Happy Paternal Unit Day

Being called father by any other name is just as great

Paul Thomas Swann
2 min readJun 19, 2022


Photo by Caroline Hernandez on Unsplash

As a new paternal unit, I pondered what I wanted to be called by our children.

For some reason, I wanted them to call me Papa.

I’m not sure why. Maybe because that's what their mother had always called her paternal unit in Russia where she was born and raised.


I liked the sound of it.

Like millions of families, our girls heard a mixture of two languages in their first few years. But the one constant noun was, Papa.

“Where’s Papa?”

“Papas’ home.”

“Papa’s going to class.”

“Go tell Papa we’re ready to eat.”

“Papa’s going to read you a story.”

Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash

I very much loved being called Papa by our first daughter.

Again, I’m not sure why I loved this word.

In my little nook of the world, “dad” was the norm. Maybe I just wanted to be different.

Sure, I know “Papa” is what the majority of the world calls their paternal units. There was even a time when, as a teenager, I called my dad “Pop.”

Which is close to Papa.

I also don’t know how that happened either. Maybe I’d heard Richie Cunningham call his day, Pop on an old 1970s TV show.

I don’t know.

But, I was happy to be called Papa — for the little time that it lasted.

At some point, the light bulb went off in the firstborn’s mind as she noticed that Suzie, Barbara, and Johnny all called their paternal units dad.

Not papa.

She followed suit.

And suddenly I had a new name.

By the time the second baby girl came along, the first was routinely calling me dad.

I was only a little sad as I accepted the reality that there would be no more, “Papa this or Papa that.”

Now, occasionally I do miss “this and that…”

But, I’ve adapted and, like the wise saying that was always on my mother’s lips, I accepted the things I cannot change…

I couldn’t fight the local culture that preferred the use of “dad” over “papa.”

And I’m more than OK with that.

But even as they’ve grown and moved out, I try my best to be a good paternal unit and answer when they call me Dad.

I’d even respond to Papa.

To all the paternal units, Happy Father’s Day!