June 17. 2018 1:05AM

Happy Father's Day: What does your dad mean to you?


The great thing about the countless "World's Greatest Dad" coffee mugs that will be received this morning across the country is that each of them was earned.

The relationship between a father and each of his children is unique, so for most of us, our dads are the greatest.

Not every child is this lucky. Over the past 50 years, the likelihood of an American child growing up without a father at home has increased from 1 in 10 to 1 in 4. Fatherlessness is even higher in low-income communities. Girls without fathers at home are much more likely to become pregnant as teenagers, prompting a cycle of fatherlessness, poverty and dependency.

Fatherless children are also at much greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse, more likely to get in trouble with the law and twice as likely to commit suicide.

Statistics concerning race, income and family structure intersect and overlap, making it difficult to determine correlation or causation. Certainly, it is possible for children raised by single mothers, or without either biological parent, to succeed. But the odds go way up when children have two parents at home.

Nature does not give the human male much biological responsibility in the process of procreation. Yet there is so much more to being a father than merely producing offspring.

Our culture has developed a number of traditional roles for fathers. They are providers. They are protectors. They are role models, demonstrating by their example how boys should act, and what girls should expect from men. These norms carry with them our collective knowledge of how families succeed.

Each family is unique, and many will diverge from these norms in ways large and small. And that's just fine. But we would be foolish to abandon them as a society, or to pretend that active, loving fathers do not provide their children with a tremendous advantage in life.

Today is dad's day. Maybe he wants to spend the afternoon on the golf course. Or watch the Red Sox in Seattle. Maybe he's been saving up some truly awful jokes that will make you groan.

As we urged on Mother's Day, we would encourage you to take a moment to share with your father what he meant to you. You might write it in a card, say it in a phone call, or whisper it in a prayer. One way or another, that message should get through.