Appreciating Your Father Could Be The Best Father's Day Gift


This year I’m celebrating a quarter of a century as a dad. For most of usthere’s a lot of work, worry and wonder that goes into it.

I don’t want to be Pollyanna about it. It wasn’t all Ozzie and Harriet for me, and my kids rarely felt like Father Knows Best.

Their mother and I divorced when they were six and tenan excruciating event for all of us. There were challenges that sometimes felt insurmountable.

As parents, I feel like my ex-wife and I were more lucky than good. I’m delighted to have two thriving sons, but they could just as easily taken darker paths.

Until we have our own children, it’s virtually impossible for us to understand the debt of gratitude we owe our parents. That said, on birthdays, for Christmas and on Father’s Day, I always struggled to honor my father with some kind of gift that let him know I cared. I imagine my kids struggle with the same thing.

Gary Chapman, in his bestseller, The 5 Love Languages, writes that we give and receive love using one or more of five ways, with a focus on one or two. To paraphrase, they are (in no particular order) Expressing Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Spending Quality Time and Physical Touch.

The truth is, that in our family, "receiving gifts" has always been low on the list. Maybe that’s why none of us are great at it.

My father tried to impress this lesson on me. He wanted to be loved using his language of love (appreciation) and I wanted to express it using mine at the time (gifts).

I’ve been trying to communicate the same thing to my two sons, and they almost get it. Like me, they’ll never fully appreciate what I do for them until they have kids of their own, but they get more sensitive and aware with each passing year.

I was much older before I comprehended what Dad had taken on when he moved his office into our home when I was seven. I didn’t know that Mom had been given five years to live, and that he needed to be around.

At too early an age in his career as father, he also needed to be the caretaker of the mother of his children. I want to tell you that he bore that responsibility with so much alacrity, humility, love, honor and selflessness that, looking back now, I wish I could again thank him for his grace.

But even if your wife doesn’t have cancer, it’s freaking hard being a dad.

You’ve got to take care of your wife and make sure she knows she’s loved. You have to earn a living to support the family (in my case, I was the sole wage earner), and you have to spoil Mom, who is losing her mind all day taking care of small children.

For many of us, it’s a lot of stress. (OK, the stress is self-imposed and not necessary in theory, but in practicewell, you try it!) It’ also a lot of work, and, perhaps worst of all, often there is no time for ourselves.

So, what do you think Dad really wants for Father’s Day? To spend the allowance he gave you on something he could easily buy for himself?

I suppose if that’s your father’s love language, that might be the case. But, on balance, I’m inclined to think otherwise. I think most of us want two things:

  1. Some expression that gives us an inkling that you have some appreciation of what we do.
  2. A sense that you’re OK.

I’d be thrilled with a handwritten note, even if it’s just in pencil on a piece of lined paper ripped from your three-ringed binder. Something simple like the following could bring me to tears.

Dear Dad,

Thank you for what you do for us. Thank you for your hard work. Thank you for the home you provide for us. Thank you for taking care of Mom. Thank you for giving us a good life. Thank you for being there. I love you and I appreciate you.

Your Son

All relationships are based in communication and require introspection. That's why I support my kids (and everyone who will listen) to participate in courses like the Landmark Forum and Pathwork and to use online tools that support couples' communication like the LovePong app.