I hope I’m not breaching some “mancode” or something when I say that… Father’s Day? Most of us Dad’s really aren’t that into it.
Oh sure it’s nice to get a couple of extra hugs and I for one am always in favor of presents, but like Mother’s Day and Valentines Day, it is a manufactured holiday. A day you’re told to show the appropriate appreciation or risk the wrath of your loved ones.
If Father’s Day is supposed to be a day when you feel loved and appreciated by your kids, then for me, Father’s Day happens all year long in those wonderful spontaneous moments. That text message from your daughter in Boston at three o’clock in the afternoon on a random Tuesday that simply says: “I love you Papa.” That call from your son asking for advice and the even better realization that he is actually listening. Wandering by the storefront window of your daughter’s work, watching her in action and seeing the confidence and security in the way she carries herself.
Those are the moments I’m truly grateful to be a Dad.
I married young; probably too young, so much of those early years of marriage seem a blur. I didn’t know what to do, when to do it or how it should be done. I just blundered my way through. I don’t remember there being endless discussions with my wife about the concept of having kids, there weren’t spirited debates or any weighing of the pros and cons. Which seems strange to me now.
On the other hand, we had endless debates about far less important issues. Buying a couch could take six months before we could come to any sort of agreement. But I think after three years of marriage we just sort of looked at each other and said: “Let’s make a baby. It’s time.” Starting a family is the biggest decision a couple can make and one that couples by and large take as a given. Now I know why.
Because if you really knew what you were getting into? The task of parenting would seem overwhelming. You are bringing an actual human being into the world. If you really, really thought it out… a lot of people would bail. The pressure would be unbelievable. The margin for error slim. The stakes far too high.
But most parents start out feeling they have control over this “thing.” It’s only hard if you don’t have a plan. So, you make one. Establish a loving, nurturing environment, set parameters of behavior, be consistent with their execution… lather, rinse, repeat and twenty-one years later… you walk away having created the child of your dreams. The perfect family.
But it doesn’t work like that, does it? Because despite your best efforts, they become… people. People with strengths and flaws you never factored in. They become the best parts of you and the worst parts of you and other characteristics good and bad you never saw coming.
They are not the children you dreamed they would be.
But by God, they are so much better. They succeed when you’re sure they will fail, they fall on their faces tripping over the smallest things. They surprise you with their kindness and shock you with their cruelty. In time, they become the perfect, flawed people they were meant to be.
My kids are all in their twenties now and I know for a fact that everything I tried to teach them failed, And everything good they learned from me happened when I wasn’t trying. Because that’s the way life works. It’s messy and unpredictable and seldom sticks to your script.
But would you really have it any other way?
So you can choose to celebrate Father’s Day every third Sunday in June if you want, but I think I’ll stick to holding onto my Father’s Day moments and be grateful for them throughout the year. Whenever they may come.
But just for the record, come next June 16th… I still want the presents.