anne mikolay 2012 120When I was a little girl, I lived in blissful naiveté. My friends and I were from typical American families with mothers and fathers in the home. There were no missing dads among us, no dead-beats shirking their parental responsibilities. Thus, I grew up assuming everybody had a dad to look after them and keep them safe. It was no big deal; that's just what daddies did. At my advanced age, however, I realize it was a very big deal.

According to The Washington Times, nowadays fifteen million U.S. Children live without a father. For one in three children, then, the ideal parental conditions of my childhood do not exist. While it is true that mothers can and do compensate for absent fathers, the little ones without a dad don't know what they are missing. A good dad is the backbone of the family. It is his responsibility to guide his children and keep them safe, to make them feel loved and appreciated, to lead by example. I know exactly what a good dad is like because I was blessed to have one.

Family meant everything to my father. After leading a colorful life, he happily settled down with my mother and raised two daughters. I can honestly say I never heard my father complain or utter a single negative word about his role in the family. He loved being a dad; he loved us. Because of my father, I know what a good dad looks like.

A good dad gets up early on Saturday mornings to whip up french toast or bacon and eggs for his family. On Sundays, he brings home fresh rolls and crumb cake from the bakery and takes his family on leisurely drives through Staten Island's Todt Hill or Lighthouse Hill. He gets up early for work and at the end of the day catches an early ferry home to his girls. He may even work more than one job in order to make ends meet and provide the little extras that make a childhood memorable: the stuffed toys, the Easter bonnets with chenille bumblebees on the ribbon, the Hostess cupcakes and candy kisses, the vacations at the Jersey shore. A good dad takes his daughters for evening strolls through the neighborhood and sometimes tosses pennies into the creek with them for good luck. He takes them to the park to feed squirrels or to Clove Lakes where they sit on a rock and dip their toes into the water. A good dad buys his daughter a pink stingray bike and hooks up the garden hose whenever she wants to wash it. He takes his kids to amusement parks, buys them hot-dogs, hamburgers, and orange drink at Nedicks and pizza from Pizza Clown. He plays softball with them in the driveway and throws the ball directly at the bat so his daughters can hit it. He dances around the room to the theme of Hogans Heroes and lets his youngest sit in his lap while watching Flipper on TV.  He is there when strange things go bump in the night (like raccoons raiding the trash), and stray cats turn up needing a home. He brings his youngest daughter vanilla cupcakes with chocolate frosting and glazed donuts for his oldest. He never forgets a birthday or a holiday. And he always tells his girls he loves them. I could go on and on about a good dad; I have a wealth of knowledge on the subject. I know what a good dad looks like. He looks like my father.

To all the good daddies out there, Happy Father's Day! Celebrate your role in your family! To all you dead-beats, you're just plain stupid, cheating yourselves. To my daddy, thank you. I know what a good father is all about because I was blessed to have one every single day of my life.