Tag Archives: Christmas

Planning For Next Father’s Day Or Rushing For This One

Dads are easy. We have to be, considering how much we’re getting shorted in the national holiday of appreciation competition.

Father’s Day didn’t exist until 1909, when the daughter of a single father from Seattle came up with the idea. Wasn’t until Richard Nixon set aside the third Sunday in June in 1972 that it became a national holiday. And this is America? Probably one reason for it. I mean, we celebrate the Founding Fathers every July and the vast conspiracy of Moms felt that was enough.

 In 2011, Dads who received a gift averaged $106.49, which was a nice jump from 2010, when dads only saw gifts worth $94.72, but still not a patch on moms, who averaged $140.73. In 2012, dads only raked in $117.14, while moms bumped up to $152.

“His gifts usually range from a simple tie for work to a new spatula for the grill—all of which can make dad very happy.”

 Mother’s Day gifts, by contrast, tend to be more luxurious than Father’s Day presents—jewels, flowers, a trip to the spa, or dinner at a restaurant, for example.

The most popular gift was a card, and, even then, dads lag behind behind Moms, lovers on Valentine’s Day and people trying to kiss up to Santa on Christmas.

Which is exactly what I thought was happening when my youngest little dude referred to me as a superhero. I swelled with pride. And then he told me my superhero name” the Wondrous Wallet, because I’m the one who gives him the money. He’s having a birthday on June 13 and wants to go paintballing. I’m allowed to go with him, but can’t participate, must only be there in my superhero guise. Who, in addition to being free with the money, is mostly invisible.

The number one reason why Father’s Day doesn’t get as much attention is because it happens during summer break for schools. Moms get the attention of the child in school, teachers who, in elementary school are most likely moms themselves, and have their classes make something for mom.

Moms rake it in because, just like Valentine’s Day, there is an entire industry based around the idea that not getting the mom in your life an expensive, amazing gift is tantamount to saying, “I hate you. You’re worthless, now go get into the kitchen and make me a sammich.”

But, enough whining. Although, if you’ve been around me for more than three minutes, I think you’ll realize whining is what I do. Anyway, enough of it for now. Let’s talk about ways to make dad feel loved on this special third Saturday in June. See if we can’t make up for the appalling $30 gap in gifts.

  1. Move Father’s Day a week back to June 22. That way he can go to Heroes Con, one of the largest comic book, pop-culture conventions in the country. Once there, Dad can mix and mingle with the other super heroes in his guise as the . . . Wondrous Wallet!
  2. You know that tie you’re going to give Dad? You remember: the one that looks suspiciously like the same boring tie you gave him last year? Yeah, that one. Ditch it. Use it to hogtie a, well, a hog. Ties are the dead, bloated skunk on the side of the road that somehow gets into the space under the driver’s seat on a hot summer day and then stay undiscovered for months of gifts.Ties stink, is what I’m trying to say. If it’s too late, if you’ve already purchased one, then do something useful with it, like maybe burning it. Or maybe Mom can give Dad a tie in one of those shades of gray I’ve been hearing about.
  3. I’m different in that I was lucky enough to stay home with my sons and be the primary caregiver, but I know a lot of my fellow dads weren’t that lucky. One of the greatest gifts you can give us (even dads like me who sometimes begin twitching uncontrollably when certain words like (shudder) art project are used in our hearing) is time. Make a date with Dad. Go to the movies. Go out to eat at a restaurant that takes more than seven minutes to serve your food.
  4. Every once in a while the universe demonstrates that I might actually have done a good job with the young dudes. I asked middle son, Zippy the College Boy, what he would do to make dad feel loved and he said, “I’d go to his amazon.com wish list and get him something. Every man has a wish list. It just doesn’t have to be written down.” Of course, that could be just me. But if it’s not, remember that going to smile.amazon.com and buying stuff will lead to amazon.com donating 0.5 % of the purchase plus $5 to the charity of your choice.
  5. Robert L. Brown is a cab driver in Washington, DC. He gave Zippy the College Boy and me a ride over the weekend. During the scariest cab ride of my life, during which I clutched Zippy the College Boy to my chest and prayed for mercy, Mr. Brown told us his idea of perfect parent gifts. He suggested giving three inexpensive gifts. Always and only three gifts. Each gift stood for a single word. I. Love. You. It didn’t matter what the gifts were, but just to let him know “I love you.”
  6. Take dad out for a day of paint ball. Because nothing says I love you quite like sneaking quietly up through the bush, parting the tall grass with the barrel of your gun and firing until your gun runs dry, blasting enough paint to cover a four-story mansion in two coats of paint and leaping joyously into the air while doing the dance of victory over the thoroughly broken. . . erm. Uh. So I’ve heard. I don’t even play paintball and you can’t prove differently.
  7.   Take dad out to the movies. Kids, let dad pick the movie and I can guarantee you’ll enjoy it. You ladies might not know this, but I think you’ll be surprised to know just how very similar a dad’s taste in movies is to that of a 12-year-old boy. You’re on the same wavelength, kids.
  8. Don’t buy dad a card. Seriously. Just get a piece of paper, fold it in half and then write something nice on it. Or even draw something. It doesn’t have to be good art, but just knowing you spent time thinking of dad, and did something you thought would be cool for dad is an amazing gift.
  9. Give the wallet back. Don’t look at me like that. You know what wallet. I’m just going to close my eyes for one minute and, when I open them, I expect to have the wallet right here on the table.
  10. Fly fishing, golf, bike ride, football game baseball game. All at once. But make sure you sell the TV rights first because I think golfish riding basefoot games are going to be huge.
  11. Hugs. Lots and lots of hugs.

