Here’s my Father”s Day message to Dads, especially young Dads. You matter. It doesn’t matter what your wife or your girlfriend says. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to do anything useful or even if you have a job. You matter. Don’t buy into any of the junk that you hear that your kids will be fine without you. They won’t.

Here’s the big news for Dads, especially young Dads who think they have nothing to offer because they’re not working and have no prospects. Three-year olds don’t check resumes. They don’t care what you do as long as you are decent to them. It’s a very low bar to be a meaningful Dad to a child. Would it be better if every Dad had a family-supporting job? Absolutely. Would it be better if they all took parenting classes and were actually interested in child development instead of faking it? Sure.

But what matters most to a kid is that you simply show up. Be kind. Be dependable in their eyes. Put them on your shoulders and walk around the block. Make them feel big and important. Put them first in your heart.

Social service programs spend a lot of time on fatherhood projects. And that’s a wonderful thing. But the thing I want Dads to hear is that it is your physical presence that matters most, your strength and protection, your playfulness and your laugh, and the loving gaze that tells a child s/he can do no wrong in your eyes. It’s no cost – you just got to show up. Not once or twice. Not on Christmas and birthdays. Regularly. Dependably.

Dads – what your daughters think about men will be shaped by how you treat her. What you expect from her will challenge her. What you think is important will help her decide what’s important in her life. When you show her how to swing across the monkey bars, you showing her in a little way to believe in herself, you’re telling her she’s a strong person, that she’s capable. She needs that and only you can give it to her.

Dads – how you act as a man is how your sons will act. The goals you set for yourself inspire your sons to set goals. How you use your strength shows your sons how a man defines himself. You set the standard. Only you can do it and if you don’t, strangers will step in and act in your stead, sometimes for the good but not always.

Men – if you’ve got a friend who can’t take that step to be with his child because he thinks he’s not good enough, take him by the hand and show him. And remember sometimes it’s the big blowhard Dads who say they don’t care and can’t be bothered who are hurting the most because they’re estranged from their kids. Help them out. Remind them it’s the little things and not the big things that matter. Being there is worth a million toys, a dozen trips to the water park. a hundred grand gestures. Walk around the block. Start there.

Our town, every town, would be an incredibly better place to live if all our kids were fathered well. Many of the programs we develop to try to fix the damage done by absent fathers would be unnecessary. It’s the little things that count – in the long run, that’s the big thing. I truly believe that.