Father’s Day is an interesting holiday. It’s sorta the second place parent award. I mean, its not like he birthed the kid right? And typically, he’s not the parent that kids cry for when they skin their knee.
Traditionally and historically (like when I was growing up, or as my kids like to refer to it as “the olden days”) for a lot of families, I think it was an opportunity to pay an homage to the Patriarch in the family. The guy who went to work every day and brought home the bacon. They guy who played catch on the weekends, and taught his kids how to take a punch in the face like a man - or in my case ride my pink huffy bike. But that is where his importance really started and stopped.
Interestingly, and thankfully, I think this archetype has changed over the years. With the advent of the female workforce, this guy is not just the scarcely seen deep voice in the house. He is a fully functional co parent, that often times, especially in my case, cooks better than mom.
For me, Father’s Day was the only “parent day” that made sense. He wasn’t just the guy who came home from work everyday, tired and cranky. He was it. The parent. The guy who did it all. Well, tried to do it all, at least.
Sure, I have a mother. Somewhere out there. Sadly, after she divorced my dad, she became quite scarce. We saw her every other weekend. But even then she was usually drunk or obsessing over her latest toxic relationship. Or in most cases, both. But, I can’t say there was much parenting going on.
But Dad, for better or worse, he was there. Yelling usually. Making “breakfast dinners” and hoping I didn’t ask too many questions. But, he was there.
My favorite Dad moment was one night when I’m sure I was supposed to be going to bed. I think I was 9. I decided after my nightly shower that I was going to set my hair up in curlers. You know what I’m talking about, right? Those pink foamy, spongey curlers that, when used properly, give you that cute Shirley Temple do. After I clumsily twisted every last piece of my hair into the curlers, I went out into the living room to say good night to my father, and of course impress him with my newly found amazing ability to transform my look from 9 year old to Hollywood glam. He was sitting there, staring at the wall, with what in my memory was a glass of something in front of him. Perhaps it was a coke. Perhaps it was scotch. Either way, he was tense, and clearly had something on his mind. He turned to look at me, and after taking in the full view of me in my silly 9 year old night gown, and head covered in pink spongey curlers, he simply stated,”What the hell are you doing?!?!?!?”
At the time, I was pretty devastated, and well, confused. I thought it was pretty clear. I had curlers in my hair. I was trying to make my hair curly. Duh. I went to bed that night concerned Dad lacked acute vision or at least some basic action and reaction logic.
Not until a year ago, when after the 15th time of telling my kids to put on the g**d*** pajamas on and brush their teeth did I begin to understand his reaction that night.
My nightly experience usually involves sending my kids upstairs over and over again for two simple tasks: put on your pjs and brush your teeth. First, they come down in just their under ware and still wet. They come down again, with their pajamas in their hands, not on, also still wet. They come down with legos, and a story about what they created with the legos, but less wet. They come down with one of their stuffies, telling me they just realized they need one last stuffy to complete the “special stuffy collection.” They come down with one of the dogs on a leash. Still no pajamas on, which is weird because just a minute ago they had them in their hands. And also, as a side note, why do dogs need a leash on in the house? They will come down with socks and under ware on - still no pajamas. Finally, they come down with pajamas and yellow teeth.
One night when my Dad was sitting next to me at the kitchen table, and after my 9th or so request of my kids, I had a flash of the pink curlers. I looked at him, and I had to tell him, “Finally, I get it.”
As I recounted the story, we both laughed hysterically. I think he was even close to crying from the laughter, his face completely red and pinched. If my kids had come down with a head full of pink curlers, I might have lost all composure myself. While he had no memory of the encounter, I had to let him know, experience has given me perspective. Had I been him, sitting in that chair, staring at the wall, drinking what was hopefully a glass of scotch, I’m pretty sure I would have said the same thing.
So, Happy Father’s Day to a man who had no idea what he was doing. But thankfully, and surprisingly, we both made it out alive. And we can still chuckle about it, over a glass of ambiguously brown liquid.