Monday, June 21, 2010

Coffee Tastes Better in a #1 DAD Mug

One of the best things about becoming a dad is Father’s Day. When you’re a little kid, Father’s Day is about making a card out of construction paper and giving your father a really ugly tie. As you get older, you buy the card and try to show Dad you appreciate him by not asking for money or playing your music too loud for a whole day. After you leave home, you mail the card and make a phone call to tell him that you love him (although, admittedly, I have to confess that I sometimes forget to mail the card--sorry, Dad).

That’s if you’re fortunate and still have your dad. For some, Father’s Day involves laying a flower on a departed father’s grave site or thinking about the dad they never knew because he just wasn’t around.

Regardless of one's past experiences, Father’s Day becomes very special for a guy once he has kids. Now he’s the receiver as well as the giver. He’s the one who gets to drink out of a mug that reads #1 DAD. It’s up to him to look at a pre-K finger painting and decipher if it’s a picture of himself, himself with his child, or the Blob attempting to eat a rabid chimpanzee. Best of all, he’s the one who receives the big hugs and gets to hear, “Happy Father’s Day, Daddy. I love you.”

One of my favorite traditions for Father’s Day is when my kids give me their gifts. I love it because they actually pick the gifts out themselves. Every year on gift-giving holidays, Meredith takes the kids to the dollar store or some other relatively inexpensive retail spot and lets them each pick out what they want to give Dad. Since the kids get to pick the gifts on their own, it’s always interesting to see what I’ll get. In my six plus years as a father, I’ve received multiple coffee mugs, pens, pencils, hi-liters, tape, and one bag of stickers. I’ve also covered my office in numerous, hand-drawn Father’s Day cards.

A couple of years ago, my daughter bought me a Spider-Man action figure complete with motorcycle because she remembered me saying that I liked Spider-Man as a kid. I have to admit, it was fun playing with it.

That’s one of the great things about being a father; you get to play with toys again without people thinking you need psychiatric help. Folks see you on the floor playing with an action figure or Hot Wheels cars, and they assume you’re just doing it to entertain the kids. They don’t realize that you’ve forgotten all about the children as you focus on your Lincoln Logs tower or build your army fort. As a dad, you know you’ve crossed the thin line between interactive parenthood and childhood digression when you find yourself getting angry at a child for presumptuously adding an unauthorized Lego to the wall you were constructing or rearranging the toy cars you just spent ten minutes organizing according to model and imaginary horsepower.

The catch is to make sure the kids don’t slip out of the room unnoticed while you’re busy making the world’s tallest building or flying the Millennium Falcon. Few things concern a wife more than the sight of her husband sitting on the floor of the living room alone, simulating crashing sounds as he flies toy planes into each other. When my wife noticed that I was still playing with my Spider-Man motorcycle ten minutes after all the children had left to play outside, she got a little worried. As a result, she established two new rules: No toys for Daddy on Father’s Day, and always keep a professional therapist on speed dial.

Eventually, I made William the official caretaker of my Spider-Man. But, occasionally, if I happen to notice it, I’ll give the Spider-cycle a spin and think, “Now that’s pretty cool.”

As for this year, well, it was special as usual. The kids showered me with hand-crafted gifts. My daughter, Emerson, even took the time to make a huge banner that read “Happy Father’s Day” and tied it to the upstairs banister. Overall, it was a great day. It reinforced what I already knew: Of all the roles I play in life and all the responsibilities I carry, there are none more special to me than those that accompany fatherhood. Make no mistake, coffee just taste better in a #1 DAD mug.

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