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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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Anniversary Time

It didn’t seem like that big of a decision.

Sitting around with a couple of dudes in the Phi Delta Theta fraternity on the University of Florida campus in Gainesville, FL, during my original senior year in 1986, I decided it was about time I went to Jacksonville to enjoy my first Florida-Georgia football game.

I wanted to enjoy the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party* and see if a football game did, indeed, break out as had been rumored.**

Besides, I’d had a good time the night before at a fraternity social with the ladies of Kappa Alpha Theta, met some nice gals and laughed a lot.

So my brothers and I headed out to Jacksonville. We got there and decided to hit a bar, have some fun, drink some beer and get into the mood of the party.

Which would have been a good idea if anyone in my group had ever been to Jacksonville before while also also being sober. We got lost. Really, really lost. Which meant we had to drive around for a long time (this was before cell phones) before finally arriving at the bar near closing time.

While there, I ran into one of the ladies I met the night before. She was cute. She was funny. She knew how to have fun. And she wanted to hang out with me. She asked me to go with her to a Theta social in a couple of weeks. I said yes. We agreed to talk more in the meantime and then parted.

Over the course of the weekend, we accidentally saw each other two more times. The second time, we ended up walking on the beach for the night, enjoying the sunrise together. She then put her head in my lap and fell deeply asleep, snoring loud enough to wake the others passed out on the other couches.

We met nearly three decades ago, but today is the day we celebrate our 24th year of marriage. There are times when it seems like 24 seconds and times when it seems like 24 centuries.

A series of coincidences, a nudge from the universe here and there, a helpful bit of directions from a nosy friend and. . . twenty-eight years later, I’m still hearing that snoring every single night. Still seeing that smile. Still hearing that laugh. Still feeling the love.

Today is a good day and I plan on enjoying it.

 

Footnotes & Eratta

* That’s the unofficial nickname for the game and it’s one that both school administrations hate because they are (putting on serious stentorian voice) “serious research institutions.” (voice off) I say unofficial because most of the students don’t call it that. They call it “blargaherhiiaen chiehlhauile.” Apropos of nothing, did you know drinking a lot of alcohol inhibits your ability to enunciate properly?
** It did. Florida won 31-19, but I had no idea. I had to look it up, mostly because more important stuff happened. Not that I was too drunk to remember.

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This Will Hurt Me More Than It Hurts You*

We know that we are real, but we can’t be absolutely certain anyone else is real.

Yes, dudes, I know this is the rankest form of sophomoric solipsism, but go with me here. Just for a minute, your honor. I promise I am going somewhere with this. *Allowed*

Yeah, whatever.

So, we know we exist because we are thinking and all. Since we don’t get access to the insides of anyone else’s heads, we can’t be certain everyone else isn’t some NPC (non-player character, essentially an automaton) wandering through to amuse us. We take it on faith that we are not a singular organism, the rest of the universe having formed around us. Other people also exist.

To us, that is self-evident. There’s no need for proof.

To the little dudes of the world, though, it might not be so blatantly, obviously true. In fact, I argue that they truly do believe only they are real and everyone else simply is there to amuse them or provide for them.

And it’s our job, as parents, to break them of this delusion. We do this by planting the seeds of empathy and then encouraging it to grow and spread and flower.

Empathy is the ability to feel the pain of others in a way similar to the way you feel your own pain. As an example, take my knee.

This cartoon about empathy, which is an emotion akin to compassion, is from cartoonist Dave Walker.
Empathy, by Dave Walker

I’ve had four knee surgeries in my lifetime. I know what it’s like to hurt my knee, to feel the pop and the pain, the tear and the tears. Now, whenever I see someone hurt their knee during a football game or similar, I flinch, as a sick feeling drops through my gut and my knee begins to ache. All because something bad happened to someone I don’t even know.

That is empathy. Little dudes and dudettes, though, are seriously lacking in this skill set. Which is why they think nothing of grabbing someone else’s toy. Or not sharing. Or whacking someone in the groin with their own cane when they were just sitting there on a park bench being nice and waiting for the burgers and dogs to come off the grill.**

The strange thing is that, as difficult as this sense can be to instill in young dudes, it can grow to be insanely strong in most people.

The other day I was reading an article in Wired Magazine that was excerpted from a book called Love Sense by Dr. Sue Johnson. In it, she talked about some interesting experiments.

Most fascinating, perhaps, is research showing that just imagining or thinking that another person is in pain — especially a loved one — makes us respond as if we are going through the exact same experience. Neuroscientist Tania Singer and her colleagues at the University of Zurich found that when a woman received a small electric shock to the back of her hand, the woman beside her, who received no shock, reacted as though she had received it, too: the same pain circuit was activated and the identical area of the brain lit up in both women. We literally hurt for others.

How amazing is that? Someone else hurts and we feel it.

And, yet, as conclusive as that is, we still — no matter the age — we still will act in ways that hurt others and it won’t bother us.

About which we’ll speak more tomorrow.

 

 

Footnotes & Errata

*Which is, of course, a lie.
** Possibly a bit too specific to be able to tell anyone that wasn’t a personal anecdote. Also? That hurt. A lot.

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