In truth, I’d forgotten it was even Father’s Day yesterday until someone at work mentioned it during the week.
Even then, it’s never been a day I’ve made a fuss over. As much as I try to be an involved parent, the reality is I do the minority of childcare in our household. Heather is the one who organises the kids’ after-school activities, buys birthday presents for their friends and bears the brunt of the morning routine while I swan out of the house muttering about having an early meeting I can’t be late for.
The reality is that I need a ‘day’ much less than she does. And while there are an increasing number of dads who now fulfil the role of primary carer, for many of us Father’s Day is a bit of a bonus: a legitimate excuse for once to have a lie-in and not mow the lawn.
The cynic in me says the only reason Father’s Day is treated on the same level as Mother’s Day is that it presents another commercial opportunity for manufacturers of greeting cards and amusing themed gifts to extract the maximum amount of cash from us.
In truth, I feel a little guilty about Father’s Day. I don’t really feel I’ve earned it. I’ll take the beer-flavoured chocolates, though. Yum.
Anyhow, after the obligatory presentation of the children’s hand-made cards (Isaac’s carefully drawn and thoughtful card was no less appreciated for the fact he had accidentally written ‘Happy Birthday’ on the front of it), hand-made presents (“Ooh, another bird box [my third] – just what I’ve always wanted”) and the taking of my breakfast order (my champagne and foie gras never did arrive), we headed in to London so that we could celebrate the day with my dad too.
At that point the day stopped being about me. It stopped being about two generations of dads. It just became an excuse for three generations of Liew family to sit around a table together and share a communal ‘steamboat’ lunch, for the kids to spend time with their beloved Uncle Peter and to burn off some excess energy with a trip to a local park to try out their outdoor gym.
And that’s the thing for me. Perhaps it’s different for families with single parents or where the dad is the main carer, but for a more traditional nuclear family like ours, Father’s Day isn’t about me – it’s about us.
Having a family-focussed day like this fits the bill perfectly as it is less about celebrating fatherhood as it is about celebrating the reasons why it’s such a joy and a privilege (well, usually) to be a father in the first place. A dad is nothing without his children, without his family. My success as a father isn’t counted in greeting cards or in chocolate (although, you know, keep them coming) but in the hopefully positive influence I have on my children as they grow up.
Which has made me realise that, while there is only one official Father’s Day in the calendar, every day is Father’s Day. And that’s true no matter what role you have – a dad in a traditional family unit, a stay-at-home dad, a co-parenting dad, an adoptive father or stepfather. At heart, we’re all the same. We’re there to provide guidance, support, discipline, a shoulder to cry on – whatever is needed to help steer our children along the right path.
The label is ultimately unimportant. We are fathers. We are parents. And that’s true every day of every year.