I became a father for the first time just over 10 years ago. I remember the day well. It was April 28, 2004, and I was with my wife, Margaret, at St. Clare’s hospital in Schenectady, waiting for the big moment. We knew it was going to be a boy. We had picked out his name: Justin Thomas. We had seen the ultrasound pictures and felt his powerful kicks, but we had never seen him in the flesh.

I was nervous and excited. I had no idea what to expect. How do you take care of a child? They are so tiny when they are first born, and they need constant love and attention. Was I up for the challenge? Hours passed, and we waited. Finally, when early evening rolled around, Justin decided it was time. I remember watching him being delivered. It was 7:15 PM. He had a full head of hair and looked perfect to me. I was given the opportunity to cut the cord, and there was my son. My perfect son.

We stayed in the hospital for a couple of days while Margaret recovered and Justin was prepped for his venture to our home. He was so little, so fragile. I remember the ride home well. Did we install the car seat the right way? Was he buckled in appropriately? St. Clare’s is typically about 10 minutes from our home, but that day it took much longer. I was so nervous driving with our newborn son in the car that I was driving well under the speed limit!

Over time, we figured out how to be parents. Less than three years later, our beautiful daughter, Olivia, was born. That time, we knew much more about what to expect. We were old pros! It was January 2007, and we returned home with our new daughter in the frigid cold. Our next lesson in parenting was about how to balance two and, when they started to grow, how to keep civility in the house when they were on each other’s cases and our nerves.

Being a dad has been wonderful. It’s had its challenges along the way, of course, but overall, it has been the most rewarding experience of my life. I love watching Justin and Olivia as they are growing up. I love teaching them values, and what I know about life. I also love learning what they teach me. Seeing the world through their young eyes has been so enlightening to me, and I didn’t know how much I didn’t know until I started raising my kids.

Being a dad has also given me a much greater appreciation for my own father. When you’re a kid, you think you know everything. I know I did. But when you grow up, you realize that you really didn’t know much of anything, and you begin to understand how much of your character comes from what has been instilled over the course of time by your parents and other key people in your life.

My father is a kind and gentle man. He and my mom adopted my when I was just over 3 months old. I was never made to feel that I wasn’t simply born to their family. I was their son, and there was no question about that. My dad taught me a lot about life when I was growing up. He taught me work ethic, the value of a good education, how to respect people, and how to be personable. My friends always thought he was cool because he went out of his way to talk to them when they came by.

Growing up wasn’t always easy in my house. My two older siblings were very difficult, and things were often chaotic. Still, the basic decency and values that my dad helped to instill in me stayed with me in my dark days, and are now shining through on the other side. They have given me the strength to persevere and have provided me with the chance to be a good dad like he was and is.

I hope my kids think I’m a good dad, and I hope they have the same view about me that I have about my dad when they grow older. Thanks for everything, Dad. Happy Father’s Day!