Best Father’s Day Gift — Ever

FatherSunday is Father’s Day — as if you didn’t know.  As holidays go, it’s one of the biggies — even though it doesn’t actually get a day — just a designated Sunday.  But that still tells us that dads are important: just not as important as Columbus who invented the Caribbean Cruise in 1492.  Which, BTW, you should never give your dad for Father’s Day — that’s kinda a husband and wife sorta thing.  Of course, I’m not saying wives can’t give husbands Father’s Day gifts — although (not to go all Freudian) ya really don’t wanna look at the psychology of that too closely.  Just take it as the given and move on.  But I digress.

Father’s Day is all about dad and his place in the family.  In the old days, dad’s job was a job.  He did all the work in bed to start the family rolling and then buggered off to real work so everybody had a roof over their head, food to eat and a second car for mom to take the kids to school and Little League.  Every once in a while, he’d come home early, scare the hell out of the kids, maybe cut the grass or play with his power tools, eat dinner, have a couple of cocktails, kiss the wife and start the whole process all over again.  It was a good life, but nobody much bothered with dad until it came time to pony up the cash.  Of course, in our contemporary society, dad’s role in the family is really quite different.  However, as of last year, the #1 day for collect telephone calls around the world was still Father’s Day.  Plus ca change!

The real problem with Father’s Day is what do you actually do with dad?  Unlike Mother’s Day, when a bunch of flowers and a badly cooked breakfast in bed will reduce any mom to tears, dads  have higher expectations.  After all, this is the only day they get, so they’re going wanna make a meal out of it.  Let me give you a hint: outflank the old guy.
“Hey, dad! Father’s Day’s coming.  It’s your special day, so … what do you want to do?”  GOTCHA!  The ball’s in his court now, and you’ve solved the problem.  You see, dads really don’t like those humourous neckties or the ACE Grip Power Bender 5000 Utility Tool.  What most dads want is time — time with their kids.  Give him that.  And if he insists on paying for the green fees, or the tickets to the ballgame, or the beer or the lunch — give him that, too: he’s your Dad.

Father’s Day: A Brief History

Contrary to popular belief, Father’s Day was not created by an international tie and socks conspiracy.  I’ll grant you, retail advertising had a lot to do with keeping the day going during the lean years, but it’s still a standalone holiday.  It has all the rights and privileges afforded any other “It’s a holiday, but you can’t take the day off work” day, just like St. Valentine’s or St. Patrick’s.  The only difference is that, because it’s dad, it gets shuffled along to the last minute.  Somewhere around mid-morning on the third Saturday in June, getting creative is no longer an option, so most people just head for the haberdasher.  Dads really don’t mind, though; they figure they’re lucky to have a day at all.

To keep the family metaphor going, Father’s Day has always been the poor cousin of Mother’s Day.  Mother’s Day was founded first, in 1908, and it was an instant hit.  Between the newly-minted Hallmark Cards (Hall Brothers, at that time) and the flower power of the florist industry, Mother’s Day went 20th century viral almost immediately.  In fact, Mother’s Day became so commercially successful that its founder, Anna Jarvis, disowned the holiday she had created and was once even arrested for demonstrating against it.  Father’s Day never had it so good.

There are several claimants to the title “Mother of Father’s Day.”  However, it’s generally accepted that Father’s Day was created in Spokane, Washington, by Sonora Dodd, for her father, William Smart, a single dad who raised six kids.  She wanted to celebrate it on his birthday, June 5th, but due to the church schedule, the first Father’s Day ceremony was held on June 19th, 1910 (the third Sunday in June of that year.)  At first, Father’s Day mucked along with some limited success (in 1916, it was recognized by President Woodrow Wilson) but in those days, dad was kinda the silent partner in the family unit, and the holiday fell into disuse.  It wasn’t until the Great Depression was slappin’ the economic crap out of everybody that we rediscovered Father’s Day.  It was a simple case of two ideas coming together at the same time.  While retailers were grasping at advertising straws to promote sales, the rest of us were more than willing to accept any excuse to brighten up the daily grind (which, by all accounts, was pretty grinding.)  Father’s Day came back into vogue – somewhat.  It still didn’t have the cachet Mother’s Day did, but at least dad could read the newspaper undisturbed one Sunday morning a year — if he so chose.

By the 1950s Father’s Day was fairly well established in North America.  However, in the United States, Congress still didn’t think that the American people needed a day to honour dad.  It wasn’t until Lyndon Johnson issued a presidential proclamation in 1966 that Father’s Day had any official status, at all.  Six years later, in 1972, President Nixon signed Father’s Day into law.  In actually fact, Father’s Day, in the US, is not a national holiday.  It’s something called a “Federal Observance,” which, as I’ve already stated, basically means dad doesn’t get the day off.

These days, Father’s Day is big business, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the other big hitters: Mother’s Day, Valentine’s and St. Paddy’s.  Dad isn’t being ignored anymore — most baseball teams try to get a home game on Father’s Day — but he’s still just dad, the guy you go looking for when it snows.  For example, Father’s Day is head and shoulders above any other day of the year for collect telephone calls.  Besides, we all know, from bitter experience, that most dads are tough to buy for.

This year, however, let me help you out.  Instead of stretching your brain all out of shape and ending up with the World’s Greatest Dad barbeque apron, give it a rest.  Jump in the car or get on your bike, wheel on over and spend some time just hanging with the old man.  It’ll do you both good.