I DIDN'T want my kids to call me Dad. I wanted to be Pat, that’s my name, it’s me. I didn’t want this other character – Dad – to come along and wipe me out. Dad was my father, he wore a shirt and tie every day into his 80s and acted like a responsible member of society.
I didn’t want any of that growing up, especially the shirt and tie, he must have been roasting in the summer. Anyway, my kids call me Dad. It’s not that I changed my mind. It’s just that my kids wanted to call me Dad from a young age, and I was too tired to stop them.
Father’s Day is an annual reminder that I’m not Pat any more. Or at least, not just Pat any more. The presents I could probably do without - I just looked at the Aldi booklet there for Father’s Day, and it looks like I’ll be getting a box of Heroes and a nose-hair trimmer this year. What middle-aged man doesn’t want to be reminded that he’s starting to go a bit Yeti in the nose and ear department? As for the Heroes, I’ll be lucky to see two of them.
But my kids will make me a card each and say nice things about me. With any luck, my daughter will write me a poem. The two of them might make a silly paper hat as well, and there will probably be a box of custard slices produced from somewhere. (I like a custard slice.) The presents will come out, I’ll say ‘ooh a nose hair trimmer, just what I always wanted’, and they’ll laugh their heads off because they are in on the joke as well.
Then they’ll probably ask if they can watch Super Mario on YouTube and that will be the end of Father’s Day for another year. Is it a waste of time? Are we just being led by Hallmark and other people who want to flog us cards? Not really. I get more than a custard slice out of Father’s Day.
For one thing it creates a bit of a buzz around the house. If I’ve learned one thing from the lockdown it’s that kids need something to look forward to. They live from occasion to occasion. The best home-schooling they can get in maths is counting the number of sleeps to their next birthday.
But Father’s, and Mother’s, Day are more than just an arbitrary box on the calendar. They are also a reminder that you are part of a family - you might not be a father, but you had one at some stage and, for better or worse, he’ll always occupy a place in your heart.
I think about my own father a lot now, even though he died in 2005. I appreciate now that the shirt and tie every day was just what men wore back then – I’m quite like my own Dad, it ‘s just the clothes have changed since the mid-80s. (This is a good thing.) My Dad was kind and patient and funny in an understated way. Even though I was too up myself to realise it at the time, he was showing me how to be a father. A little bit of me thinks about him every time one of the kids calls me Dad. I’m proud to be named after him, in that regard.
And I’m more than happy to go through the silly presents and custard slice on Father’s Day. (By the way, if my wife is reading this, in case you haven’t picked it up already, I’d like a custard slice for Father’s Day.) The annual ritual is a reminder of who I am and that I have a job to do. My kids are watching my every move, looking for an example to follow, just as I did sub-consciously with my own Dad.
I’m delighted that I’m their father. I’m delighted they call me Dad. And who knows what they’ll be calling me in 10 years time?