2022 is the semicentennial anniversary of the first time Father’s Day was celebrated as a national holiday. After a devoted 30 seconds of research, I discovered that a semicentennial is a 50-year anniversary. After another 30 seconds of calculations, I realized that this figure puts the first national celebration of Father’s Day back in 1972. I wasn’t quite a zygote then but, having grown up during the decade, I can say that quite a lot has changed since the 1970s and the world is, generally, better for its passage. Burnt orange isn’t the go-to color for carpets anymore. Disco music is now typically played ironically. And men, for the most part, have evolved into a more involved role of fatherhood when it comes to raising their own children.
As opposed to spending the bulk of our working hours outside the home, many fathers, myself included, are stay-at-home or work-at-home parents for at least a few days a week. Most of us also tend to be more hands-on with the little ones than our fathers were. Since the traditional role fathers play has changed over the years, I assumed that the way we celebrate Father’s Day has changed as well. To find out exactly how much things have changed, I thought it would be fun to take an informal poll. My first question asked dads how they commemorated their role as a father on Father’s Day. The second asked if they recalled how they celebrated their first Father’s Day.
I interviewed and texted and crowdsourced various friends, family members, and just about anyone else I could bother on social media. As the responses came in, a mild alarm began to swell into a moderate panic. Instead of compiling a list of traditions that my older, and presumably wiser, peers take part in for Father’s Day, I discovered that many of them didn’t do much beyond the cliché for their special day.
Grilling was a popular activity.
Golfing was another.
Heading out for a few drinks after golfing and before grilling also featured prominently.
Where, I wondered, were my enlightened brethren? Where were the men celebrating their roles as fathers by painting a keepsake portrait of their family for the day or building their kids a DIY treehouse? Apparently, they were grilling burgers and ribs when they weren’t at a bar or hitting the links.
What’s more, not a single person I contacted remembered what he did for his first Father’s Day. Somewhat disheartened, I made two decisions: The first was to find a more interesting and vital group of fathers with whom to connect. The second, more constructive decision, was to mention the problem to my wife who promptly pointed out that my routine on Father’s Day doesn’t differ all that much from the dads I’d surveyed. Typically, and if memory serves, I like to have a few friends and family members over and barbecue enough meat to feed a small Latin American country. Sure it’s a good time, but there’s nothing inherently meaningful about the event, at least nothing that implies that I’m such a wonderfully self-aware and evolved dad.
Ever helpful, my wife also asked if I recalled what I did to celebrate my first Father’s Day as a new dad. It was, surprisingly, a question I hadn’t considered, and I gave it a good four minutes of thought before concluding that I didn’t have the slightest idea. Not even an inkling of a memory as a first time dad commemorating the occasion. It was a profoundly disturbing realization until I recalled that parenting a small child is a mind-numbing and exhausting endeavor for bother new parents and those with experience. Between the constant attention that the job requires and the broken sleep schedules, it’s remarkable that anyone remembers much of anything during the first year of their child’s life. With that kind of exhaustion, who cares how you spend your first Father’s Day or if it’s clichéd? All that matters is that you commemorate the occasion in some way because you’re the best dad to your tiny human(s), after-all.
So go ahead and fire up the grill for Father’s Day. Have a few beers and play a round of golf if you’ve got that kind of energy. Raising a child isn’t easy and being a good father is the most important role you’ll ever have in your life, so enjoy yourself.
Most importantly, take some time during the day to celebrate your new baby and new family. Find an activity–something simple–to celebrate your contributions as a father, embracing the diaper changes, spit-up covered T-shirts, bad dad jokes you never thought you would tell and all. Grab the stroller and take a walk together around the neighborhood. Have a picnic at a local park. Feel free to invite your own father to the event if desired and, if you’re feeling bold, your father-in-law as well. You only get one first Father’s Day, so celebrate it with the people who made you a new father in the first place.
Since I have no recollection of it, I’d like to think it’s how I spent my first Father’s Day.
By Derek Bremer