Sunday, June 19, 2011

On why Fathers Day sucks for some

"He didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it."
The calendar reminds us that today is Father's Day. Allow me to apologize in advance for what I'm about to say.

Today isn't about store-bought presents or kitschy ties. It isn't about forced sentiment or cramming good wishes into a 24-hour period to the detriment of the 364 other 24-hour periods that make up the current year.

If you've read me for long enough, you may recall that holidays like Fathers Day don't really do it for me. Sure, I loved the way our youngest son threw his arms around me when I came downstairs this morning to give the puppy his shot. Any hug is always a good hug. I'm thankful for the day ahead, which we'll spend together doing the quiet, weekend-ish things that families do. Days like today remind me how lucky I am to have what I have.

I also appreciate the additional opportunity to stop and think about my own late dad, and the things he taught me that show up in my own style of parenting. I stop and think about him every day, of course, but it doesn't hurt to have a day like this, too, to reinforce the notion for those who may need a bit of a push.

Still, I'd like to think that we don't need piles of flyers on our doorsteps and endless reminders on-air and online to remind us of the need to appreciate one another. And that we don't have to build it up, save it up all for one day, only to let it lapse as soon as midnight takes us into the next non-celebratory day.

Somewhat unfairly, because that's just the way life works, not everyone has a dad. And if you don't, how does it feel to watch everyone else bask in the glory of it all while you bask without him? Sure, you've probably gotten used to the myriad realities of loss by now, but do you really need to endure the kind of day, each and every year, where it's thrown at you from all sides?

I realize that sounds harsh, and I don't mean to be. But forced commercialism always seems to betray harsh dichotomies and moments, stark differences that wouldn't be quite so stark if we were simply more caring to everyone on every other day of the year, if we relied our ourselves instead of a flyer to keep the goodness flowing, in a balanced way, all year long. How hard is it, after all, to kiss the top of your daughter's head and tell her you're proud of her, on an average day and for no real reason?

It shouldn't be. And we shouldn't need special days.

I love my kids immeasurably and I know they love me, too. My wife is their hero, too, and their grandparents, as is every other friend and family member who's touched their lives in some way. This is all just as true today as it was yesterday, and as it will be tomorrow, the day after, and always. Why we have to stick it in a box defined by gifts and gotta-make-'em-or-else phone calls is beyond me.

Tomorrow is always another day. And I'll still be a dad, then. And my wife will still be a mom. There should be no such thing as a non-celebratory day, and we should all be invited to the party whenever it ends up happening.

Your turn: Thoughts?

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12 comments:

Kalei's Best Friend said...

I so agree w/you.. You know my feelings about hallmark holidays... I did a post along these lines awhile back and someone commented back stating that it was a good reminder to have the hallmark holidays.. Can u believe that??? WTH would anyone need to have a reminder????? Sad isn't it?

lissa said...

Carmi - I have, more and more, gravitated away from the Hallmark holiday celebrations. There are those I do, because of the kids, but this one, I chose to boycott. Not boycott per se, but every year I'm the one making a brunch for the two grandfathers to celebrate the day with us.

Thing is - there is no socializing with siblings on either side. There is no socializing with grandparents outside of these made-up holidays, on either side. And, as time goes by, my own father has behaved less like one than I'd even cared to acknowledge.

As so elegantly written in the quote you chose, examples set have to be the ones followed; and I don't want my kids only acknowledging people in their lives because the calendar says they must. I grew up with big _____'s Day Sunday parties at our house, and it was fun but to me, it was no different from when the uncles and aunts and cousins would come visit every other Sunday either. Just this time, there were presents.

I grew up this year. I decided that, sadly, I'm not able to appreciate my dad today because the rest of the year, there is little more than a superficial birthdays/holidays/occasions relationship which fades when there's no news to share or hockey scores to lament/celebrate.

And because of this acknowledgment I have allowed myself, I decided not to kill myself cleaning the house for 2 days, preparing a brunch that, while delicious, is phony, and then living exhausted for 2 days after clean-up. And I'm proud of my decision too. Took me long enough!

So we'll celebrate in our own nuclear family way, just spending Sunday together, and I'll do so without guilt or explanation.

Growing pains happen at all ages. But, like Edith Piaf sang, "je ne regrette rien."

Enjoy your day with your kids - and for what it's worth - Happy Father's Day! ☺

Janie B said...

