Sunday is Father’s Day. A day set aside once a year to honor or celebrate or at least acknowledge the male parent in our lives. This year marked the 100th anniversary of the first official Mother’s Day. Woodrow Wilson made that day a holiday in 1914. It took 58 years for a corresponding dad holiday to become official when Nixon signed a declaration in 1972.
Father’s Day wasn’t thought to be as commercially viable as Mother’s Day so there was no rush. Moms haul in an estimated 8 billion dollars in flowers, candy, and diamond tennis bracelets annually. Dads? Less than 15% of that.
Not buying it
I think it’s fair to say fathers aren’t held in the same reverence as mothers are. Big, tough athletes win a gold medal or the Heisman Trophy and they shout out a “thank you, mom” for the cameras. People write songs that literally spell it out like: “M-O-T-H-E-R (a word that means the world to me).” Proctor and Gamble launched a huge mom-focused campaign this winter for the Sochi games— “P&G. Proud Sponsor of Moms.”
Sure, there’s a new Dove For Men commercial that goes against the bumbling male stereotype but for the most part marketers have long believed women make the purchasing decisions, especially P&G products like diapers, toilet paper, and detergent so they aim their sales pitch at moms. Fathers are mostly thought of as unimportant, uninvolved, and emotionally detached.
“…you need a license to buy a dog or drive a car. Hell, you need a license to catch a fish… But they’ll let any b*tt-reaming a**hole be a father.”
— Keanu Reeves in Parenthood
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t exactly jumping at the chance to become a father. Having kids, let alone four of them, was really my wife’s idea. I’ll admit it. I didn’t know if I could be a good father. I was pretty sure I could be a better father than my dad but he didn’t set the bar very high. No, I wasn’t thinking about procreating.
But having kids was the best thing that ever happened to me. When our first child was born, I was smitten. I felt a deep, visceral, mushy kind of love I hadn’t known before. It was a sinking ache in my chest that could make me misty just playing Legos. Sharing that love with two, then three more kids didn’t diminish the feeling. In fact, it was more like love to the fourth power.
Sometimes I’d sit with Jack, kid #3, watching Thomas the Tank Engine for the 20th time, and he’d catch me looking at him instead of the TV. “I’m watching The Jack Show,” I’d tell him. “This is my favorite episode where Jack watches a movie with his dad.”
The gift that keeps on giving
This Father’s Day, I don’t want expensive gifts. I’d be happy with a shirt. I like shirts. Or nothing. I don’t need a gift. Just everybody in a room together. We all have stuff to do: jobs and boyfriends and hobbies. But if we could hang out for ten, fifteen minutes (without squabbling!) I could catch the latest episode of The Walter’s Family Show… The episode that shows me why I love being a dad.
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