Father and Son(s) Day

My dad died a few years ago. Father’s Day since then has been kind of lame. My dad was impossible to shop for, no different than my mom really. His only real hobbies were woodworking and riding his motorcycle. For the former, he had so many specialized thises and thatses that buying anything of the sort was like buying a Bible for a priest. For the latter, buying anything for his mid-life-crisis-mobile would have required taking out a second mortgage. So, from me, he got any number of lame, forgettable, essentially meaningless tokens and trifles in the time-honored tradition of sons awkwardly expressing gratitude/affection for their dads. It’s now been three Father’s Days past that I haven’t had to buy a gift, remember to call, or send a card, and I find myself longing for the panic associated with waking up on the third Saturday of June with no idea what to get the man.

This isn’t meant to be a mopey post. I’m not sure I can help it, but here goes. Father’s Day is pretty awesome as a dad.  As a kid, it’s an obligation — something mom makes you go through in the morning before you get on with the presumption that you are, in fact, the axis around which the earth turns. My boys are no different, and I’m totally fine with it. Jack’s seven months old, so whatever. Joshua is four years old, and self-centeredness is hard-wired at this point. But it’s [almost] a whole day celebrating the things you do as a dad, anyway. What’s not to love? Because I remember not-that-fondly trying to buy pointless gifts which I’m sure I imbued with far more meaning than they actually conveyed, I decided early on that I don’t want my boys to buy me anything. If they want to make me something, I’ll take it happily, love it, and never let it go. I’d much rather just have some of their time. Right now, as a stay-at-home dad to them, it’s not really all that different from any other day they have. But later in life when they get too busy for me, too cool for me, too occupied with their own kids for me, I hope they’ll remember that their father wanted to spend time with them, and that they’ll want to spend time with me.

Jen and I have very different desires for our respective Days. For Mother’s Day, Jen always asks for (and never really gets) time to herself. This is totally cool and absolutely understandable. Because she doesn’t get to spend as much time with them as I do, she is especially smothered when she gets off from work. Joshua’s barnacle activities are at their peak, and after a long day at work, hours of a four-year old at the height of his clingy powers has got to be an exhaustion unlike any other. One of these Mother’s Days, I’m going to make sure she actually gets to do what she wants to do. She’s more than earned it.

For Father’s Day, I like to go out, all of us, together and do something different and memorable. Today we took the boys to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. I knew going into it that an art museum was a less than ideal place to spend a few hours with a pre-schooler and an infant. All things considered, it went much better than I expected.

Joshua was awfully well-behaved, needing only two or three reminders not to touch anything. His self-restraint was better than some of the other kids there, all of whom were several years older. His interest in the art was, understandably, minimal. My two semesters of art history were hardly preparation for engaging a four-year old in sculpting in the round and French impressionism. He did show a bit of interest in an exhibit showing nouveau and deco furnishings, no doubt because he could relate to beds, chairs, and the like better than paintings of ladies with big hats. After a couple of hours, he was bored and got a bit antsy — no real surprise — but he still managed to not touch anything. Couldn’t be prouder.

Jack, who usually transforms into a manic banshee without a nap, had virtually no nap and was an absolute delight. He scarcely made a peep the whole time. Once again, I have no ideas how babies work.

My dad often spent his Father’s Days on the golf course, back when he golfed, and in later years he hit the road on his motorcycle, determined to see Something. I don’t begrudge him that, not at all. After all, if we’re going to say the day is all about him, at the very least, he ought to be able to spend it as he would. But because I’m a kid — his kid — I get to keep on with the presumption that his world revolved around me. And on this Father’s Day, as on the last two Father’s Days, I wish I’d gone to the golf course with him, or taken a ride on his bike with him. I guess, I wish I had treated it more like “Father and Son(s) Day.” That’s what I’m trying to do with my boys because I have no more chances at it the other way around. So, to all the fathers out there, and to all the sons of fathers out there, I hope you have a happy Father and Son(s) Day.

I did.

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