Begrudgingly, I accepted this was my selection to choose from and started scanning the cards. If you eliminate the cards that reference taking a nap and/or controlling the remote, having the perfect golf game, beer or power tools, you are left with only a handful of cards. Then there are a couple of cards with heart-felt poems that act like you haven’t spoken to your father in a year and even if you have talked to him, you don’t talk to him in this way. So remove the poems with phrases that you would never say and I was left with a couple of lone stragglers. The picture above it the one I chose – a piece of toast with a smile on it, inside it says “A toast to you on Father’s Day!” It’s silly, but will bring a smile to my dad’s face because he has a piece of toast every morning. It’s a stretch I know, but it was between that and a goofy picture of an old man in front of a dam, inside it read “This is the best dam Father’s Day card you’ll get.” Clearly you can see I was grasping at straws. Don’t we owe more to our Dads on Father’s Day than a lame card with a message that doesn’t even come close to saying what you want to say?
It’s interesting that this experience came on the heels of last week’s blog about feelings. Is it possible that there are so few cards because culturally it’s difficult to express our feelings for our fathers in an acceptable way? In fairness, most of our father’s grew up in a very different time. Phrases like “be a man” and “toughen up” were the norm. Men were taught that they needed to provide for their families and your work defined you as a man. Talking about feelings was not normal. Emotional Intelligence was not a thing that was discussed around the dinner table. As a result, most men of their generation grew up tough and stoic versus soft and emotional. It’s no wonder that the card companies struggle to come up with cards that say what we want to say to our dads.
It also makes me think about how we can do things different with our boys. For many of us, our default is to parrot the phrases we’ve heard all our lives, including “boys don’t cry”. It’s easy to think that once our sons have reached a certain age, they need to toughen up. But do they really? Instead I think that we need to do a better job giving our sons the words to describe how they are feeling. In February, I wrote about an online class I took hosted by Brene’ Brown around how to help your kids define, describe and understand different emotions. These conversations with our kids are so important. In the beginning, it may be difficult for us to explain the difference between sadness and disappointment or frustrated and angry. But until we start talking openly about our emotions with our kids, especially with our boys, they won’t understand either. They will be left to create their own definition.
Like all kids, my son has his moments of acting out. Over the last couple years, I’ve started to ask deeper questions as to why he is upset, most of the time his answer is “I don’t know”. I suggest “are you mad because I said no to this earlier?” Or “are you sad that we are going to have to leave in a little while and you don’t want to?” Or “are you angry at me or are you angry at your sister because you don’t think she wasn’t playing the game fairly?” Sometimes he will admit to feeling something I’ve suggested. Sometimes it could be hours later, he’ll bring up the situation and say, the reason I was mad was because of this reason, not that. Then we have a conversation about it, digging deeper into the emotion he was having on the surface, to identify the root of the problem. Helping our kids, especially out boys, get in touch with their emotions to the point where they can talk about them is our responsibility in raising compassionate human citizens.
This year more than ever, I realize that choosing a Father’s Day card, no matter how terrible I think they are, is a blessing. We shouldn’t be waiting to find the perfect card to tell these amazing men in our lives how we feel one day out of the year. It may be hard to put how you feel into words, but if that’s the case, then let your actions speak for themselves. I will keep it simple and raise my glass to toast all the best dam dads out there reading this, Happy Father’s Day!
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