My father is the king of my world. Short in stature but larger than life, he knew how to parent when I was young and he knows how to remain a rock-steady force in my adulthood. Sure, his stories go on and on (and on), regaling a captive audience with his tales of growing up and working hard. My 84-year-old dad’s catchphrase – “I’m having so much fun” – is a personal mantra that he shares with all his great-grandchildren, grandchildren, clients, and even the poor telephone solicitor who wants to sell him something. Honestly, he loves to talk, and people love listening to him.
The typical dad role has evolved through the decades. The 1950s Leave It to Beaver type of father smoked a pipe, tossed a baseball in the backyard with his son, and gave sound advice…but pretty much left household tasks and child-rearing up to his wife. Today, that scenario has drastically changed.
Sure, Father’s Day still means a barbecue feast packed with bloody rare steaks and ice-cold brews, but the gift selection process has progressed. “World’s Greatest Dad” mugs are still in, but the ugly ties of yore are out. The latter may be more about today’s increasingly casual workplace plus the virtual office setting surge thanks to COVID-19. No matter the reason, it’s a welcome change for dads who hid their kids’ hideous neckwear gifts at the back of their dresser drawer.
She vs. He
According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), consumers spent approximately $17 billion in 2020 on Father’s Day with an average spend of $148.58. The top gift categories were personal care items (25%), home and gardening (21%), and tools and appliances (21%). But compared to Mother’s Day – last year the holiday hit $26.7 billion with an average spend of $204.75 – Father’s Day isn’t reaping the economic heights of its female counterparts.
Comedian Rodney Dangerfield and his “I don’t get no respect” catchphrase rings loud and clear – even the card industry weighed in on the disparity between the two parental holidays. The Greeting Card Association broke down the top-ranking seasonal card purchases, and the order isn’t too baffling: first Christmas, then Valentine’s Day and next was Mother’s Day. Father’s Day ranked fourth, coming in at least before the last place graduation cards.
A Little Background
Although they place second in the retail race, dads started out in the lead when it came to early recognition. Father’s Day was created to honor fatherhood and paternal bonds, as well as the influence of fathers in society. The day was founded by Sonora Smart Dodd – the daughter of American Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart – and celebrated on the third Sunday of June for the first time in 1910. It took until 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson officially adopted the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.
Dads notoriously take a good ribbing – hey, when did “dad bods” become a thing? – but they give it back just as skillfully. Many of their humor centers around body parts (got your nose, pull my finger, making a coin magically appear from a child’s ear), knock-knock jokes, and somebody walking into a bar (a ham sandwich walks into a bar and orders a beer. The bartender says, “Sorry, we don’t serve food here.”) While their groan-worthy jokes make us roll our eyes and display exaggerated signs of exasperation, we still love the interaction and the glee that spreads across their faces when the punchline hits its mark.
A stand-up kind of guy: The late great comedian Robin Williams and father of three was a philanthropic giant throughout his lifetime. He supported more than 50 charities and causes including the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, which raises money for spinal cord injury research (interesting tidbit: Robin and Christopher were roommates as students at the Juilliard performing arts school in New York); the USO, which provides support and morale-boosting performances to U.S. troops and their families; and St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital.
Like Father Like Son (and Daughter)
Today’s society is working hard to eliminate labels, instead advocating equality for everyone to ensure inclusivity for all. The focus on getting rid of gender roles – where our environment trains us to think a specific way – is uncovering a healthier place. Gender neutrality avoids equating a dad as an ATM/disciplinarian/sports fanatic or a mom as the family’s cook/housekeeper/caregiver.
An authentic life: MenEngage Alliance is a global organization that seeks to provide a collective voice on the need to engage men and boys in gender equality. The nonprofit works toward advancing gender justice, human rights, and social justice to achieve a world where everyone can enjoy fulfilling and equitable relationships while realizing their full potential.
The Great Connector
The bonding effects of music are staggering. It permeates our culture via television (bet you know all the words to the Friends and Gilligan’s Island theme songs ), celebrations and worship. According to the National Association of Music Merchants Foundation (NAMM), music education creates well-developed communication and interpersonal skills. Music facilitates student academic achievements, enhances problem-solving skills, and prepares young people for success.
A powerful adhesive: No need to have a “Cat’s in the Cradle” relationship if you’re a dad looking for a stuck-like-glue alliance with your children. The late singer/songwriter and founding member of The Beatles John Lennon, who wrote “Beautiful Boy” for his younger son Sean, was a father of two. His oldest son – humanitarian and singer/songwriter/author Julian Lennon – created The White Feather Foundation, which embraces environmental and humanitarian issues. He also produced the documentary “Whaledreamers” about the indigenous Elders of the Mirning People, earning eight International Film Festival Awards.
Dance Like No Ones Watching
Dads who deem themselves as “fun” have no inhibitions when partaking in some fancy footwork (although some actually should take a peek at their image in the disco ball). Their mainstay moves: random flapping during the Chicken Dance, the much-used fist pump when the music starts to escalate, and even the overblown arm antics during the Village People’s “Y.M.C.A.”
Stayin’ alive: Great movies like Saturday Night Fever, Footloose, and Dirty Dancing all have a dance sequence that dads try to emulate. Actor and filmmaker Tom Hanks, who is known for playing chopsticks on a foot piano in the movie Big, is a father of four. He serves as governor for the National Space Society, an international nonprofit education and scientific organization specializing in space advocacy.
In Loving Gratitude
By celebrating the often forgotten and sometimes overlooked patriarch, we pay homage to those dads who sacrifice much in the name of family. This year let’s not put them in the backseat (you do know how much the stereotypical dad loves to drive.) Let’s offer to pop open a cold one on their behalf, as well as be grateful for all they have done and will do in the future.
On behalf of my dad and yours, whether he lives on in person or in memories, here’s hoping this Father’s Day was one filled with hope and happiness for all.
Do you have a special memory of your dad, even a funny joke that he loved to share? I’d love to hear it.