My dad has a standard answer whenever we ask what he wants for a special occasion like Father’s Day.
It always starts with “nuthin’, I have everything I need,” and ends with (after additional prodding) “OK, socks and underwear.”
As a child I couldn’t think of anything more boring. As an adult and a parent myself now, I can appreciate the idea that banging on all cylinders at all times means there’s no time to shop or fret about holes in inopportune places. Toss in the horror that is laundry, and it’s easy to see why being presented with, say, a month’s worth of fresh, unscathed skivvies is an unmitigated luxury.
Nowadays, there are a million “unique” gift ideas out there for dads, most of which seem related to the three Gs of fatherhood: golf, grilling and guzzling. If the dad in your life is a carnivorous alcoholic putter, then finding the perfect gift for him is a breeze. If, however, you are looking to break free from the stereotypical presents and also reject giving the predictable (and still pretty boring) gifts of socks and underwear, here are 10 original and personal ideas that don’t, in most cases, even require wrapping:
1) Assemble something for him from Ikea: While I have no recommendations necessarily for the specific furnishing (although I do love me a Billy bookcase), putting tedious shit together often tends to be the Y-chromosomal beings’ bane. My folks recently bought a cafe table, and I offered to assemble it. The bemused look on my dad’s face as I repeatedly ripped the skin from my knuckles with the cheap-o Allen wrench was worth the pain… and that I delivered a (relatively) sturdy table that he didn’t have to lift a finger to assemble was priceless.
2) Watch some boring TV with him: Every Saturday as a child I used to snuggle up with my dad and watch “Candlepins for Cash,” a local Boston show that featured people candlepin bowling (smaller balls, thinner pins, three balls per frame) to win some dough. (Side note: In researching this I found out that the guy that hosted that show was arrested on child pornography charges years later. <<shudder>>) Even as a teen, it was the perfect way to settle down for an afternoon nap. In my house, whenever CNN is blasting, I know who’s in charge of the clicker… and who is taking a nap.
3) Make him cry: Would it hurt you to learn a few chords on a guitar so you can play dad a little “Father & Son,” “Cat’s in the Cradle,” and/or my own personal favorite, “Puff the Magic Dragon“? No, but it will make your daddy bawl like a baby. And so the grasshopper learns from the master…
4) Do something about gun violence in this country: Every single one of the victims in Orlando had a dad. As did all of the people in Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara, inner cities, outer ‘burbs and rural locales all the freakin’ day long. Whether you and/or your father are gun owners is beside the point; we can all agree that America, which is “an outlier” in gun violence, needs to make some goddamn changes, NOW. Consider this statistic: for U.S. men 15 to 29, gun homicides are the third-leading cause of death, after accidents and suicides. (Source: New York Times) Give a dude (and the girls and women he loves and/or sires) a chance and at least sign a petition.
5) Get dad all riled up (best if it’s before bedtime): Consider a good old fashioned pillow fight, a homegrown WWE-esque wrestling match, a Cap’n Crunch eating contest or a rousing game of hide ‘n seek. If that doesn’t work, you could always tell him exactly how and when and to whom you lost your virginity.
6) Take a dad fishing: This can be literal, because most guys I know enjoy some form of fishing even if all that they really dig about it is hanging out and drinking beer by the water OR this can be figurative. Ask him about his parents, his childhood, his hopes and dreams; check in to see if he’s happy or if there’s something else he’d rather be doing but hasn’t quite gotten to yet. Women do this with each other all the time; men seldom get that kind of connection. And especially not from his immediate family — see if you can’t help a dad be the man he always wanted to be.
7) Cheer him on at his favorite sport, and take his performance a little too personally: What does the dad in your life like to do? Play basketball, baseball, tennis, video games even? Maybe he’s a coach, but even coaches can use cheerleaders. As a baseball and softball mom, I have a ton of experience witnessing unbelievable displays on playing fields… and I’m not talking about athletic accomplishments by the kiddos — I’m pointing to the actions of overzealous (and that’s often putting it mildly) dads. Pay it forward with all the wonderful lessons learned from youth sports and “cheer” a dad on… even if it gets you ejected from a game, embroiled in a lawsuit, given a light jail sentence and/or presented with a restraining order.
8) Kill some bugs in his honor: I don’t know WHY everyone instinctively calls for dad when there is an alarming insect to be squashed… but I can say that the rolled up newspaper technique my father taught me works beautifully when an unwieldy mosquito eater, a buzzy fly or a scary spider threatens my family.
9) Be a goof bag: Dads love goofing off. (What? I mean that as a compliment!) Even better when you goof off with him, like this:
10) Thank him for, well, everything: Because eggs can’t fertilize themselves now can they? At least not yet, anyways…
So if you see a grown man crying on Sunday, just know that sometimes the best gifts are the ones that don’t cost money. Better to hit him with a little something you sing off-key, assemble for him, squish for him, support for him… and/or just simply one you give straight up from your own sweet heart.
From one mother to another, Happy Father’s Day!