What dad's have to say about being a father

Fathers today often say that their family is more important to them than their job. And some are taking a more active role in helping raise their children.

During a walk through the Boston Public Garden on a sunny weekend, I chatted with a few dads who took time out to talk about being a father.

Rick Strand tosses a bright red ball to his son, Gabriel, during an outing to the Public Garden. Father and son, along with mother Laurie, are visiting from their home in Warren, Pa. The towheaded two-year-old catches the ball using both hands.

"I like being a father," Mr. Strand says. "I like to watch my son grow and develop." Unlike some fathers, Mr. Strand gets to spend quite a bit of time with his son.The Strands try to share family responsibilities 50-50, since both parents work. Mr. Strand sometimes gets off work before his wife, so he picks up Gabriel from the baby sitter and goes home to start dinner. And because Gabriel "loves to help out," the father and son do chores together on weekends.

Mr. Strand says he enjoys having the opportunity to help his son learn.

"I try to teach him to care about others," he says. Gabriel tosses the red ball back to his father."And I've taught him how to throw a ball."

What does Gabriel like to do with his father?

"Ride on the swan boat," he says, referring to the famous boats in the Public Garden pond. Then he breaks into a big smile as his father tosses him the ball again.

John Marletta debarks from a swan boat with his children, Sarah, 4, David, 10 , and Lisa, 7. The family is in Boston from Manchester, Mass., to see the Tall Ships sail into the harbor for Boston's 350th anniversary celebration. It is obvious that Mr. Marletta is having fun with his children during the short vacation.

"I like being a dad because of the sense of sharing with them," Mr. Marletta says. "It is fun to do things together, and to expose them to new and different activities."

He tries to spend as much time as he can with his children, but not without a little nudging from his wife, Carolyn. He owns a business and finds he can get too caught up in work.

"Each of my children has his or her own personality," Mr. Marletta says. "Lisa is artistic. She likes drawings and colors.

"David likes bugs and fish," he says. "Sarah is ladylike. It's surprising to see her in overalls today, because she usually wants to wear a dress. Lisa will never wear a dress."

What does David like about his father?

"He's nice," David says. "I go fishing with him. He takes us places we have never been before, like miniature golfing." David sometimes helps at his father's laboratory, where Mr. Marletta tests the quality of fish for the frozen food industry.

Pig-tailed Lisa sits near the edge of the pond with her sister, Sarah, and talks about her father.

"He gives me candy," she says with a smile.

Sarah grins as she swishes her feet in the cool water. She doesn't talk much , but she nods her head yes when asked if her father is good to the family and shakes it no when asked if he is ever mean. Then Sarah and Lisa are off on a description of the family pets -- a dog, a cat, and some hermit crabs.

Glen Mosley of Boston says he can never have enough time with his four-year-old daughter, Mutima, whose African name means "eternal life and happiness."

"I'd like to see more of her," he says as he watches Mutima play with her cousin in the Public Garden. Work means he can't spend all his time with his daughter. "But we go out a lot together."

Mr. Mosley says being a father is special.

"It's beautiful." What is special about his daughter?

"She is mine," he says. "That's mym baby." He finds that being a father isn't always easy. "The hardest thing is making the right decision when she looks to you for help," Mr. Mosley says."Children learn on their own, but when they turn to you, you've got to help them. And you never know if you have made the right decision until it is done." He points out that parents have to take the bitter with the sweet in raising a child.

"They didn't call you up on the phone and say 'I want to come.' It was your choice."

Mutima, who takes after both parents, according to Mr. Mosley, comes over to sit by her father. She is too shy at the moment to talk about her dad, but the affection shows as she cuddles up next to him.

"Who is your main man?" her father asks her. She pounds him on the knee. He's the one.

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