Father’s Day – a chance to trot out a few more tired stereotypes, or a chance to do something differently? Graham Paul reflects.
I’m not all that surprised at the gender divide in kids’ toys, given the pigeonholes we adults seem to be happy to slot ourselves into. Never better demonstrated than when the big gift-pushing opportunities come round.
It’s Father’s Day, and I can’t find anything in shops that reflects my kind of fathering. I can find GPS gadgets and helmet cameras for the skydiving I can’t do with an under-16. Stylish watches seem to be heavily pushed for men of a responsible age, and aftershave. I can’t say that my toddler is remotely interested in the detail of what I wear, unless I was competing with him for “The Smartest Giant In Town” award from mummy. And by the time our kids are teenagers, whatever we throw on will by definition be tragic. Ties? This is supposed to be a day off, not a reminder of the office!
If you just look at the card racks and the “top ten gift ideas”, Father’s Day as a commercial creation seems to be full of ways to help you forget you’re a parent, whether you’re the parent of toddlers or adults*. I don’t want to forget, I want to maximise!
What I want for Father’s Day is the same as what I want for my birthdays and my Christmases: happy wife, happy child. That usually means us doing something together, something we all enjoy and can take part in, not this model of loafing/pampering which seems to characterise both Mother’s and Father’s Day. I don’t want to be parked alone on the sofa drinking beer and being TV-babysat by Eddie Jordan and David Coulthard (well, not to celebrate fatherhood anyway)**.
For most family time, our favourite choices are between making a big meal together (no parenting book warned us how endlessly fascinating a salad spinner is to a three year old), going for a sedate ride along the canal path on the bikes (mummy wobbles hilariously), or being driven round the kart track by George at soft play and then watching Toy Story with popcorn (which we’ll make together, as we always do).
As my own parents are visiting this weekend, I just have to think of something all of us enjoy doing together. That’s boy, dad, grandpa, but also mum and grandma – and since my wife is presently cooking up baby number 2, I don’t want to exclude her (or indeed the aged grandparents) from our favourite activities by choosing something she can’t do with us like an off-road bike ride.
I’ve realised as this campaign has gone on that a lot of George’s toys, other than his kitchen and his ‘baby sister’ (who he has, interestingly, decided to call Callum), generally tend towards the stereotypically boyish, and I’d like to redress the balance.
There’s a bit of an fantasy-shaped gap (go to the toy shops and you’ll find a lot of fantasy/creative/craft play is overtly or subtly directed at girls)***. But a few weeks ago I went to watch rugby at Twickenham, dressed as a lion, which was great fun (particularly as there were about 10,000 other animals in the crowd). So I’m thinking we should start a dressing- up box. We could get props (like a comedy mallet or a feather boa) and play a multi-generational ‘Whose Line is it Anyway?’.
And two out of three elements of the sit-stand-lie-down game will be perfect for my seven-month pregnant wife…!
* Mother’s Day is similar, but it at least has the pedigree of being originally Mothering Sunday, a day that workers could return to their ‘mother church’ or village and reunite with their extended families. The most you might give your mother back then was a posy of wild flowers from the verge.
** Likewise, my wife doesn’t want chocolate and a foot spa. No really, no sharp intakes of breath required, she really doesn’t.
*** We’re still delegating anything involving painting and glitter glue to the nursery school as somebody else gets to clean up afterwards.
(Tie image courtesy of Danie Gies via Flickr Creative Commons)