Saturday, June 14, 2008

Father's Day

About a week or so ago, my wife and I found out we are pregnant with our third kid. Wow. We're excited and I think it hasn't even really hit us yet. It is through the lens of becoming a father for the third time that I have started examining Father's Day.

This Father's Day is the 100th such day in this country. Father's Day was first introduced as an afterthought to Mother's Day. The celebration of the man's role in parenting wasn't as natural a fit to a psuedo-holiday as to express appreciation for Mothers. Even now it seems like there is general disagreement as to how to celebrate dads--or if they should, indeed, be celebrated.

There is something very natural to Mother's Day that the Dad's day just seems to be lacking. Something I can't stand is the cliche Father's Day gifts: neck ties, golf clubs, business socks. To me, such gifts reinforce the dad's role as breadwinner and discount the idea of a dad as an engaged parent. They show that a dad's most important role is his job and his independent pastimes are his most enjoyable times--a celebration of apartness. I was at a steakhouse the other day that had a big sign saying "Open at 10:00am on Father's Day!" Yes, because my dad wants a steak for breakfast. In contrast, the cliche gifts of Mother's Day--flowers, spa treatments, etc--at least express a sensitivity to the delicate role of Mother and an invitation to put herself first for once.

The fact that there are these standby notions of Father's Day gifts (mostly given to us by the media in the first place) shows a schizophrenic attitude towards fathers in our culture; it's best embodied by the question: "What the hell is a Father supposed to be, anyway?"

I've made the argument previously that the most important role a father plays is not as breadwinner or provider, but as role model. For me, it's always been easy to appreciate my dad, but it's even more so now that I have kids. I don't know what kind of dad I would be if I hadn't seen it done right in the first place.

But how the hell do I show thanks? Do I buy a card that someone else wrote? Do I get him something for his office or his BBQ? Do I take him out to dinner? And how will my kids try and show it when they're older? It seems to me like Father's Day is a natural time to try and weave in some family activities of some kind; a trip, a visit, a picnic. A CD is as close as I can come to thinking of a gift that doesn't break the bank and can still be personal.

Father's Day will always be second fiddle when it comes to the Hallmark Holidays. But it's not because fathers are any less important than mothers. Just as the role of a caring dad often has to be invented by the one living it, so does the way to celebrate and express appreciation for a job well done have to be improvised.

I don't think that my dad will care that we don't make a big deal about Father's Day. I know that I don't care if I get a card or hug or whatever on that one day. The best way that I can think of to celebrate fatherhood is to practice it with care and understanding--to embody everything that I saw my dad do right as best as I can. That's something that just can't be expressed by breakfast steaks and neck ties.

Related Articles:
In Defense of Fatherhood
10 Rules for being a role Model
Putting Family First

1 comment:

Mike said...

Congratulations! Going from 2 to 3 kids is interesting... you move from man-to-man coverage to zone coverage, but it's fun.

Father's Day may be more difficult to celebrate, but it's up to Dads to make the difference between kids growing up in a secure home and those that don't. At the risk of offending Mother's everywhere (because they do work exceptionally hard) I'd suggest that Father's roles are crucial in kid's development, far more crucial than we are willing to admit. (hastily putting on flame-proof suit). :)

Love your blog, keep up the great writing.