So this post is directed at present fathers (and by “present” I mean those who take an active role in the lives of their children. And by “active” I mean those who will not only die for but will play with their children); however, from what I can tell, more women seem to read this blog than men—or men who are fathers (shout to those who aren’t fathers and read). And that’s wonderful. Perhaps, ladies, you can relay this message to the men in your lives, or, if it doesn’t serve you, forget it all together, and persuade these men to do what YOU think they ought to do (this’ll make sense a little later in this post).
I’ve always been a bit confused by personal celebratory days. These are days in which the individual is celebrated (e.g. birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc.). And it’s not because I don’t believe individuals should be celebrated, quite the contrary. I’m really big on birthdays. Seriously, if it’s your birthday, hit me up—I got the first round. But I remember years ago coming to the conclusion that my birthday wasn’t about me—or perhaps about me, anymore, like it used to be. When I was a kid, it was all so simple. My mother would ask what I wanted for my birthday. I’d say some shit like a new video game and a pizza party with my friends. And voila, I’d get that. That was about me—or, that was what I wanted to do. And then at some point, I got married. And this became a bit more complicated. My wife would ask what I wanted for my birthday. I’d say some shit like sit at a bar, watch the game, and eat chicken wings. And voila, I’d find myself at some fancy dinner. Sometimes I’d find myself at a formal gathering wearing a birthday hat, thinking, I just wanted some chicken wings y’all (anybody know the score).
Last year was my first Father’s Day. And again, I was asked what I wanted to do. I remember standing there with the Frankenstein perplexed look (uh, what’s the right answer). To my surprise she was serious—you should do whatever you want to do (you deserve it). I placed one foot in the conversation (for real). Yes, she was serious, it wasn’t some mean, spooky, evil, voodoo, woman mind fuck—you should do whatever you want to do.
And so I did. The Heat and Spurs were in a highly contested NBA Finals (not like this year—don’t get me started on that) and game 5 landed on Father’s Day. I spent that morning and afternoon with my boy being a great American dad: we got outdoors, went to a graduation gathering, and chilled with family.
After that it was on—boy was it on. The boy went with his aunt and I was off to my favorite dive bar for wings, whiskey, and basketball. And it went down just like that. Other dads with freedom passes joined. We cheersed our children, jeered the Spurs, and talked dumb like drunken frat boys in dad button-ups and pleated slacks. It was a glorious day—some kind of dad nirvana.
This Sunday, I’ve made plans to golf with a few colleagues. Afterwards, I’ll have brunch with the wife and kid. And just as my food and buzz begins to settle, magically the Heat and Spurs will play a game 5 (again). You don’t beat this kind of day—well, a tight series would be nice.
I’m also thinking of my own father this week (I’ll call him on Sunday). I don’t remember spending any Father’s Day with him, formally. I remember saying Happy Father’s Day but can’t recall any dinners or formal celebrations. I know he worked a lot and when he wasn’t, he was probably at a bar watching the game and having chicken wings (who am I kidding—he was at a bar being a true playa). My dad was a throwback who more often than not did what he wanted to (didn’t matter the day). I used to believe that if you were a true man, a man’s man, you did what you wanted. I obviously don’t buy this stock anymore. As much as I kicked and screamed, I’m grateful for the people who celebrated me how they wanted: grateful for the awful birthday hats, awkward spotlight, and heartfelt speeches.
These days I’m happy to put my tribe before me. But they say Sunday is Father’s Day. So, for a day, I’ll again hand myself a permission slip and unapologetically do what I want: yes, on Sunday, I’m hitting all the golf balls, consuming chicken wings, and drinking bourbon. My suggestion to other “present” (again, not deadbeat) fathers who find themselves wearing the birthday hat—take it off for a day—when asked what you want to do, say what you mean. Say it in a strong assured voice (it is very important to sustain eye contact when doing this: “I want to play video games” while looking right at her will work—my promise to you). The kid(s), diapers, and bills will be there in the morning.