If you want to know a dad’s heart, watch the way he looks into the eyes of his children. Observe the way he peers right into their souls and sees their inherent goodness. Watch the way he melts into fatherhood the first time his newborn wraps his tiny hand around his index finger. See his smile when he helps his son ride his bike by himself for the first time or his daughter learns how to shoot a basket. Spot the tears of pride that creep into the corners of his eyes at every graduation, every achievement, every success, and notice the subtle pain across his face when things don’t go his child’s way. 

If you want to know a dad’s heart, look at the way he looks at his children.

If you want to know a dad’s heart, listen to the words he uses with his children. Hear him encourage his kids to try again or coax them to push harder. Take notice of how he whispers sweet words into his daughter’s ears or leans down to speak to his son eye-to-eye. Hear him cheer the loudest from the sidelines of a soccer game or the back of an auditorium for a dance recital. Laugh as he jokingly trash talks at every opportunity but beams with pride when his children finally beat him fair and square. Hear the squeals of excitement from your children when a deep voice enters through the door exclaiming, “Daddy’s home.” 

If you want to know a dad’s heart, listen to the words he says to his children.

If you want to know a dad’s heart, watch how he touches his children. Look at how his large hands softly cradle a newborn or how he swiftly picks up a toddler who stumbles to the ground. See how a tender arm wrapped around his child’s shoulders can erase the pain of a crushing loss or a celebratory bear hug can mean more than any award. See how his hands shake slightly as he walks his daughter down the aisle or how he firmly puts a steadying arm around a nervous son.

If you want to know a dad’s heart, watch how he touches his children.

A dad’s heart may not be known to outsiders, he may hide it from the rest of the world. But a dad’s heart can create and inspire a beautiful legacy, it can have an impact far beyond the four walls of his home.

A dad’s heart can turn a walk around the neighborhood into an adventure, a simple note into sacred words, a gentle reminder into a motivational speech.

There are no limits on what a dad’s heart can do.

And when it no longer beats, when his physical presence is no longer on this Earth, you can still see and feel and hear a dad’s heart.

For it lives on forever in his children.

This article originally appeared on Playdays on Fridays by Whitney Fleming

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Whitney Fleming

Whitney is a mom of three teen daughters, a communications consultant, and blogger. She tries to dispel the myth of being a typical suburban mom although she is often driving her minivan to soccer practices and attending PTA meetings. She writes about parenting, relationships, and w(h)ine on her blog Playdates on Fridays.