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Fatherhood adventure

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When my husband was a boy growing up, he and his best friend spent their summers climbing through empty storm drains, diving off houses onto mattresses, and they even tried parachuting.

This husband of mine, the guy I chose to be the father of my kids, has managed to pass that adventuresome spirit to our children.

I'm guaranteed to gray prematurely.

My kids have their dad in the palm of their hands, literally. They don't know that four out of 10 children in America live in a home without a father, according to the National Fatherhood Initiative. Just the fact that there's an organization like the NFI, a group whose mission is restoring responsible fatherhood as our nation's priority, says to me that what my son and daughter have is becoming a rare treasure.

All they know, however, is that their dad is the first to agree to a sword battle and the last to give up on a pillow fight. When he's in charge, they have marshmallows for breakfast and the dogs get to sleep on the beds. Frozen ponds are to skate on and dank caves are for exploring. Together, they've hiked to the tops of mountains, trekked miles of creek bottoms and slept under the stars.

"Dad's really cool," I hear frequently, as well as, "How come you're not as fun as Dad?"

And before I defend myself, the oldest says to the youngest: "Silly, if we had two fun parents, who'd make us take our vitamins or eat our vegetables?"

I'm happy being their safety net.

Fatherhood isn't all about fun, though. There's a living to earn, mortgage to pay, college to save for. Dads carry a load of responsibility and worry on their shoulders so children can stick to the business of being children.

The longer I know him, the more I admire my husband's shoulders.

I'll admit that from the side of the fence I'm on, being a good father looks like the norm. The dads I see come home from work and until dark, usually, are in the yard playing with their kids. They're in the delivery rooms when the babies are born and dedicate themselves to years of helping with schoolwork. They coach their sons and daughters in sports and through the tough times in life.

But I know that's just the picture from where I stand. Many kids don't receive a fair chance because a dad has died or abandoned them.

So maybe that's all the more reason to look at the man in your house, the man you married who's traded his childhood adventures for a parenting adventure, and say "Happy Father's Day."

(c) 2001 King Features Synd., Inc.

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