Silly Holidays

Today, I am told, is the day my wife and children should give me extra attention. I and my siblings, meanwhile, are supposed to lavish my own father with praise and gifts in one big pyramid scheme of patriarchy. We're not doing that. I think Father's Day is stupid.

I don't think Mother's Day is great shakes, either, but having observed two births I can report that the most fundamental aspects of motherhood are at least physically demanding. The most fundamental aspect of fatherhood might leave a guy short of breath, but I can't say that it's demanding.

I know, I know: Father's Day isn't about the guys who contribute a bit of genetic material once and move on; it's about the guys who stay and contribute to the lives of their children (whether their children have the father's bit of genetic material or not). Fair enough.

I guess that kind of fatherhood is laudable and all, and it's the kind of fatherhood I try to practice, but in this day and age it's pretty much what we signed up for, isn't it? There're plenty of politicians seeking to draft women into motherhood by restricting their ability to control their own bodies, but us men aren't involuntary draftees into fatherhood. Oh, there are irresponsible men who may claim (rightly or wrongly) that they were duped into conception, but we all know how conception works. We know how we become fathers. We're volunteers in a very human and normal relationship.

As volunteers, I don't see how we deserve a holiday for doing our duty. My own relationship as a father to my children has cost me plenty. Absent my children, there are precisely zero circumstances where I would have set an alarm to wake up early on a Saturday morning to head out for some youth soccer game. I've cleaned substances expelled from my own children I would rather not think about. I've written check after check paying for all sorts of things I never would have dreamed existed but that I was told at the time were non-optional. The hardest part of fatherhood for me so far was making myself let my children fail in small, mostly harmless ways while they were young so that they could learn both bravery and caution before they were grown. These are the costs of the relationship.

I didn't really understand everything I was signing up for when my wife and I decided parenthood was something we should do, but I did understand that I was signing up for a long and hard tour of duty. My kids don't really owe me anything for doing that duty to the best of my ability. My wife and I are the ones who summoned them into existence without their consent in the matter. That's the only way any of us get here, I know, but it's not like any of us had the opportunity to consent to our existence beforehand. My relationship with those now mostly grown people we created has enriched my life immensely, so I don't see why they should have to render a ritual sacrifice to me once a year.

I've tried to provide a foundation to my children that enables them to make their own lives meaningful to them. As they've grown, I've tried to point them to the best of the world while also protecting them from the worst of the world with brash assertiveness and quiet wisdom. None of that merits me a medal or one of those silly cards stores try to sell for the occasion. I'm just doing the duty I signed up for.