What’s it take to be a better dad? Read. Play. Bake.

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It would never occur to me to not read to my children.

My wife and I started reading bedtime stories to Celeste when she was three months old, and have continued the routine nearly every day of her nine years (though these days she reads to us).

Neither would it never occur to me to not go outside with my children on a random day or even play a game with them. Yesterday alone we made a six-foot-tall snowman and played Wii Lego Star Wars.

I’ve made things with my children (whether it was Christmas ornaments or a cardboard clubhouse) and have baked cookies with them, most recently at Christmas but we’ve been known to fire up the oven other times of the year as well.

We have our share of movie nights (I’m turning both of my children into rabid “Star Wars” fans), and I do plenty of activities of their choosing with them.

So I did not see a lot for me to write about from the third week of the National Fatherhood Initiative’s month-long program, “30 Days to Be a Better Dad.”

After all, the initiative merely suggested activities that dads could do with their children, and I already do them all. I don’t see how baking more cookies or watching more movies with my kids would help me become a better dad. A bigger dad, maybe, but not better.

Then I looked at the list again, and found myself fighting back the hint of tear as the simplicity of it began to sink in.

Why would the National Fatherhood Initiative have to suggest such basic activities? What dad wouldn’t want to read to their children? Play with them?

Then it hit me. Some men have no idea how to be a dad or are not even around to fill the role, and those are the dads the initiative is trying to reach. Not only are these dads depriving their children of the childhood they deserve to have, they are losing out on one of life’s best gifts and precious memories.

All a child wants is their parents’ time and love. So read a book to your child, make a snowman while you can, or turn on the oven to bake some cookies. You won’t regret it.

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