I asked a few of my friends and family what is the difference between a father and a dad. Here is what my husband and father of my children told me, "A good father buys his children candy, toys and anything else they point at. Oh! Wait! That's a grandfather." His answer didn't surprise me. He refuses to stop for directions and has always secretly wanted to buy his children candy, toys and anything else they point at and then sit on the floor and play with them. That is why five of my children chose him, brought him home, asked me to date him and later agreed to let him adopt them. They call him dad, a term of endearment, saved for only the most loved of fathers.

Are you a father or have one handy? Would you like to join the ranks of special fathers and become a "dad"? I spoke to the experts - children. I asked them what makes a father become a dad. Here is a review of my research:

A dad is a play technician

Dads know that memories and connections are made in the sand box, over video game controllers and when they allow their child to beat them at a rousing game of Chutes and Ladders. Play is imperative and at the top of the list.

A dad is soft and warm

Dads never need their coats and are always giving them to mothers or children. They are like baby heaters, ready to put any fussy infant to sleep on a broad soft tummy (lined with a six pack of well-padded muscles). They will stand outside in snow or rain without complaining or getting cold, and watch their children play any sport, at any location and at any time of day.

A dad is nimble like a ninja

Dads know how to sneak up on children and scare them. Children love this. They also know how to infect children with giggles. They are experts at wrestling, chasing and carrying children. They have the ability to give a child a piggyback ride, with their eyes covered or while being choked and not drop the child. They know how to magically transport children who fall asleep in cars to their beds without waking them.

A dad is an investment banker

All dads recognize that their children are their best investment. They are willing to spend any amount of money on sports fees, education, shoes, uniforms and weddings. However, they are wise investors. They know the value of money and recognize that they can get two clean toilets for one dollar. Although they are willing to barter, they have been known to give money away for just the right amount of tears and hugs combined.

Dads loan money on a case by case basis with zero interest and no annual fee. They have also been known to encourage children to work to pay their own way, while continuing to buy children hot dogs and movie tickets. Children have been known to mistake dads for ATM machines.

A dad is skilled labor

Dads have skills. They are the first person you call when your tire is flat, your car won't start or you have to put together furniture that comes in a box. They are able to replace the floaty things in the backs of toilets and change light bulbs on demand.

Dads are also movers

. They have been known to allow daughters to fill their vehicles from stem to stern with shoes, clothes, make-up and decorations and haul them at no charge to any college in the nation, and then bring it all back home in the spring. They also move couches, televisions and moderately sized appliances for mothers on occasion.

Dads are spiritual leaders

Dads can predict the future. They always know when your boyfriend is a dud. Dads are experts at sensing when children are up to no good, and thanks to their personal mischief expertise, are able to sniff out trouble a mile away and predict the outcome of children's choices. They have been known to say, "I wouldn't do that if I were you," and then stand back and watch the consequences. Amazingly, dads will also help you clean up your messes.

Dads lead prayers and teach you about God while fishing or gardening. They are versatile religious educators.

Dads are perpetual motion coupled with unconditional love

. No matter what you break, who breaks your heart, or what you need, Dads will try over and over again to help you. No matter what you do, they continue to love you.

Dads are life coaches

Dads have an interesting way of teaching children how to live. Without saying a word, they instruct children daily by modeling behavior. You will see dads pushing lawn mowers, with small children watching. Later you will see small children pushing plastic lawn mowers that blow bubbles.

You will see a dad leaning over an automobile engine, elbow to elbow with his teenage son, both covered in grease and they like it.

On Sundays, highly trained researchers have observed a pattern. Sons begin to tie their ties only to give up in frustration. Instinctively, dads stand behind sons and tie their son's ties. Researchers are still exploring the complicated knots used in this ritual.

If your goal is to go from being a father to a beloved dad, then play more, laugh more, be present, fix more, love deeper and live the way you would like your children to live.

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