Today is Father’s Day and, being a dad, I would like to point out two things. First, many fathers will receive booze, underwear, and socks from their children and/or partners today. Contrast this with the typical presents of flowers, cards, and brunch with mimosas on Mother’s Day. I am not complaining. I merely point out the difference for analytical purposes.
These gifts–the gold, frankincense, and myrrh of the holiday–constitute the three things dads go through faster than anything else. The reasons for this may seem obvious and not worth mentioning except that the demand for them does not shift as dads get older. For example, a sixty-three-year-old granddad needs underwear just as much as a thirty-year-old with toddlers. This is not only reliable statistically but serves as a testament to male constancy. Our needs do not change drastically over time. Then again, this shouldn’t come as a surprise, since it is “la donna” who is “mobile,” and not the man. “Qual piuma al vento” (Rigoletto, Act III), I might add. Actually, Giuseppe Verdi added it, not me.
So, we are consistent in our weaknesses, which ought to count for something. And not only are we consistent, but we are utterly simplistic. Putting gender roles and cultural conditioning aside (please), recall the joke about male versus female needs. To wit, to please a woman you have to listen to her with empathy, kindness, and compassion. To please a man you show up naked with beer and a pepperoni pizza. Far be it from me to subscribe to anything as crass as that, although I have been accused of being insensitive, which may or may not have something to do with x or y chromosomes. Then again, I’m not much of a beer drinker (see Take it Easy).
But if men are relatively simple compared to women, what does that mean for fathers? That is, how does simplicity translate into fathering? This is the second point I would like to make. I have given this some thought over the years and come to a conclusion or two. Considering that I have three daughters and a daughter-in-law, I won’t be foolish enough to claim indisputable truth here. In fact, these are just big ideas that sounded good at the time, which is how I have gotten into trouble throughout my life, but that’s another blog post.
Big idea number one: less is better. This may not sound like a big idea, but in the context of fathering I mean that our words and actions carry incredible weight. We don’t need to make a “federal case” out of everything, which is what we used to say back in my youth. That, and hoping our delinquent behavior wouldn’t get reported on our “JD card.” Not sure those even existed. My point is that it doesn’t take much to influence kids, especially since our actions are magnified given our status. The other day my adult daughter referred to a brown Saab we owned for about six months when she was ten. I nearly fell out of my chair. I don’t think we’ve talked about it since we sold it, but it obviously made an impression on her. Why a Saab would make an impression on anyone I do not know.
Big idea number two: don’t get too close to the action. I am speaking as a grandfather here. Grandfathers are like members of the family board of directors. They guide policy and direction but do not involve themselves in the daily operation of the organization unless there’s an emergency. It’s important to maintain an elder statesman poise and not get dragged into the fray. Since there’s always a fray, you don’t want to get frayed (dad joke). I would say the same thing about fathers. The trend now is to get up close and personal, and I have seen young fathers doing things like taking off their shirts to hold newborns as if nursing them. I wouldn’t want to be caught dead doing that. I am reminded of John Kennedy’s fear of being photographed in any kind of head covering. They say he had Calvin Coolidge’s feathered headdress in mind. I don’t blame him.
Big idea number three: like the fake parting wish between fake friends, don’t ever change. With all that goes on in a family and the stresses and strains that pull it apart like salt water taffy, it’s vital that there be a pillar around which everything revolves. This gives family members a chance to experiment, fail, and grow, not to mention unravel at various times. But they can’t do that if the center does not hold. When I say it’s important not to change, I mean change everything else but that spot you occupy in the middle of the earth for people to come home to.
These may sound like antiquated virtues out of sync with our brave, new world, but truth has a way of making itself known no matter how hard we try to suppress it. And the truth is, I’m looking forward to my martini, underwear, and socks.
Image credits: feature by Amber Faust on Unsplash; socks by Dillon Groves on Unsplash; underwear by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay. Want more? Go to Robert Brancatelli. The Brancatelli Blog is a member of The Free Media Alliance, which promotes “alternatives to software, culture, and hardware monopolies.” Dedicated to Arthur Anthony Brancatelli (1933-2014).