Father’s Day is a time to express appreciation to dads. But this year, we wanted to hear from fathers themselves. Here, four Washington area men share what fatherhood means to them. Their words are humorous, vulnerable and uplifting. And be sure to check out our photo gallery of local dads.

I have a daughter.

The word “daughter” tends to strike fear into most men. Just ask the rapper, Nas. See, most of us have spent the great parts of our teens and twenties getting over on somebody else’s daughter. Maybe not intentionally, or maybe not with the purpose of inflicting any type of emotional pain, but we’ve all convinced ourselves that in order to do what men do, women get charged with the price of doing business.

Panama Jackson. (Panama Jackson/Panama Jackson)

To be clear, being a father to daughter is possibly the most rewarding thing in life. I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better blessing from God. I love my daughter so much it’s brought me to tears at times thinking about it, even if she wasn’t present at the moment. I’m always happy to see her face, and sometimes I even feel like one of those stupid boys she’ll encounter in high school who hopes that the girl he loves is as excited to see him as he is to see her. That’s real love right there. That’s how I feel about my daughter.

This is why I’ve spent SO much time thinking about the various words that have been spoken to me by women loved and lost and had to at least concern myself with whether or not my own mentality about women is both ignorant and contradictory. I’m a man first and foremost, and that affords me certain luxuries at the expense of women. But my daughter’s going to be a woman one day who is going to deal with somebody like me.

I know I’m not perfect, and I know I have a lot of growing left to do. And my daughter reminds me of it even if she has no idea. From the types of music I listen to, or at least how I process it, to the things about myself that I hope my daughter won’t have to deal with. I’m by no means a terrible man — just one who up until my angel was born got to play indifferent to pain and suffering.

So I suppose in some ways, my daughter is helping to usher in my growth as a better man and person. As I witness the ways that I’m able to express emotion and be communicative with my daughter, I realize those are the things I need to be able to do with women I encounter who matter. Or the way that I know I have to be as honest with her as possible so that she doesn’t find herself disappointed in who her father really was — well that is also a work in progress but a process I know that is necessary.

I love my daughter for who she is and who she will become, and that will never change. And I appreciate my daughter for helping me realize that being able to grow as a man for another person is the epitome of humanity.

I have a daughter. Lucky me.

Panama Jackson, an alias for Washington, D.C.-based writer D.M. Wright, is a co-founder of VerySmartBrothas.com and co-author of “Your Degrees Won't Keep You Warm At Night: The Very Smart Brothas Guide To Dating, Mating, and Fighting Crime.” He believes the children are our future and likes really long book titles.

More essays on fatherhood:

Life lessons taught

Making the sacrifice

The power of one

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