I can’t recall having any kind of Father’s Day observance for my dad. He was someone for whom a celebration would have been a drop in a giant cavern of want and need, beyond what his wife and five children could have delivered. He’d get a card maybe, and then move on to the business of the day—which would have been whatever he planned to accomplish, with or without us.
I have, however, tried over the years to provide a celebration for my daughter’s father and stepfather. There’s something a little careless and maybe superficial about cards depicting golf and hunting or fishing scenes, the de rigueur tie, power tools, and the like. It all feels secondary to Mother’s Day. Although billed as an equal-airtime proposition, Father’s Day is a paler version of the holiday, minus flowers and brunch, lacking tender touches. I propose something new: I think Father’s Day should celebrate not only fatherhood, but maybe the steadfastness of men.
Men and women have different essences. I’m drawing on my training in Chinese medicine in part when I say this; we really are at opposite ends of a continuum—yin and yang. This is a good thing. We need a large variability in human behavior in order to get the work of living, adapting, and evolving done.
On Father’s Day the best gift you can give, along with some heartfelt messages in homemade cards that say we’re all happy and the kids are okay and there isn’t one thing you have to do for us today, is to tell Dad to take the day and do what he wants to do.
Women are nurturers. You can’t get into a restaurant on Mother’s Day because, what’s the first thing moms do? Feed people. Second thing they do? Clean up after people. Third, fourth, fifth? Take care of others before themselves, worry about everyone else first, and so on. So on Mother’s Day, send pretty flowers, take moms to brunch, don’t let them wash a dish or wait on anyone, cosset them, and send them to get their nails polished. The lucky ones get foot massages.
Men don’t need manicures. They are protectors. They are trees with solid trunks and thick branches overarching the people they love. Most of them are not obvious about it. And wouldn’t necessarily talk about it. But it is deep in them, part of their fabric, that they are responsible for the happiness—and the safety—of the people in their circle.
They’re hardwired to work as best they can to assure security, because they need to know everyone is okay. If there is the slightest indication that might not be true, men need to fix it. Or else they feel impotent. As doers and executors, this is the very last thing they can tolerate.
Men need a different kind of break. They can be pretty mono-focused, comfortably and happily so. Work. Rest. Play. It’s black and white. Simple. Makes their jobs easier: Just tell me what to do so there is peace and you are happy. Done. On Father’s Day the best gift you can give, along with some heartfelt messages in homemade cards that say we’re all happy and the kids are okay and there isn’t one thing you have to do for us today, is to tell Dad to take the day and do what he wants to do. No expectations. After he’s eaten his bacon and eggs and maybe blueberry pancakes, he is totally off the hook for thinking about others. He’s done his job. Everyone is fine.
And you can definitely return that tie.