When Father’s Day rolls around I find myself being included in the idea of “Father” as reflected in the popular–and consumer–culture. As evidenced in the flood of ad circulars and TV spots, Father is the guy who, on the third Sunday in June, might expect a new drill or grill, or a putter, a barbecue apron, or a tie, or a bottle of 12-year old scotch. He might be heading out to the golf course, or lying on the couch watching the U.S. Open Golf tournament, or sleeping in his new hammock in the backyard–all guilt-free.
Any of those sound fine to me, though I might prefer a good book and time to read it, or a CD that would expand my shrinking exposure to new music. Most of all, I want to spend some time with my sons.
Teaching Our Children
Despite the commercialization of the holiday, I do find myself reflecting on the meaning of fatherhood. I think about my relationship with my late father and with my boys. What did my father teach me? What have I taught my sons?
I came across an article in a popular do-it-yourself magazine from a few years ago: 100 Skills Every Man Should Know. What guy wouldn’t feel the need to check it out? And what father wouldn’t want to make sure he imparted these skills to his sons, or at least made them aware of the necessity of learning them?
I read the list. It’s a good list. Helpful stuff in a variety of categories: Jump start a car, fix a leaky faucet, iron a shirt, prune trees, build a fire…even change a diaper. Things take a more disciplined turn with: make a drum-tight bed, and drop and give the perfect pushup. And then more serious with: perform CPR, escape a rip current, find potable water, and shoot straight. And then deadly serious with surviving extremes: cold, heat, lightning, floods and tornadoes.
I found many similar lists on the internet. Evidently, lots of manly stuff needs to be learned and imparted. How to throw a punch, make three different bets at a crap table, skin a moose, get bigger biceps, be popular in bars, unhook a bra with one hand…
Clearly I have work to do–not across the board, but in certain areas I choose not to specify. And of course there are things on these lists that my boys will have to find someone else who can teach them, or, on whom they can practice.
But one important skill is missing from every list I checked: How to participate in democracy. Nothing about how to write a letter or call your Senator. How to start a petition. How to organize over an important issue. How to peacefully protest. How to cooperate to effect change. Nothing about registering to vote, or voting.
So Dads, this Fathers’ Day, if you reflect on which do-it-yourself skills and survival lessons you need to teach your kids, make sure that you include the ultimate do-it-ourselves skill: democracy. And what better way to start than by showing your kid(s) how you’ll go about signing Moms Clean Air Force’s petition aimed at protecting our right to breathe clean air–a great survival lesson.
You may not even have to leave your hammock.
Happy Father’s Day!