Get a smell. When I asked what makes a good dad, my 5-year-old daughter said, "a shower," which I tried to accept in the best light.
Most of us probably link our dads to a smell -- for mine it was Aqua Velva, for my wife it was Old Spice. For my grade-school friend Randy's threatening, frightening father, it was a still-vivid blend of sweet-smelling pipe tobacco and the chemicals he spread on his beloved lawn and garden. Dads can safely have subtle presence with an odor they can call their own.
Still be the lovable bumbler. Male activists are concerned about the image of fathers as dolts -- from Archie Bunker to Tim Taylor and from Fred Flintstone to Homer Simpson. But, you know, if you pay close attention at my house and monitor spills and bandage usage you'd find this image is not too far from the truth. Why fight it. These little guys can't fire you.
Fix stuff. Duct tape and Krazy Glue can be your best friends. Minor toy repairs -- or even just some puttering around -- after a while have the cumulative effect of making everyone think you have some value.
Throw a ball. This will never change.
Get a school presence down. Today fathers need to look confident and interested in a school setting. They need to squeeze into those little chairs, talk knowledgeably about ear infections and know where the "cubbies" are. You don't have to say the word "cubby," though. That's going too far. Much to my daughter's consternation, I call it her "bin."
Mow the lawn. It's your duty. It's your right. It's a good traditional image. It's a good break from the madness.
Withstand pain. Kids want to jump on you, stand on your toes, slap your puffed out cheeks and sleep in your arms during the two-mile walk through the mall and back to the car. Nothing will diminish your fatherly image quicker than telling a vacationing, dead-tired kid that your back is sore from the bad bed and beach chairs and you can't carry her.