News that Sunday is Father's Day may come as a surprise to many of you. The one day a year celebrating dads sneaks up on us, while the buzz surrounding Mother's Day seems to get started as soon as the Valentine's Day celebrations have ended.
Advertisers urge you to make those Mother's Day brunch reservations before all the spots fill up. Teachers get little kids busy in April crafting special gifts for Mom out of Popsicle sticks or pipe cleaners. The hawking of manicures, pedicures, relaxing spa getaways, flowers, candy, lingerie and jewelry starts weeks before Mother's Day.
The average American will spend $119.84 on Dad this year, according to the National Retail Federation, which notes we spent $168.94 on Mother's Day last month. Dad's Day doesn't merit as much attention. June's focus is on graduations and weddings. If Dads and Grads didn't rhyme, you might not even see any advertising inserts in Sunday's papers dedicated to Father's Day and promoting discount prices on power tools, golf balls and a barbecue set that might be the same one you bought Dad last year.
As a dad, I'm not complaining. Because, as a son, I totally understand.
I love my dad and miss him every day since his death 10 years ago at age 87. But I understand why my mom, my wife and other moms get top billing. In households lucky enough to have a mom and a dad, Mom generally ranks as the Most Valuable Parent. Let's start with meals.
When I was a kid, my dad cooked only on those special occasions when Mom was called away. We watched Huckleberry Hound cartoons while Dad threw slices of bologna in a skillet and fried up some mush, which is basically a cornmeal slurry cooked in butter and salt. I labored under the impression that these meals were endorsed by "Sergeant Preston of the Yukon," an old TV show that featured a law-enforcement type who rode his dog sled everywhere and actually yelled, "Mush!" Dad also cooked most Sunday nights, when we ate meals consisting of popcorn and cold cereal.
My siblings and I have fond memories of Dad's meals, but we realize Mom was the one who kept us alive.
I cook more often and much healthier than my dad, but even that delicious chicken noodle soup I'm making remotely in the slow-cooker as I'm writing this column really isn't a meal for which I should get credit. My wife found the recipe, planned the dinner, shopped for the ingredients and set up everything for me. I chopped some carrots and dumped them in the pot.
Our older kids acknowledge that I am the parent who logged almost all those hours driving with them so they could earn their driver's licenses. They all are thankful when I mow the yard to let them sleep in on the weekend, or run to the store late at night to buy the calculator batteries they need for a test first thing in the morning. Our youngest realizes that I am the better batting-practice-pitcher parent. Our sons appreciate that I try to be a good dad. But we all know that I'm no Mom.
Their mom is the one who enrolls them for the ACTs, buys those books about colleges that change lives, signs them up for classes and camps before the deadlines, finds out if they qualify for a new cellphone, separates their whites from their darks, updates their wardrobe, restocks their hygiene necessities and knows what we are having for dinner tonight, what we are doing next weekend and where we will go on that next vacation. She even buys the card for Father's Day and gets the kids to sign it.
But many of us dads do deserve a holiday for our most significant family contribution. My dad realized, as do I, that our greatest gift to our kids as a father was getting them the right mother.