I keep telling my young dudes and my loving wife, known to me as She Who Must Be Getting Better Looking By The Day, that I don’t actually want stuff for Father’s Day.

Spend time with me, I tell them. Although I mean time quite differently when I’m talking to my blushing bride than I do when I’m talking to the young dudes.

It’s time and love and hugs, dudes. That’s really what we all want. I mean, nobody wants to reenact their own version of “Cat’s In The Cradle,” do they?

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Defending The Thank You Note

Thank-you notes were the bane of my existence.

I couldn’t stand the horrible things. Just straight-up couldn’t stand them.

Even worse, to the young dude I used to be, my birthday is in late November, just about a month before Christmas. Which meant I had to write all those thank-you notes at the same time.

Mooo-oooo-oommmm! My hand hurts! Do I have to write all these? What’s the difference? No one cares? Mom! Are you listening to me?

Writing thank-you notes just went downhill from there.

The thing is, even though she’s dead, I have the feeling she’s still smiling over what I’m about to write.

The same answers she gave me when I was a young complainer who didn’t know how good I had it. . . Yeah, those are the same things I tell my three young dudes, young complainers all, who all don’t know how good they have it.

Sarcasmo, Zippy the College Boy and Hyper Lad . . . None of them count good penmanship among their many skills. In this way, they really take after their dad. I’ve never been able to craft a written letter with a neat hand that will allow others to read it without struggling.

(The fact that I became a reporter and didn’t get sued for writing down the wrong thing, or writing down the right thing, but not being able to read it and printing the wrong thing, is a testament to my young eyes and resilient brain that could actually remember stuff.)

So writing anything is not their favorite activity. Not even in their favorite top 100. Or top 1000. Or, well, you get the idea.

Still, I make it as easy for them as possible. I take notes during present times so we know who gave what. I’ll give each young dude a list (as well as a list for their mom), with the name and address for each person written next to it. Some years, I’ll even help write the address on the front of the envelope.

And still they complain. Zippy the College Boy, especially, keeps harping on about how no one cares about thank-you notes and how he’d never want to get one from anyone he sent a gift to. And, if he does have to write one, why can’t he type it out and e-mail it to the person?

That last one is a toughie. Personally, I’m all in favor of writing electronic thank-you notes. It saves paper. It saves energy. It gets there quicker. It’s better than sending a paper note at all levels.

