosing the right cards for occasions like Father's Day or her father's birthday. She hoped he would get the hint and be more like the fathers the cards praised. And sometimes he was.

If anyone tries to tell you that fatherhood is an easy job, feel free to bop them on the noggin. (Nothing done well is easy.) Actually, being a good father varies from family to family and from country to country, but the common denominator is "love."

Fathers are unsung heroes who provide for their families. But loving fathers (even after a hard day working in the fields, in the plant or in the office), spend time with their children.

At least that is what Hubby's father did when the kids were little, and his grown sons and daughters are proof that it was time well spent.

Elizabeth Cowan, former Norman resident, writes for The Blue Ridge Tribune. E-mail her at author@fracturedonline.com.

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