Of all the “it’s not really a holiday because nobody really does anything on Sunday anyway” holidays, Father’s Day is easily my least favorite. Always has been.
First of all, fathers are not, in general, an underappreciated group. We’re just not. Fathers tend to get enthusiastic praise for doing anything family related. A mother can spend all day working on a million projects for her family without so much as a thank you; a father need only walk in the door to get greeted with cheers and hugs. That’s not always how it works, but it’s a generalization I don’t mind making.
Father’s Day also has a history (perhaps in general, but also from my personal perspective) of being the day where the gifts kind of fizzle. I’m speaking mostly from the gifts my siblings and I would give to my dad. I don’t remember too many great ones. I do remember giving him a magnifying glass once. Ties. Mugs. A mug tree. The presents my dad liked best were the ones he got for himself . . . in April.
I’m not going to complain about Father’s Day presents I’ve received, because, as I said, it’s not like I think the occasion calls for outrageous recognition. If I get nothing but “it’s the thought that counts” presents, I’m spoiled.
But here’s my real issue with Father’s Day: if you grow up going to church, you hear all about how fathers are supposed to give children an image of who God is. Well, they might as well call this holiday Not Even Close Day, because the godliest man in the world is never going to be godlike. And there are a lot of great dads out there (my dad being one of them), but they’re all full of weaknesses.
And nobody knows a father’s weaknesses like his kid. I mean, that’s a kid’s job, to learn his parents’ weaknesses. That’s how they learn to push our buttons. Love us as they may, kids learn how to manipulate our weaknesses from birth. I’m not kidding. That’s the first lesson any kid completes in life—before learning how to eat, learning how to poop, or learning how to sleep, newborn babies learn how to get their parents to take care of business. They are natural born button pushers.
All that to say, kids know their parents’ weaknesses. So this notion that a father is supposed to represent a child’s image of who God is . . . it’s hopeless. We do what we can. We teach love. We teach strength. We teach some concept of right, wrong, discipline, and grace. But mostly we teach kids that we’re all kind of kidding ourselves. And we teach them to be okay with that.
We cheer for them when they have a semi-okay game of baseball, and they cheer for us when we show up in time for dinner. We give them cheap trophies. They give us homemade ties. We all pretend to be thrilled with it all. We know we haven’t done much worthy of celebrating. But it’s nice to be recognized for more or less trying our best.