Father’s Day Musings

Some semi-coherent thoughts on the occasion.

Father’s Day naturally has me thinking both of my own dad, who passed away more than 11 years ago, and my own journey as a father, which started almost 13 years ago.

Dad was 66 when he passed and I was 44. I’ve since made up more than half that gap. I’m hoping to have more than another 11 years but, if I make it at least that far, I’ll have lived long enough to (hopefully) see both of my girls graduate high school and the oldest graduate college. If I’m really lucky, I may see them get married and have kids of their own.

Those reasonably adept at math will surmise that I got a much later start on fatherhood than did my Dad. That I did. Indeed, when he was the age I was when my oldest was born, 43, I was a newly-commissioned Army officer and he had retired from the Army as a first sergeant.

Within two years of his passing, I witnessed the birth of my second daughter and the sudden death of my first wife. Less than two years ago, I remarried and added three stepchildren, the youngest of whom just graduated high school and the oldest of whom graduated college last month.

The American conception of fatherhood has changed a lot since my dad’s time, with stay-at-home moms no longer the norm and dads tending to take on a more hands-on role. I was on that path, anyway but, certainly, spending so much of my girls’ formative years as a single father made it a necessity. Both of my wives have a more nurturing instinct than my “rub some dirt on it” mentality. But time has reinforced this observation from my eulogy of Dad:

I didn’t fully appreciate my dad when I was a kid.   My mom stayed home and took care of me,  while Dad went off to work — sometimes very long hours, including lots of weekends.   It wasn’t until I got out in the world that I understood how big a deal just getting out of bed every day, putting in your best effort on the job, and then bringing the check home to the family was.   It was just something dads did, after all.  I was into my twenties before I really understood how many dads didn’t.

After my first wife’s passing, I got an inordinate amount of praise for doing what struck me as the bare minimum: continuing to march forward and take care of the girls. I mean, what else was I going to do? But I’m continually amazed at how many women I meet whose fathers or ex-husbands basically dropped out of their/their children’s lives after a divorce—or, even during the marriage—that just showing up and putting in the work seems extraordinary by comparison.

FILED UNDER: Parenting,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. CSK says:

    Meanwhile, here’s Trump’s message on this occasion:

    “Happy Father’s Day to all, including the Radical Left, RINOs, and other Losers of the world.”

    I do hope he included himself among the losers of the world.

  2. Barry says:

    Happy Father’s Day, James!

  3. Jay L Gischer says:

    Staying with your kids as a father can be framed as a duty, but for me there was never any question of doing anything else. Wild horses would have to be used to drag me away. They are a maddening irritation, and also a joy that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I’m guessing that’s true of you, too, James.

    Happy Father’s Day!

  4. Mimai says:

    I didn’t know the backstory on Kim. Reading about it was difficult. And then I got to the comments. And I read all of them. Inspiring stuff. Wow, just wow!

    Happy Father’s Day.

  5. Jax says:

    Happy Father’s Day, Dr. Joyner!

    @Mimai: Wow, reading that post was a blast from the past. So many familiar names that used to contribute regularly, and some that still do. I often wonder how many of the commentariat we’ve lost over the years without ever knowing what happened to them, they just….disappeared.

  6. CSK says:

    That’s a good photo of you and your father. He was a nice-looking guy.