A new dad’s first Father’s Day can feel like a major milestone in his fatherhood journey. Whether he’s still in those sleep-deprived newborn days or watching his firstborn take his or her first steps, the inaugural Father’s Day celebration is almost like the world saying, “Congratulations: You’re officially a member of the Dad’s Club.”
As he opens his first Father’s Day gift, a new dad is likely to think back on traditions he shared with his own father. With one eye toward the past and another toward the future, today’s dads are redefining what Father’s Day means to them. Here’s what a few of our favorite daddy bloggers have to say about honoring their own fathers while making the holiday their own.
Who He Is: writer, photographer and creator of Out with the Kids
Family Stats: married 13 years; father to two girls, ages 9 and 12; based in Philadelphia
How do you think fatherhood has changed since your own childhood? It’s never been more publicly acceptable for men to be dads, like, really “be the dad” who is actively engaged, making kid-related decisions, changing diapers, the whole thing. At the same time, I think dads now share in the parent guilt that moms have probably felt for so long, meaning that we too doubt ourselves and question whether we are doing enough to make our kids happy. That’s definitely new for us! In turn, I think Father’s Day is more a thing nowadays. Not quite on the level of Mother’s Day from a commercial enterprise, but the gap is narrower!
How was Father’s Day spent when you were a kid? My dad usually played golf in the morning with his buddies and then came home for a barbecue out back by the pool. He’d grill burgers and hot dogs, and we’d listen to the Phillies on the radio. It was very idyllic.
How does your own family typically spend Father’s Day? Usually, it’s not a major point of emphasis what we do on that day, because, to be totally honest, every day feels like Father’s Day to me when I get to be around my two hilarious daughters so much as an at-home dad. This Father’s Day we’ll be together in Philly, seeing a baseball game and hanging out with out-of-town friends.
Describe your ideal Father’s Day. Happy kids playing in their usual ridiculously creative ways, everyone getting along, maybe a nice craft root beer and a European football match on the television. I’m a simple man with simple needs!
Who He Is: creator of Ask Your Dad
Family Stats: married eight years; father of a 6-year-old girl and 3-year-old boy; based in Salt Lake City
How do you think fatherhood has changed since your own father’s time? There are very few single-income households anymore. For most of us, that isn’t an option. For me, that also means there can’t be just one person doing the bulk of the housework, parenting, etc. My wife and I do our best to have an equal investment in all things. I think that is a little different than a generation or two ago.
Did you have a go-to Father’s Day gift as a kid? I can count the times on one hand I ever saw my dad wear a tie, and yet I think I bought him at least a dozen ties. I’m not sure why. I have no idea why I thought he wanted ties.
Tell us about your favorite Father’s Day present. My kids made me a memory book that was in the form of a story. It had pictures of us doing their favorite things and ended with their handprints. It may seem a little cheesy, but it is one of my most prized possessions. I keep it in my nightstand and pull it out to read when the days feel really long.
Any good gift ideas for Dad? A gift on its own is just a thing. Make it be something more than a thing. Use it to say “thank you,” and make that thank-you for something specific. One year my wife said, “We got you this because you put so much of your heart and your time into our family.” Honestly, after saying that, she could have handed me a rock. The thank-you was the gift.
Who He Is: public speaker, author and founder of Daddy Doin’ Work
Family Stats: married eight years; father of two girls, ages 3 and 5; based in Los Angeles
How has fatherhood evolved since your own dad’s day? My dad was always really involved when I was growing up, but that wasn’t the norm back then. Today it’s normal and expected for dads to change diapers, do their daughters’ hair and be present for their kids. Because of it, many dads like me view Father’s Day as just a normal Sunday.
What’s the most memorable gift you ever gave your father? I gave my dad a big lollipop that read “The Biggest Sucker in Town” for Father’s Day when I was a kid, and I gave the same lollipop to my mom for Mother’s Day. They both enjoyed a really good laugh from it.
