Father’s Day: It’s about family, not fatherhood

I did a radio interview at the weekend ahead of Father’s Day, during which I was asked what I was hoping for on the day. It’s a simple question that lacks a simple answer.

Like my birthday, Father’s Day is a ‘special’ day for which I don’t have any special expectations. It’s been that way for years. It has long been a day that is special for about an hour in the morning, but no longer that that. A cup of tea and breakfast in bed is about as far as my aspirations stretch. It’s as well I’m so low maintenance because that’s typically all I get anyway.

Not this year, though. This year it was a proper Father’s Day, not a Father’s Hour.

Breakfast, books and the Berkshire Downs

The day started well enough. The kids presented me with individual, hand-drawn cards. Tea, bacon and eggs. A copy of the songbook from the musical In The Heights. (This was exactly what I wanted, as Heather already knew from the fact I had casually left it unpurchased for her to find in my Amazon basket last week.)

Most years, at this point the kids lose interest and revert to their normal Sunday routine. By which I mean bickering a lot and wanting to spend all day glued to a screen.

But not this year.

When I was asked on the radio, I replied that I was hoping to continue our new habit of going for a long family walk in the local countryside.

And that’s what we did. We visited the Roman villa at Littlecote, with its spectacular restored mosaic. Then we stopped for a picnic lunch before embarking on a scenic 7km walk across the Berkshire Downs. The kids have developed their walking legs, so they’re happy as long as the walk includes regular geocaches. And they seem to genuinely appreciate the rolling rural landscape too. They’ll be wanting to join the Ramblers’ Association next.

One of the reasons I love our walks is that they afford us the opportunity to enjoy quality time with each of the kids. They appreciate it too. Over the course of the walk, they’ll flit between the two of us, taking turns to have some proper one-to-one interaction.

Then, when we got home the kids joined Heather in the kitchen to prepare dinner. Each of them took charge of one course. Kara prepared a caprese salad. Isaac helped make a lasagne. And Toby, our Star Baker-in-residence, whipped up a lemon cheesecake. At Kara’s suggestion, we all dressed up to eat to make more of an occasion of the meal. (Eight going on 18, she needs little excuse to get dressed up and practise her make-up technique.)

From Hamilton to the Village People

After dinner, we settled in to do our first practice for Project Hamilton. I’ve been busy rearranging five songs from the musical ahead of its film version’s release in two weeks. This evening we ran through the first three numbers. It went surprisingly well. Of course, this segued into a more general karaoke session, covering family favourites ranging from Livin’ on a Prayer to YMCA. It was a lovely way to round off the day before the kids went to bed. None of us are going to be troubling the Tony or Brits award committees any time soon, but we do enjoy a good family sing.

Karaoke is a rare activity we can all enjoy together without feeling self-conscious. With the kids getting older – Isaac will officially be a teenager in less than six months’ time – I know these full-family occasions won’t continue indefinitely, so they are precious while they last.

And, to return to the original question, this is ultimately what I hope for from Father’s Day. It’s a day that reminds me, as much as the kids regularly wind us (and each other) up, that we’re still quite a tight unit. Father’s Day isn’t so much about celebrating fatherhood as it’s about celebrating family.


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