Monday, June 21, 2004

Father's Day Debriefed

I had a great father's day, the first with two daughters. I managed to avoid doing anything on the computer or chores, and spent the day doing family stuff.

Mary and I were struck, however, by the opposing interpretations of father's day among our colleagues. The majority of our friends appear to view father's day as "Father's day off" from the kids. For example, one of our closest friends celebrated father's day by taking the kids to the local equivalent of Chuckie Cheese to give Dad some quality alone time where he could do his own thing. Couples choosing this approach appeared to pair this with the presentation of expensive gifts; e.g., the same dad got a $1000 read and record DVD player.

In contrast, Mary and I view Father and Mother's day as a "spend time with the kids" day. Couples who adopt this approach tend to go for inexpensive "made by the kids" gifts. E.g., I got one of those Star Buck's travel mugs (I'm guessing under $12) but where the bottom screws off and you can insert your own pictures. Tigana drew me a beautiful picture with mermaids, stars and lots of hearts, and wrote "I love mi dad becuse he is mi dad and he helps me. He is the bast." She even "helped" 7 month old Kasia draw a vaguely heart shaped figure on the glass. Believe me, given the choice between that mug and a $1000 DVD recorder, I'm choosing the travel mug every time!

I am not saying that the "holiday from the kids" approach is wrong, just noting the difference in approaches. I certainly get why stay at home mom's might need to escape chores and kids once a year and get out to the Ball; but it is a little hard to see how that works for Dads (stay at home dad's the exception) since they mostly get to escape kids five days a week, but I confess it would be nice to get a day to myself somewhere where maybe I could just read all day or go to an SF convention or something. But I'm not sure that father's day is the day to do that. I'd rather celebrate father's day by being a father.

At 6 years old, Father's Day was a big deal to my daughter. Her kindergarten class designed a minature golf course in their class, drew pictures, painted paintings, organized a tea, and wrote poems ("What I would do if I were Dad for a day") for the day, and invited the dad's over for Friday afternoon golf. I went and had a blast playing golf and watching Tigana wolf down my share of the cookies and reading her poems and viewing her paintings. But the sociologist in me was also fascinated watching the other dads. Half of them seemed to be having as good a time as I was, goofing through the kid's golf range, but the other half seemed either lost ("Are any of the other dad's watching me? Did they notice I missed that putt?") or in a hurry ("Oh this is great honey. Okay, get your coat and let's...oh you want me to play golf with you? Gee, maybe next week, but let's get your coat..oh it's only today? Okay, I guess if I have to...there I hit the ball. Now let's grab your jacket and...") You know?

Mary, on the other hand, couldn't help observing that Mother's Day had consisted of a Mother's day tea and a single picture/writing project, while Father's Day preparations seemed much more elaborate: the mini-golf course was a massive project with six foot high teddy bear traps and lego greens; there were three different art projects and two writing projects, all designed to engage Dad's attention, perhpas in the hope that they would spend an hour with their kid at the school before whisking the kids off home. So is this sexist favourtism, or is it the teacher's experience that they need a more elaborate lure to get and keep the Dads' attention?

Well, other people can do as they see fit. For me, waking up to my wife and daughters coming in saying "Happy Father's Day" made it one of the best day's of my life!

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