Editor’s note: This editorial, with slight revisions, has appeared on previous Father’s Days in The Advocate:
What do you get for the man who has everything?
The age-old question acquired new urgency during the past week as sons and daughters scrambled to find the right gift for Father’s Day.
Ties, tools and large history books — what the publishing industry calls “dad books” — have become the standard presents for Father’s Day. But there can be a going-through-the-mo¬tions quality to such gifts, as if they somehow seem inadequate to the cause.
We buy neckties for Dad, though he often has a closet full of them. We give him tools, though we suspect that he’ll fix what needs fixing with or without the latest power drill. We might present our father with the latest bestseller, even if we think the old man already is smart enough.
If we tend to think of our fathers as pretty much complete, perhaps it’s because we sense that fatherhood can round out a man, bringing him to the full promise of his potential.
It’s a nice theory that doesn’t always bear itself out. Fatherhood doesn’t, on its own, make a man any more virtuous or wise than any other person. We all know a lot of louts who also happen to be fathers. But fatherhood, properly embraced, can be an opportunity for mental and spiritual growth.
We live in what might well be considered the golden age of fatherhood. Men of earlier generations tended to marry and start families earlier than men now do. This social reality, coupled with increased rates of longevity, means that many families will have multiple generations of fathers around the table today — fathers, grandfathers, even great-grandfathers.
Fatherhood has serious challenges today, too. A sobering number of children are being born to mothers who have no substantial relationship with the child’s father. That has serious consequences. Children from such homes are more likely to do poorly in school and get in trouble. Society pays the cost.
Today is a good day to remember that fathers — and the larger institution of fatherhood — are not expendable.
What do you get on Father’s Day for the father who has everything?
Start by giving him your thanks.