When I checked my email this morning, my inbox had been inundated with “Happy Father’s Day” emails. Most of them tried to sell me something, but a particular one caught my eye and made me want to write this post.
Father’s day. The day always brought inner conflict during my childhood. You see, my father passed away when I was two and I barely remember him. My pseudo-memories come from many stories my mother relentlessly told me over the years. She kept him alive for me. My own memories of him come from observation of the world he left behind.
I know of his humor and high spirits because I was privileged to have read his writing. I know of his musicality because I inherited his well-loved and played guitar. I know of his love of Japan’s rich culture and history because he left a shit-load of books on the subject, all clearly read multiple times.
During the first half of my elementary school life, I used to dread father’s day. I was the only one in class who would be making a gift without a recipient. I didn’t have any male family member who could have taken the father-figure role in my life and my mother wasn’t looking for a new husband. In fact, she never did find someone who could take my father’s place in her heart (and you wonder how I ended up writing romance, eh?).
Half way through elementary, I began to realize that the gifts we made for father’s day every year were unfair to those in the same situation as me. Not because they were gender specific or even promoted a bad habit (yep, we made ashtrays) but because they failed to acknowledge those women who have taken dual roles in their households.
The reverse happens on mother’s day, I know, but the reality is that there are way more women than men filling in both pairs of shoes in their homes.
Which brings me back to the email from this morning.
To most, it would appear very well crafted and joyful, but to me, it had an intrinsic flaw. It celebrated fathers and boasted a list of things we would not have learned without having fathers. Throw a curveball (in my case, kick a mean soccer ball), change a tire, fix things around the house, honor and ethical behavior, etc. All those things and many more, I learned from my mother.
Teaching your child life skills and how to have fun doesn’t come attached to gender. This doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate your father or the things he’s taught you, or the many amazing moments you’ve had with him. Please do. Cherish every moment—on Father’s Day or any other day—you have with him because you never know if that will be the last one.
But most of all, for all fathers and mothers out there, don’t limit the memories you can have with your child to those traditional gender-specific roles. Bend the rules. Teach your daughter to bake a cake, but also to change a tire and fix an engine. Let her use you as a make-up sampler, too for fun. Teach your son to throw a ball, but also to cook and clean up after himself. To respect others independent of their life choices. Make your children rounded individuals so they can create the same memories with their own children, thus propagating the habit. And that’s the true gift of parenthood.