The problem being that most people who are sending the young dudes gifts are older than they are. Which means they were raised in an era when a handwritten note was essential if you wanted to express a sincere emotion to someone. An e-mail is seen as the slacker’s way of doing things, as not requiring enough effort to show that you really did mean a sincere thank you.

It’s silly, but that’s the way it is. Which means we have to live with it and work within it.

Which means I get to hear the complaints again and again.

Eventually, I fell back on my mom’s best counter to my note whining.

“If you really don’t want to write a thank-you note. . . That’s fine.”

I’d celebrate, but she wasn’t done.

“I’ll just tell everyone that doesn’t get a thank-you note that you’ve decided not to receive presents any more. Receiving a gift from someone means you’ve entered into a contract. You’re end of the contract is that you will write a thank-you note. No note? No present.”

It’s mean. It’s heavy-handed. It’s autocratic.

But, darn it, people who took the time to pick out and mail a gift to you, deserve acknowledgement for trying to make your life better.

It’s a small price to pay, but one I think is well worth it.

So. . . *sigh* Yes, Mom. You were right about saying thank you in a short letter. Again.

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Daddy, Are We Properly Leveraged In Our 457(k) Fund?

What should you tell your little dudes and dudettes about how much money you make?

It’s a question some people don’t have to worry about. After all, if you’re living hand to mouth, from paycheck to paycheck, then the question of finances and affordability is something that will be discussed at length and among most of the family.

However, if you are lucky enough to be able to make a good living, are in a situation in which you can afford to purchase most if not all of the items your child wants or needs, then you’ve certainly got a couple of decisions to make as your child grows older and a bit more inquisitive.

Money talks. It also shouts and screams and, on occasions, yodels.

Still, no matter how much noise money makes, we like to keep how much we have a bit of a secret. For that reason, a lot of parents will withhold their annual salary or their total net worth from the young dudes in the house. After all, you wouldn’t want the little dudette to go around bragging to all her friends that you make a ton of money, especially if their parents don’t make that much, so they would feel bad. Or the reverse.

If you’re the type to hold back how much money you have from your young dude for whatever reason, then you’ll need to consider a few things when the inevitable question comes up.

Firstly, you need to determine just how ready the little dudette is to hear the answer.

It’s probably pointless to give a straight answer on income to a child who hasn’t gotten beyond three figures in math class. The same thing is true with a 10- or 12-year-old math whiz if you haven’t yet explained to them all of the costs involved in your daily life. Context matters, a lot.

If your little darlings learn you make $32,000 a year, they’re liable to think they’re rich and begin upping their Christmas expectations accordingly. Mostly because they haven’t factored in the appallingly high cost of, for instance, raising several little yard apes.

Speaking of context, when the question does come up, you might want to steer the conversation back around to trying to find out why your little dude wants to know about money. Are they worried about being kicked out of their house because they overheard an argument about money? Are the trying to figure out how much they’ll have to make when they get a job so they can still live like they’re used to doing with you? Are they in an appendage-measuring contest with the kid down the street and trying to see who’s richer?

Reasons, like context, matter. Frivolous reasons merit frivolous answers that will, while not actually proffer a lie, then fluff the little dudette off with no actual numbers, but a vague sense of the correct answer.

Other curious children may be trying to figure out what they would need to earn to have a life as an adult like the one they have as a teenager. In that case, you could talk about salaries for jobs like the ones they’re interested in, deflecting the conversation away from the jobs you have.

Or, if you have a child on your hands who is truly ready, you could just answer the question without a lot of heavy breathing.

My wife, known to me as She Who Must Be Bringing Home The Bacon Right And Not Letting Me Forget I’m A Man, and I decided that we would go the comparison route. We didn’t name actual numbers, but we did say we’re well off. That is, we’re not rich, but we make enough money combined that the kids don’t need to worry about money for reasonable expenses.

We’re not going to be going out and buying a top-of-the-line sports car for each little dude as they reach 16, but they won’t be walking everywhere either.

How you do it is up to you. However, like most things in parenting, preparation makes it much easier.

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