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.

From the beginning of manhood, we inherit the communal responsibility of fatherhood. We are to conduct ourselves as men who honor and preserve life through the righteous actions prescribed through longevity and sustainability.

Fatherhood is bigger than self or procreation. It’s being able to create a life in the image of you. Like we are created in the image of the Father, God of your understanding, we have the innate responsibility to mold, nurture, protect and provide for love with unconditional sacrifice beyond our personal needs.

Stacey Smith with his sons Solace, 11, and Soren, 2. (Chris L. Jenkins/The Washington Post)

Stretching ourselves beyond our comfort zones, to provide for a life that has the possibility to be greater than ourselves, is worth the reward: It is bliss. It humbles us and allows us to view the world through a different lens.

The pathway to fatherhood is painful, especially without guidance But it is a gift, and I want to hear, see, touch and inhale my gift. To be a part of my sons’ great metamorphosis is a phenomenal experience.

I encourage all fathers to spend relentless time within the life of your children, for the day will quickly approach when they are no longer tethered at your hip. Fathers and parents are the first teachers: They protect, invest, indulge and teach.We cannot squander our time with our children.

It is up to us to be mindful of our regrets and the things that torment us. If the cycle that we were in was incomplete, then we have the power to provide and correct what is missing in ourselves. We are not alone.

More essays on fatherhood:

A father’s joy

Making the sacrifice

The power of one

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