What Dads Want for Father’s Day

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Photo by Tuzemka/Shutterstock

At the church service on Mother’s Day, the pastor turned around from the altar and smiled. He looked out into the congregation and welcomed the parishioners. 

“The church on Mother’s Day is always extra crowded, whereas come Father’s Day, the church is half full. This is because mothers say, ‘Oh, I want to go to church with my family.’ However, when Father’s Day rolls around, dads want to go fishing.” Everyone laughed, including me, even though I don’t fish.

My 12-year-old daughter, Jessie, turns 13 in a few months. How is it possible for this to be my last Father’s Day with a tween daughter? How in the world did the baby I rocked in my arms in our blue La-Z-Boy grow taller than her mother? 

As I ponder the changes past and the changes yet to come, I gave thought to what dads want. Father’s Day is right around the corner. Is it time for me to take up fishing? 

I’m not just any dad. I had a successful 20-year career in banking, accounting and auditing. I remember the breadwinner stresses — going to work before sunrise, drinking too much coffee and soda, sleeping way too few hours. Heck, one time I dressed in the dark, trying not to wake up my wife, and ended up at a one-day conference wearing one black shoe and one brown shoe.

Then, after almost 20 years of marriage, at the youthful age of 44, I became a father. Goodbye suits, ties and brief case. Hello, apron, vacuum cleaner and dust cloth. Instead of conversing with colleagues at the water cooler, my communication took place with a baby and my friend, Shout, in the laundry room. So, who better to pull together a list of what dads want for Father’s Day than someone who has been on both sides of the fence — the hard-working breadwinner and the 24/7 stay-at-home parent who’s gone through the baby, toddler, little girl and tween years? This is not going to be the normal list of gifts, like a snazzy tie or cotton socks.

But before I list the five items that made the final cut, here were a few contenders, especially pertinent to the older tween, and my guess, teenagers.

  • To see Jessie’s furniture in her bedroom. At least, I think there’s still furniture underneath the clutter in her room.
  • To regain control of the car radio station for the day. Somehow, Jessie has appointed herself “Dictator of the Radio.” This is not a good thing and the situation is magnified by Jessie’s choice of music. I miss Barry Manilow and Air Supply.
  • To get a good deal on a cellendectomy. I pray never to lose my daughter, but if she would get lost in a crowd, or the clutter in her room, I only need to call her cell phone.

OK, all joking aside, here’s my top five list of gifts that dads would enjoy on Father’s Day. A 55-inch flat screen television! Nah, I don’t want to start my list with a big, tangible, impersonal item. Let’s start over. 

  • The gift of food. For my birthday and special occasions, Jessie and my wife make me a Jell-O cake with the most delicious of frostings, a mixture of powdered sugar and Cool Whip. Please note that Dad shouldn’t have to help clean the kitchen if a flour, sugar and egg slime tornado hits.
  • The gift of peace. Let’s face it, whether dad works from home or his job takes him outside the house, fathers deserve (and need) a little peace and quiet. Some fathers might find it out on a lake holding a fishing rod, while others rejuvenate in a church pew during a Sunday morning service. And then there are some fathers who simply enjoy kicking back on the sofa in front of their new 55-inch flat screen TV. A quiet block of time for a nap fits nicely here, too.
  • The gift of time. We are all faced with limited time, our most precious resource. I think everyone struggles with how they balance their time between family, work and other commitments. I miss the days when Jessie and I colored together, did puzzles and had picnics any place a blanket could be tossed. I’d turn off a 55-inch TV to have her squeeze into the La-Z-Boy with me to read her books like I used to. Fellow men, don’t think less of me, but I miss reading Fancy Nancy.
  • The gift of love. We all need love. Dads enjoy when their efforts and the sacrifices they make for their family are appreciated. “Thank you” means a lot. Communicating respect and words that reflect love and admiration go a long way.
  • The gift already delivered. My best gift was already delivered … and not from Amazon. No gift, not even a 55-inch flat screen TV, will provide this dad with greater joy than the one I unwrapped to change a dirty diaper almost 13 years ago. That gift makes me want to work harder and to be not just a good role model for her, but also a better man and husband. 

My family doesn’t watch a lot of TV, but we catch a few select shows and I like my college football. Jessie, the dancer in the family, jumps off the sofa and performs impromptu dances during Dancing with the Stars. Her dances fill my heart with joy and my eyes with moisture. Jessie is happy and healthy. She sings and dances. Her self-esteem is high. Isn’t that what all dads want for their children? Even more than going fishing or a new 55-inch TV.


Patrick Hempfing is a former CPA turned stay-at-home dad who writes the self-syndicated column, “MoMENts,” about the joys and challenges of parenthood. He closes each column with the reminder to cherish the moments. His book, MoMENts: A Dad Holds On, is a compilation of his tender, humorous columns and new material. Learn more at patrickhempfing.com.


Categories: Dads, Family, Parenting, Relationships