At the church service on Mother’s Day, the pastor turned around from the altar and smiled. He looked out into the congregation and welcomed the parishioners.
“The church on Mother’s Day is always extra crowded, whereas come Father’s Day, the church is half full. This is because mothers say, ‘Oh, I want to go to church with my family.’ However, when Father’s Day rolls around, dads want to go fishing.” Everyone laughed, including me, even though I don’t fish.
My 12-year-old daughter, Jessie, turns 13 in a few months. How is it possible for this to be my last Father’s Day with a tween daughter? How in the world did the baby I rocked in my arms in our blue La-Z-Boy grow taller than her mother?
Physical size is not the only change. A few weeks ago, I dropped Jessie off at school at 8:26 a.m. Other students stood on the sidewalk outside the gated entrance, waiting for the doors to open at 8:30. As a protective father, I’m more comfortable when Jessie is inside the gate. However, after saying, “I love my girl. Give it all you’ve got,” (my standard line), I pulled away from the curb. However, although it was only a few minutes, I chose to park the car at the end of the school lot and wait until the gate opened to leave the school. I could barely see Jessie as I peered out the car window and doubted she could see me, not that I thought it mattered.
When I picked Jessie up from school that afternoon, it didn’t take long for me to realize that Jessie had spotted her dad in the parking lot. It turns out that it mattered after all that she saw me. Lots of discussion ensued during the drive home. It’s not like I was standing on my car roof with binoculars around my neck or standing in line outside the school gate holding her hand. How am I hindering Jessie’s growth?
As I ponder the changes past and the changes yet to come, I gave thought to what dads want. Father’s Day is right around the corner. Is it time for me to take up fishing?
I’m not just any dad. I had a successful 20-year career in banking, accounting, and auditing. I remember the breadwinner stresses – going to work before sunrise, drinking too much coffee and soda, sleeping way too few hours. Heck, one time I dressed in the dark, trying not to wake up my wife, and ended up at a one-day conference wearing a black shoe and a brown one.
Then, after almost 20 years of marriage, at the youthful age of 44, I became a father. Goodbye suits, ties, and brief case. Hello, apron, vacuum cleaner, and dust cloth. Instead of conversing with colleagues at the water cooler, my communication took place with a baby and my friend, Shout, in the laundry room. So, who better to pull together a list of what dads want for Father’s Day than someone who has been on both sides of the fence, the hard-working breadwinner and the 24-7 stay-at-home parent who’s gone through the baby, toddler, little girl, and tween years? Mothers will also appreciate my list of wants. In pulling together my list, I cast a broad net, focusing on what all dads would probably enjoy. This is not going to be the normal list of gifts, like a snazzy tie or cotton socks.
But before I list the five items that made the final cut, here were a few contenders, especially pertinent to the older tween, and my guess, teenagers.
• To see Jessie’s furniture in her bedroom. At least, I think there’s still furniture underneath the clutter in Jessie’s room.
• To regain control of the car radio station for the day. Somehow, Jessie has appointed herself “Dictator of the Radio.” This is not a good thing and the situation is magnified by Jessie’s choice of music. I miss Barry Manilow and Air Supply.
• To get a good deal on a cellendectomy. I pray never to lose my daughter, but if she would get lost in a crowd, or the clutter in her room, I only need to call her cell phone.
Okay, all joking aside, here’s my Top 5 list of gifts that dads would enjoy on Father’s Day.
A 55” flat screen television! Nah, I don’t want to start my list with a big, tangible, impersonal item. Let’s start over.
• The gift of food.
For my birthday and special occasions, Jessie and my wife make me a Jell-O cake with the most delicious of frostings, a mixture of powdered sugar and Cool Whip. Of course, Jessie likes to top the cake with candles to make it special. I’m sure dads would enjoy being treated to their favorite-tasting treat. Please note, though, that Dad shouldn’t have to help clean the kitchen if a flour, sugar, and egg slime tornado hits.
Okay, maybe some dads would prefer the 55” flat screen TV over something tasty, but let’s move on.
• The gift of peace.
Let’s face it, whether dad works from home or his job takes him outside the house, fathers deserve (and need) a little peace and quiet. Some fathers might find it out on a lake holding a fishing rod, while others rejuvenate in a church pew during a Sunday morning service. And then there are some fathers who simply enjoy kicking back on the sofa in front of their new 55” flat screen TV. A quiet block of time for a nap fits nicely here, too.
• The gift of time.
We are all faced with limited time, our most precious resource. I think everyone struggles with how they balance their time between family, work, and other commitments. I miss the days when Jessie and I colored together, did puzzles, and had picnics any place a blanket could be tossed. I’d turn off a 55” TV to have her squeeze into the La-Z-Boy with me to read her books like I used to. Fellow men, don’t think less of me, but I miss reading Fancy Nancy.
Any of your favorite family activities, a bike ride, a walk, or even watching a “Dad’s choice” movie, popcorn optional, 55” television screen preferable, would make a great gift and be time well spent.
• The gift of love.
We all need love. Dads enjoy when their efforts and the sacrifices they make for their family are appreciated. “Thank you” means a lot. Communicating respect and words that reflect love and admiration go a long way. Ok, a 55” flat screen shows love, too.
When Jessie was little, she always made coupon books as gifts. She’d write her little message on colored index cards and staple them together. When she fulfilled the obligation noted on the card (sometimes she added gifts from her dog, too – “Yay, I get to sleep with the dog three nights”), she used a hole punch on it or had me sign my name on the card. I still have several unused coupons, such as: 12 hugs, 10 kisses in a row (shucks, that one’s been punched), and “I’ll be a Daddy’s girl for 2 ½ weeks.” Hey, I even have two “Help Tickets” that read, “This ticket is good for love!” I wonder if I could cash one of those in for a 55” TV? Would I do that? A 55” flat screen would be helpful and show love.
• The gift already delivered.
My best gift was already delivered … and not from Amazon. No gift, not even a 55” flat screen, will provide this dad with greater joy than the one I unwrapped to change a dirty diaper almost 13 years ago. That gift makes me want to work harder and to be not just a good role model for her, but also a better man and husband.
My family doesn’t watch a lot of television, but we catch a few select shows and I like my college football. Jessie, the dancer in the family, jumps off the sofa and performs impromptu dances during Dancing with the Stars. Her dances fill my heart with joy and my eyes with moisture. Jessie is happy and healthy. She sings and dances. Her self-esteem is high. Isn’t that what all dads want for their children? Even more than going fishing or a new television.
Note: With Father’s Day only eight days away, maybe you’d like to surprise Dad with a new fishing rod or television set, but it’s not in the budget. No worries! MoMENts: A Dad Holds On, is available for purchase on Amazon in paperback ($14.99) or Kindle ($2.99). It’s a gift idea worth sharing.