Friday 23 March 2018

Father's Day: An Irish dad on what he REALLY wants tomorrow

Forget slippers, wallets, mugs, and aftershave. Dave Robbins says there's only one thing he wants this Father's Day

The best things in life are free: Dave Robbins with his daughter Grace who often makes her dad gifts for Father's Day. Photo: Mark Condren
The best things in life are free: Dave Robbins with his daughter Grace who often makes her dad gifts for Father's Day. Photo: Mark Condren
A popular Father's Day gift: A tin of paint from a not-so-subtle wife.
Dave Robbins

Dave Robbins

Cosmetics brand Dove has done a video montage of the moment men found out they were going to become dads.

People are sharing dad stories on Facebook and Twitter. And Dunnes Stores has 20pc off selected sportswear. Yes, when sentimentality and commerce collide, there can be only one explanation: it's Father's Day.

Since about 1910, the third Sunday in June has been the day when dads get a mug or a hand-smudged card from their kids and a wry look from their wives.

As with many occasions combining schmaltz and special offers, Father's Day is an American invention. There's some dispute as to who first came up with the idea, but the smart money is on a bunch of Methodists in West Virginia who celebrated fatherhood on July 5, 1908.

Thereafter, there were several attempts to have the day enshrined in law. A Bill went before the US Congress in 1913, but there were worries that the whole thing would become too commercialised. (Note: the Hallmark Card Company was founded in 1910. Coincidence? I think not.)

Father's Day was made a public holiday in the US in 1972 by Richard Nixon. It's not a public holiday in Ireland, and in fact the whole idea of making a fuss of the auld fella was slow to catch on here.

Father's Day was really a reaction to Mother's Day. Those same Methodists were behind Mother's Day too, kicking it off in 1905. It was declared a public holiday in the US in 1908, a whole 64 years before the dads were officially recognised.

We fathers have been lagging behind in other ways too. Last year, the spend in the US on Mother's Day was $21bn (€18.6bn), but only $13bn (€11.5bn) on Father's Day.

Mums can expect a gift worth $173 (€153.5), while the average spend on dads is $116 (€102). Retail Ireland does not track spending in Ireland for Father's Day. "It's pretty niche," says director Thomas Burke.

Anecdotal evidence suggests a much lower spend here. Dads I spoke to mentioned ties, mugs or "something hand-made", which may or may not have been a "statue" of her dad made by a six-year-old out of Play-Doh.

Getting the perfect present for fathers is no easy matter. Despite the best intentions of children, it usually falls to the wife/spouse/significant other to choose and buy the gift. And that is where the problems begin.

Some mothers, harbouring memories of the last-minute, petrol station forecourt bunch of flowers they received for Mother's Day last time, are bent on revenge. The partners of these women can expect to receive novelty socks.

Others can't help making their Father's Day present into a commentary on the state of their relationship. If you're married to one of these women, get ready to receive a book entitled something along the lines of How to Be a Better Dad, Better Lover and Better All Round Guy.

There are women too who see Father's Day as a chance to drop heavy hints about jobs they want done about the house. They tend to buy DIY items - a drill, say, and a post-it note saying "Perfect for fixing the kitchen shelf I've mentioned several times", or tin of Farrow and Ball paint and a card that says simply "Bathroom".

Several dads I spoke to confirmed the "heavy hint" style of present: the nose-hair trimmer, the gym voucher, the BBQ tongs. "Here," these presents say, "be the man I want you to be."

In our household, there has always been an unspoken opposition to so-called "Hallmark Holidays": phoney events and celebrations that were more or less invented by the retail industry.

"No fuss, now," we will say to each other. "It's really a way of cashing in on society's reverence for mums/dads." But secretly, we both want a little fuss. In fact, we have the perfect arrangement. We give out, and then we give in.

In the past few years, my wife and daughter have come up with some beauties: a card so covered in sparkles and stick-on 'jewels' that I could hardly lift it; a photo of our dog in a gilt frame (I am at best ambivalent about the dog) and a variety of 'best dad ever' merchandise.

Last year, I was slightly thrown by my present. It was (another) home-made card with two hug vouchers inside.

This was either a cunningly cheapskate present or a touching token of affection. I'm still not sure. There was something about my wife's smirk when I opened it.

Most years, I get something that my daughter and my wife think I ought to like, something that aligns with their idea of how I should be. Unfortunately, that is not quite consistent with the actualité.

They get me clothes they think I ought to wear or a book I ought to read or vouchers for an activity (yoga, or Pilates) that I ought to take up.

Forget about slippers, wallets, bathrobes and aftershave. Dismiss from your mind the mug that reads 'I'm a Dad. What's Your Superpower?'

Banish thoughts of model classic cars and novelty paperweights.

The perfect Father's Day present is a stock of something that a man uses, or loses, a lot of. My perfect gift? A dozen golf balls.

Irish Independent

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