Celebrations are all about emotions and Father’s Day is no exception. While your father’s birthday is about who he is as a person, and Christmas is about the spirit of giving in general, Father’s Day is about your relationship with your father (or father substitute) and what that feels like. It’s a time to look at it anew to see what you appreciate or don’t, and how it could be better. Whether you had a father or not, there is something you can celebrate on this day.
Celebrating Different Types of Fathers
Everyone has a father. You couldn’t have been born without one, if you know what I mean. Unfortunately, many dads don’t stick around to help their children grow up (for one reason or another). However, it is possible to find substitutes and often more than one. Take a look at your life, as you read, and see if you can identify some of these figures:
- Stick-around dads––These are the ones who have been there from the beginning or near it. Sometimes they’re a biological father, sometimes a stepfather or adopted father, who stepped in when you were young. What characterizes them is that they filled the role of father (loving or not) while you were growing up.
- Dads who left––At some point or another, too many dads leave before they have a chance to learn to father properly. If they left when you were a baby or before, you will never have gotten to know them. If they left later––either through divorce, jail, addiction, or overwork––you will know only a part of them, and that may be defined more by their absence than by the occasional times they were present.
- Substitute dads––These are the fathers who filled or still fill in the part/s of your life that your biological dad abandoned. You’ll often have more than one. They could be a stepfather who came around when you were older, an uncle, a big brother, a grandfather, a foster father, a friend’s father, or someone you chose when you were an adult to fill that role (e.g. a father-in-law).
- Male mentors––Whether or not you had a satisfying “real” father, male mentors helped strengthen your survival skills. They were or are most likely a boss, a special teacher, a priest, or some other nurturing male adult figure who offered security and an expanded understanding of life.
- Husbands as fathers––Many women marry men who are a lot older than they are, and who act as much like fathers as like husbands. Whether or not you have a father figure for yourself, you can still appreciate the fathering qualities of a spouse, friend, or brother who are especially nurturing to their (or your) children.
When Is Father’s Day––on What Date?
As a rule of thumb, in the United States and many European countries, Father’s Day falls on the third Sunday of June each year. When Father’s Day was first conceived, in Catholic Europe during the Middle Ages, it was celebrated every year on June 21th––St. Joseph’s Day (the acknowledged father figure of Jesus). Most countries in Latin America still celebrate it on that day. Other countries around the world celebrate it in March or April in coordination with Mother’s Day, Sibling’s Day, or Grandparents’ Day.
In the U.S., although there were many attempts beforehand, Father’s Day did not become a recognized, official holiday until Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1972. Both the public and government officials were afraid that Big Business would co-opt such a celebration and it would lose its meaning.
Today the celebration is fairly low key commercially. Retail stores support it by selling Father’s Day cards, electronics and tools with Father’s Day packaging, and Father’s Day gift cards. You can also make your own gifts and cards at home.
Making Your Father’s Day Gift Unique
Because Father’s Day is primarily about relationships, the way in which you can most truly celebrate it is by giving a gift of time (or things) that focuses on the relationship itself. This can represent a reminder of the past, a dream of the future, or something you’ve been promising to do with him now. It can be tangible or intangible, a celebration of warmth or a transformation of pain.
The type of relationship you have and the way you celebrate it is what will make your gift to him unique. Depending on how much thought you put into it, you could actually transform the relationship, if you’ve experienced it as a negative one. The rewards will be well worth the effort. First, a little word on transforming the tough relationships.
Father’s Day Ideas for No-Good Fathers
Should you be imagining that you have no relationship with your father, think again. Even his absence can have a huge effect. Even as a negative presence, he can have a positive influence. If the relationship seems lacking or awful, look at it this way:
- In what way/s has he helped you grow (whether he meant to or not)?
- Were there any good times?
- Did the bad times result in your becoming stronger or wiser?
- Did your discovery of what you don’t want in the relationship point out what you do want? (That’s a really valuable gift!)
You can convert any one or several of these answers into an honest celebration of your relationship with your father, whatever its nature. And, of course, the same is true if you had more than one father, or if you found a male mentor as a substitute. You could even celebrate your own self-fathering.
If you did have more than one father or want to include yourself as a father to yourself, you could go through the following processes separately with each father figure you decide to honor. Let’s look at gift-choosing in terms of time.
Father’s Day Gifts About the Past
Choosing a gift that reflects the history of your relationship is all about memories. Take a good look at them. What are some of the best times you had, even if only a few? What are some of the worst that turned out pretty good in the end? What are some things he was proud of you for? What did he tell other people about you that was good, or that triggered you to prove yourself in some way?
Use these memories and your current resources as fodder to give him a gift that appreciates your history together:
- Photo Album—Make him a photo album with some of your proudest moments. Include any awards he helped you with. Go through the album with him and share those memories.
