Sunday is Father’s Day, which (back when you paid for long-distance) was the single biggest day of the year for collect phone calls. It’s the weekend for ugly ties, power tools, useless handkerchiefs, and terrible breakfasts made by wonderful kids.
For most males, Father’s Day is the annual mile-marker in a long, winding ride through childhood, adulthood, fatherhood, and eventually the wonderful land of grandparenting. There are always lots of twists and turns, some unexpected side trips, and you don’t always arrive at exactly the destination you intended.
But it is an amazing trip, complete with some basic “Rules of the Road” that wise fathers would do well to follow. As someone closer to the end of the journey than the beginning, I’ve taken many a wrong turn along the route. But I usually manage to find my way back onto the main avenue and still enjoy the experience.
As we head into the national holiday honoring dads, I thought it might be something of a public service to highlight and share the most basic and important rules and guidelines for fathers young and old. You certainly don’t have to follow them all, or any of them for that matter. But take it from a well-traveled dad – these can save you from piling up miles in the wrong direction.
  • Don’t expect brunch. I know, on Mother’s Day last month you couldn’t drive a mile from your house without running into a Mother’s Day brunch. And most of them were absolutely full of families celebrating the real authority figures. But you have to really search to find a Father’s Day brunch. It’s sort of like looking for a Red Sox-Yankee Unity breakfast.
  • Make sure you eat the “breakfast in bed” the kids make. You might think a bite or two of that green pancake and burnt toast will convince them you thoroughly enjoyed the meal they created with their very own hands while your domestic partner watched gleefully. But as they get older, they get harder to fool. And if you don’t choke down those culinary concoctions in full, hurt feelings will occur and grudges will be held. Trust me on this.
  • Treasure those special gifts. In the past I have written about how on my desk I have two decorated rocks – one from each son – given to me for Father’s Day back in their early school years. The painted colors have faded, a few pasted-on eyes have fallen off, and there might even be a chip or two gone from them. But for over 30 years they have been among my most prized possessions, and their value is incalculable.
  • When your sons become dads, it stops being about you. That’s neither whining nor pity, it’s just a simple acknowledgment of the truth. You love the fact they are enjoying Fatherhood, and it gives you a thrill you didn’t understand until it happened. Give them their day, let their kids treat them to all the things you enjoyed so much. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t expect them to call or send a card, but their experience is an integral part of your own.
  • Make sure you call or send a card (see last paragraph). Despite the stereotypical image given to dads over the years, we are a sensitive bunch. We might say it is OK, we understand – but we don’t. We now need you more than you need us.
  • Never complain about a gift. I am a big violator of this one. My wife once got me a toilet seat as a Father’s Day present. I have ridiculed her for decades now over that. But as she pointed out then and still says now, we needed a toilet seat back then. She’s right. And that gift has become a part of our family lore, entertaining friends and relatives. It has become one of my favorite gifts of all time.
Lastly, don’t let your pride rule. I didn’t talk to my own dad for many years, and I missed more than one Father’s Day. He’s now gone, and neither of us will ever get those back. There are no more second chances.
Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there. And safe travels.
Bill Gouveia is a local columnist, proud dad of two, and prouder grandfather of five. He can be emailed at and followed on Twitter at @Billinsidelook.