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Challenge: What Do Fathers Do Best?

What do I want for Fathers Day?

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How tired are my wife kids of my saying there is nothing I want for Fathers Day this year. It's the same every year.

As a father we all pretty much are no longer slaves to fashion and may have long given up the regular sporting activities of those days pre-dating kids. So that pretty much narrows the range of gift giving.

Fathers don’t even rate their own holiday. Oh, sure, it says Fathers Day on the calendar. But, it’s always “Dads and Grads” in the sales ads. This is not surprising. Always go to the capitalist free market to find your true worth in the scheme of things. 43% fewer phone calls are made on Fathers Day than on Mothers Day. Fewer cards are sold. Fewer restaurant reservations are made. Note the irony that you have to add your kids who are graduating to your big day to even make it a worthwhile weekend sales event.

And why the charade anyway? You know it is ever-reliable Mom who is doing the actual shopping and wrapping of Fathers Day presents. (Add THAT chore to the litany of why she is constantly tired.)Even when your kids are old enough or the Xbox360 is broken so they actually have four and half seconds to think of someone else in the world, they end up borrowing your car and burning your gas to buy you a present. And who gives them the money in the first place? Fathers Day is a zero sum proposition for the Old Man. You get the presents that you paid for.

However, despite all that, when recently asked at my nephew's wedding to write a note to the bride and groom sharing what makes a successful marriage I wrote only two words-- sublime surrender. By this I meant, surrender yourselves to each other and you will find depths of trust and love that will sustain you through the good times and the bad. The same goes, I have learned, for fatherhood. Surrendering oneself willingly and completely to your children creates the same kind of depth in the relationship you build with your kids. A deep relationship that will sustain them through the good and bad times that being a child growing to adulthood they will undoubtedly face.

The main currencies of sublime surrender are time and simplicity. Spend time with your children in simple ways and the investment pays off for many years. It doesn't have to be Disneyland and ice cream cones all the time. Just be willing to get the knees of your pants dirty by rolling around in the grass with them.

I have the perfect example of this. About ten years ago I set up a big tent in our back yard at the beginning of summer. My son and his friends asked for a sleep over. When they had set themselves up in the tent I overheard my son, lying on his back on his sleeping bag with his hands behind his head say to his friend, “This is the best weekend of my life!”I was both touched and bothered.Touched because to hear this is the goal of parents in creating enduring memories for their children.Bothered because I just got the credit card statement for our spring break skiing vacation.I spent one-twentieth as much for the tent and put in far less hours and yet didn’t hear anything endearing all week except “Taylor snores when she sleeps.”I had forgotten the foremost Dad rule:Keep it simple.

The time we spend with our kids will one day become precious keepsakes they will save in their memory treasure chests. They'll be taken out from time to time, reflected upon and cherished as they remember the gifts of time, love and attention showered upon them by their father. They will hear your voice, feel your hugs, and have your example to help them on the path to good lives they will want to lead. I know this to be true because to this day and almost every day since my father died over forty years ago, I take out the keepsakes he gave me. They always bring a smile and, what’s more important, they teach me how I should treat my children to help them find their way in the world- as he helped me find mine.

My keepsakes are the mirror image of their memories- their childhood seen through my eyes. And now, as the kids have grown and are planning to go their own ways, the house is eerily empty and all too quiet. I retreat to my memory treasure chest and hold those keepsakes in my mind's eye and unwrap those precious Fathers Days presents again and again. You need never ask me what I want for Father’s Day.


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