- Framed Photograph—Select your favorite photo with the two of you together and happy. Scan it up and photoshop it, if you need to. Enlarge it and put it in a nice frame. Present it with his favorite flowers. This is a good gift if you can’t be with him in person.
- Poster Collage or Mosaic—Make a collage of yourself growing up, including photos of the two of you, tickets from games he took you to, photos of himself alone that you like (or with your mother or family), and any other memorabilia that lends itself (e.g. pressed wildflowers from a hike, a unique coin). Frame the collage or turn it into a giant poster for him.
- Shadowbox Memoir—A shadowbox is like a photo frame, but with a couple of inches of depth added. You can enclose medals, tiny figures, and other meaningful memoirs without scratching the protective glass.
- Sports/Theater Tickets—If you used to go to particular sports or theater events, but haven’t for a long time, take him to one for Father’s Day . . . as long as he still likes it.
- Render a Service—Let’s say you made him dinner for Father’s Day once and really screwed it up. Make him one this time that’s perfect and joke about the former one.
- Lap Blanket—Custom-make it and choose fabric that reminds him of the two of you. It’s an easy thing to do. I can make a nice lap blanket in an afternoon, once I have the fabric. The one I made my sister recently was a reminder of how we used to go to Peets Coffee every time I visited her.
- Picture Calendar—Make him a calendar with photos of the two of you doing things that match the month.
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Gifts for Future Activities with Your Father
In this scenario, you’re dreaming about what your relationship could be like, based on what you know of him, and setting it up for future get-togethers. This type of gift would reflect hopes for the future:
- Ticket to an Event—Promise to take him to some kind of event he’s been talking about, but hasn’t gone to yet. Buy the ticket (or season tickets) to present to him at Father’s Day, then commit to attending one or more events with him in the future.
- Special Retreat —This could be the most awesome thing you could do with him. A local retreat could be at a Buddhist monastery, a weekend spa, or a workshop in a secluded spot in the mountains. Make it something that would bring you together in a quality way. The Mankind Project’s New Warrior Training is a good example of such a retreat.
- Camping Equipment—In most places of the US it’s still a little cold to go camping in June. But you can buy him a nice upgrade to an item of camping equipment he has, or something he doesn’t have that’s been stopping him from going, and promise to take him later when it’s warmer . . . then keep your promise.
- Martial Arts Lessons—If you are a guy, commit to some kind of continuing martial arts or wrestling lessons with him for health or just for fun. Women can set up lessons that are martial in nature, but don’t require the close physical contact that wrestling does, for example.
- New Software—This can be a great Father’s Day gift, when coupled with a commitment to teaching him how to use it, especially if he’s already involved in projects that you know this software will simplify or enhance.
- Webcam, iPhone, or iPad—Any of these could help you stay connected better in future. Set it up for him and help him practice using it.
- Airplane Ticket—This is a valuable gift to help him visit you, if you live far apart. It saves him money, in addition to being a promise of spending time together.
- IOU—If you don’t live near him or are super busy during Father’s Day, write him a heartfelt IOU for something you know you’ll both enjoy or as a promise to help him with a future project—like painting his house or redesigning his landscape.
Best Gifts for Your Present Relationship
This type of gift focuses on who you are now, who he is now, and how you mesh. You look at him fresh, as though he were a temporary stranger, and look at yourself in the same way. The purpose of this type of gift is to get to know each other better now.
If you’re buying for yourself as a self-fathering gift or if your father has passed away, imagine what you would have liked to have done with him, then set it up to do it yourself, taking him with you in your imagination:
- Cruise to a Destination Nearby—It doesn’t take long and you don’t have to wait for better weather to take a local cruise. Make it as nice as you have the money to buy, and make sure you use it to understand the relationship better.
- Help with a Task—Choose one he’s been putting off, like cleaning out his garage or workroom or fixing up the yard. He’ll get to spend time with you and have the relief of getting the job done (finally) as well. Every time he looks at it later, he’ll remember and appreciate you all over again.
- Limo Ride—This can be especially exciting if your father is older and has never ridden in a limo before, and/or is having to give up driving. Take him somewhere special . . . or even just shopping, but far enough away to give yourselves a chance to chat during the drive. This really applies to anything your father is having to give up, due to aging or ill health. Find a high-quality replacement for what he is giving up and do it with him.
- Sports or Theater Event—If you know of a season ticket he bought but isn’t using, go with him, and afterward treat him to dinner or dessert in a nice place. This could be lots of fun, especially if he doesn’t normally have anyone to go with.
- Nice Shirt or Tie—Take him to a stage show, and buy him a nice shirt or tie to wear there. Or ask for his favorite type of movie, and buy a shirt and tie that match the movie, just for fun.
Each of these gifts could be given at any time of the year for any reason, but given during Fathers Day, they take on a deeper meaning. Since people usually value more those objects that have positive meaning attached, you know they will keep whatever physical thing you give them for awhile, and will think of you in a positive way in connection with it.
Have fun this Father’s Day!