Today is Father’s Day, and I always feel a mishmash of emotions. There is always the joy of being a father to three amazing daughters, who are now 21, 19 and 16, and stampeding toward adulthood. My father-in-law Jim has been an incredible support and inspiration to me every since I began dating his daughter Laura nearly 30 years ago. We have a special relationship and I admire his upright morality and handyman skills. My father Larry died of a heart attack suddenly in December of 1989 at the young age of 51; not a day goes by that I don’t think about him, especially on this special day. I think of all of the experiences that he has missed, and my sadness seems to compound–he never met my wife Laura, my three children, and a countless myriad of other experiences. In my medical practice, especially in the realm of pediatrics, I witness firsthand how a father’s influence or lack thereof can make or break a child’s life and destiny. Children desperately need a father figure in their lives to affirm, mentor and redirect them when life situations dictate.
Recently in social circles, with increasing frequency, we hear of the concept of “toxic masculinity,” where male behavior is implicated in all sorts of societal ills in the present day. While it cannot be denied that irresponsible actions of men have caused countless heartache through the years, I would say that we need men and masculinity in our lives now more than ever. Men serve as a critical resource to provide for their families, protect their partners and children, function as positive role models and project strength to those with whom they interact daily. So I challenge my male counterparts to embrace the critical aspects of their manhood to change things for the better in their families and communities.