This Father’s Day is going to be perfect. I will sneak out of bed early so as not to rouse my husband, who finally managed to sleep through the entire night without one of the kids or the dogs crying for him. He will wake up to the smell of frying bacon and roasting coffee instead of a little one’s morning breath in his face asking if she can play with his computer or Nerf gun.
The kids will listen and obey after the first request, and he’ll make it through the morning church service without his dress pants getting crayon, pencil, or cookie smeared on them. The weather will be perfect for an afternoon family bike ride, where no one will get so tired of pedaling that he’ll ask dad to schlepp his bike home the last half-mile.
He’ll relax at the grill with a beer, then roast marshmallows with the kids over the fire pit before everyone goes down to bed painlessly and without fuss, leaving us some quiet time to just be together. He’ll have the day off to simply enjoy his family—the stress of work, school, parenting, and life in general off his mind and shoulders at least for one day.
This isn’t to say it’s not possible for all of the above to happen, nor is it to say that the disappointment of life’s certain hiccups is all that troubling. But these holidays—you know the ones: Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day—seem to carry with them some undue pressure to make things perfect, get things right, and not let anything stand in the way of expressing our undying love for those people in our lives who are to be celebrated that day. Whether that pressure is felt by those being celebrated—to smile, laugh, and have the best day of the year possible—or those trying to express their gratitude and adoration—to make the day as stress-free, fun, and happy as can be—it, and the possibility for disappointment, can be overwhelming.
Father’s Day seems to have its own unique baggage, too. It’s often hijacked by those who see fathers as optional or the patriarchy as evil, by mothers who see the day as really for them, or by lazy marketers who can’t resist lumping dads with grads in their gift-pushing, leaving many fathers to wonder why anyone should bother. But before you go and decide to trash Father’s Day for good, here are a few tips to avoid the possible disappointment.
1. Actually Acknowledge Father’s Day
Give dads their day. Don’t avoid it. Don’t be the Grinch or Scrooge or whatever other bah-humbug curmudgeonly character is out there. Fatherhood is honorable. It is a holy vocation. It is to be cherished and championed. Celebrate fathers and the incredible role they play in our lives, churches, communities, and society.
2. Remember to K.I.S.S.
Yes, smooches are appreciated, I’m sure, but I really mean to remember to keep it simple, stupid. There’s no need to break the budget to get dad some big-time gift or trip or what-have-you when you can’t afford it. There’s no reason to force him to come up with some wish list of items, especially if most of what is on that list would bust your budget.
Don’t just get him another tie, razor, sporting equipment, wallet, or polo. He will probably smile and be appreciative, sure—he may even need one of those items—but in most cases what dad really wants or needs is a simple thank you. Sincere. Genuine. Even if you show this gratitude every other day of the entire year, don’t skip it this one day just because you want “fight the man” or something. Say thank you, and mean it.
3. Let Him (Or Yourself) Be Dad
Throw out some of the more asinine house rules, let your inner kid out, and let loose. Play. Roughhouse with the kids. Have an all-out Nerf-gun war or water-gun fight. Build huge cushion forts. Grill. Roast marshmallows. Play catch.
Dads, serve your kids and tend to your family. Have fun with them and love them. Hold them and protect them. Savor the blessed joys of this job of service to people who need you. Everyone else: let them!
4. Forgive, and Request Forgiveness
You probably know this, but in case you forgot, dads aren’t perfect. They are sinners just like the rest of us. They screw up and fail. They might have hurt us recently or long ago. Where there is hurt—tiny or epic—forgive them. Seventy times seven and all that.
Where you as dad might have caused pain and hurt, go to your kids and request their forgiveness. They may not extend it. They may hold onto their bitterness and pain. But that shouldn’t stop you from being the man of the family, even a seemingly broken-beyond-repair family, and taking that step to make amends and heal wounds.
5. It’s Not All About You
Life isn’t without pain and troubles. We might carry agony over broken relationships with our own dads, grief for fathers who have passed away, or regret for our own failings as dad. It can be easy to let our personal woes and tribulations cloud this day and keep us from seeing what it’s really about.
Yes, in part, it is about celebrating the dad you are or the dad you have, but it’s so much bigger. This holiday takes fatherhood in its entirety, as a grand, amazing vocation, and reminds us it is one of honor and might, not just in how it plays in our own personal, day-to-day lives, but how it serves us in society and civilization.
So if dad failed you, or your kids and family don’t seem to appreciate you, remember this day isn’t all about you. It’s a day to celebrate all dads who have raised, reared, sheltered, and protected children and families.
6. Serve Others
Fatherhood is a vocation of sacrificial leadership, one designed not for the satisfaction and pleasure of the man in that role, but for the benefit, protection, and well-being of the children in his care. Dads are to give themselves to their family, to serve rather than be served. This role is about leadership. It’s about strength. It’s one in which you look past your own desires and focus on the needs of those given to you to serve.
When and if this Father’s Day sucks, don’t fester. Don’t wallow. Don’t mope about how you’re the only one who picks up after the dogs, how you’d rather be out golfing, how no one seems to appreciate you and everything you do, or how you didn’t want another ugly tie. Remember, it’s not about you, but about your kids. Give to them. Forgive them when they’ve hurt you, and serve them with the selflessness, masculinity, and strength this vocation requires and demands.
That, of course, doesn’t mean you have to turn down a beer if it’s offered or the moment to relax if it’s planned for you. Happy Father’s Day, dads, and thank you for all you do. I mean it.