Do you have a favorite Father’s Day gift of your own? I haven’t received a ton of Father’s Day gifts, but my favorite came from my oldest daughter, who gave me a dandelion and said, “This flower is beautiful, just like you, Daddy.” Oh man, the emotional floodgates opened on my end. That really meant a lot to me.
Do you prefer experiential gifts or something more tangible? Experiential, for sure, because experiences create memories. Think about it: Do you remember what type of shoes you wore as a 10-year-old, or do you remember the vacation you went on as a 10-year-old? Spending quality time with my family is more important than any tangible item.
Family Stats: a devoted husband and stay-at-home-dad (SAHD) of two young daughters; based in Northern California
What does modern fatherhood look like to you? Society, as a whole, is gradually relaxing its tight restrictions on perceived gender roles—as well as beginning to understand the significance of, and the importance of supporting, parents—and so, for instance, women can be free to pursue interests and passions beyond the role of mother at home. Conversely, men are stepping up as nurturing, active and involved fathers, and the stigma of dad being solely an emotionally unavailable earner, at best, and an incompetent dolt, at worst, is lifting. I’m not sure, but Father’s Day in this day and age may be trending toward more enlightened and purposeful gift giving.
How did your family celebrate Father’s Day as a kid? I was an ’80s child of less-than-amicably divorced parents and only got to see my own father on select weekends and major holidays. I don’t remember Father’s Day being particularly significant in my youth. I don’t know if the cards I drew for him in school, or the poems I’d write, ever made it in front of him. My father passed away too young for me to champion him on his day as an adult. A great deal of my own passion for all things fatherhood stems from this place of regret and loss in my own life. I get to live a father-full life vicariously through my own children. I get to establish epic family traditions like Father’s Day trips to our family cabin.
Tell us about a Father’s Day gift that won you over. Hands down (pun intended) the greatest Father’s Day gift I’ve ever received is my prized handprint and footprint plaque of my firstborn’s little digits. It hangs in my home office as a daily reminder of the journey we are on as a family—how far we’ve come and how much we’ve grown.
Any pro tips for Father’s Day shopping? I’m a sentimental dad, so the old cliché holds true for me: My children are my greatest gift. I do, however, enjoy thoughtful surprises, so if the gift is more material, I appreciate inspired creativity and something that shows a true understanding of who I am as a man and a father.
Who He Is: writer and co-founder of 8bitdad.com
Family Stats: married 10 years; father to a 7-year-old son; based in Southern California
How is Father’s Day different than it was in your dad’s day? I think that we’re a lot more willing to let men have emotions nowadays, so we no longer only see commercials where a son gets his dad a torque wrench as a gift [for Father’s Day]. We’re seeing more card commercials focusing on dads. More tears, more emotions. It’s great. Plus, fathers are more active these days, and two big segments of fathers are on the rise – gay fathers and single fathers. So more households are looking at fatherhood in a new way.
How did you honor your own dad back in the day? I remember I made a mobile in school one year. It had coffee can lids on it with pictures I drew for my dad. I mean, it was garbage. But my dad hung it up, and I seem to remember seeing it in his room for years. I don’t know if he loved it or hung it up as a warning to me to not make him another.
What is the greatest Father’s Day gift you’ve ever received? One year, my wife and son made me a photo mug with pictures of my son and me on it. I love it. Whenever I have my coffee, I get to look at old photos of him.
What do you hope to receive this year? Honestly, I have no lofty dreams of gifts. I look forward to my son crawling in bed in the morning and saying, “Happy Father’s Day.” That’s always my dream gift.
An editor and moonlight freelancer, Erica Curran has written about everything from moonshine and fried chicken to travel and history. She’s been published in the Washington Post, Paste and Culture, and she also provides commentary on consumer tech, lifestyle and family for eBay. Based in Richmond, Virginia, Erica and her husband are expecting their first child in the fall and will be celebrating their first Father’s Day in 2017.
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