Even though he passed away 37 years ago, I still miss my dad more on Father's Day...probably because of all the hoopla going on around me. That's hard, but I still like the holiday. Of course we should appreciate Dads all year long, but why not have one day to treat him a bit special? Everyone deserves a day to be center of attention. What does it hurt?

On My Soapbox said...

I'm not really big on most holidays because they seem superficial and forced. Also because their original meaning is lost. Some holidays are just plain stressful! That said, I guess it's a good excuse to get together with family. It earns us "brownie points" for the rest of the year....

Kavi said...

I cant help agree with you more ! These 'days' mean nothing for whats important is how the fathers / mothers and everybody else who have a 'day' going for them, are treated and thought of every moment ! In life and living ! :)

Awesome post in the midst of all the commercial noise !

theMuddledMarketPlace said...

My own father found fathers day an impossible mountain to climb, he encouraged us to cncentate on my mother for mothering sunday instead.

Since he's gone though...i miss him more than i care to lighlty talk about. Our relationship was never the easiest~ but i knew he loved me and wanted only the very best for me.

For that alone...for not demanding of me more than i could give... I loved him dearly.

Maybe we 'shouldn't' need a special day...but hey....some just do.

Pat Tillett said...

I blame Hallmark and the other greeting card companies. Personally, I wish there wasn't a Father's day because it reminds me about what I missed out on as a kid. I'm pretty sure you haven't read this post (here's the link). If you have the time or inclination, it explains exactly why it's kind of a sad day for me.
http://patricktillett.blogspot.com/2010/06/happy-fathers-day-dad-i-wish-i-knew-you.html

The Chick in the Chair Perspective said...

Today is not easy for many. Even if your father is still alive, but the relationship is strained to say the least today makes us long for a time when it was better ( as I wrote in my blog) These days make us all feel as though we "should" have this great relationship and that special gift that you got at a great price with a mushy card . which for most of us says all the wrong things because it would be politically incorect to say Happy Father's day... I loved you as a Kid but as an Adult I have grown to see you for the selfish ass you really are!

Jim said...

I know people who violently ignore father's day and mother's day and valentine's day because they are "made up card company holidays." They say we should spend every day like it's a holiday. I guess the point is we don't. And there's nothing wrong with using the day as an excuse - sorry I can't do that today, it's father's day. We don't need piles of flyers, but who's going to tell any commercial entity they can't try to take advantage of the day - and who's going to tell me I have to pay attention to that nonsense. I'm just going to enjoy today. It's fun to see which cards my kids pick for me - what they think is funny or touching. It's nice having a "special" dinner together. Next weekend, when there's no holiday I can think of, we'll all be together again for a day away. I'm an opportunistic son of a gun, I'll celebrate the "week after father's day", too!

So today is Father's Day. I'll get my cards, hug my kids, and remember my dad. And tomorrow, or next week or next month, I'll hug my kids and remember my dad. Who knows - I might not even notice the difference.

Carmi - that's a great quote for the day. And if it weren't for my friends at Hallmark, I probably wouldn't know how to say thanks for that ;-) Happy Father's Day!

Mark said...

I would agree if I felt under-appreciated on other days, but I don't. Most Hallmark holidays I eschew, but I don't see harm in giving a little extra attention to folks who deserve it. Then again, I've never had a father or a mother who didn't deserve special recognition. I'm sure these holidays don't ring very true for folks unfortunate enough to have those.

young-eclectic-encounters said...

Oh such a thought provoking post. I agre with you totally- I've even started to think of Christmas that way- Easter changed for me completely when my Mom had a stroke the day before Easter and died a week later now Easter is about Christ and his ressurection not candy and bunnies etc. Father's day is a day of mixed emotion- as a child of abuse- how often it makes me sad to remember that kind of father and then there is my husband who is a good father and would do anything for his kids- like I said mixed emotion. I have found like you we should celebrate everyday as they come and show our love for each other every day'
Johnina

Catherine said...

I don't want some commercial interests telling me what holidays to celebrate an dhow. But it turns out, we do need special days. Life is just a bit better with celebration in it. And I know from reading your blog that you are actually very good at celebrating all sorts of special little moments .
Many events here have been cancelled in the last nine months because of ongoing earthquakes, I have really missed all sorts of events like the Writers Festival, Chinese Lantern festival, Matariki (Maori New Year), and others, but I can't say I'd miss Mothers Day or Fathers Day if they vanished.