Father's Day cards - Grant Bierman - http://www.flickr.com/photos/joe_chaos/

Father’s Day – Whose day is it anyway?

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.

Man with tie-dye tie. Daniel Gies.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)**.

Best toy in the house...

Best toy in the house…

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.

Getting in some 'big brother' practice.

Getting in some ‘big brother’ practice.

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)



  1. Mari Booker

    Good comments Graham.
    I take very little notice of this highly commercial, capitalist invention of Fathers’ Day.
    Note where I have put the apostrophe. Is it a day for one father or many?

    My dad died many decades ago and he would have hated this ridiculous made up day.

    Delightful to see the photograph of your son cradling a bay doll.

  2. Laura

    Thank you for this perspective !
    Today my hubby is returning from a mates wedding which I didn’t fancy going (2nd wedding for him
    Liked No1 not met No2) so I am chilling out with the kids waiting for his return later waiting for my mum to call me up speak to my own father (whom I saw yesterday when I spent 4 hours driving to collect them from a cruise and whom I will see on Tuesday when I take him and my mum to his sisters funeral involving lots of driving and a overnight in a hotel) because it’s “tradition” – what shows you love your father more – a card and another mug/golf ball/tie or giving up your precious free time to be their taxi driver!!!!!!

  3. Grace

    We went as a family down to Saltburn-by-the-Sea for a picnic and for some chips, had a walk along the pier, and looked at the “mystery knitters” handywork and had a nice stroll and went up into the town and went to a traditional sweetshop. I think he enjoyed his day out more than the presents and cards (he liked those too though). It’s great to have days out like these and do wish sometimes the cards were less stereotypical; I got him a one with a joke about Whiskey on it because we both like Whiskey (what do I care if that’s not a “womens’ drink”? I like what I like.) Memory making Fathers days are always better than lazy ones.

  4. Clarice

    Why should you show you love for your dad on a particular day rather than another anyway?

    I cant stand the thought that all fathers day cards have to have some kind of sport, slippers, beer or boating pictures on the front. Likewise mothers days includes flowers or fluffy animals.
    My Dad and my OH got a big box of (ooh, not too ‘girly’ here are we?) chocolates and a curry.
    On mothers day I got a big box of Lego city. No pink whatsoever. Bliss.
    As the mum of twin boys I let them play with what they want but already peer pressure at school dictates that guns are boys stuff and unicorns are for girls! GRRR!!

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