Father’s Day is what we make it

What do fathers really want?

By Morf Morford

Tacoma Daily Index

We in the United States have strange attitudes when it comes to our holidays.

Some have common and traditional ways of celebrating, others are a bit vague, if not confusing.

Have you ever noticed that Mother’s Day is usually commemorated with cards, flowers and perhaps a brunch? Father’s Day is, of course completely different.

For one thing, Father’s Day should be on a Saturday – not on a Sunday.

A Father’s Day card? No thanks.

Flowers? Nope.


To put it mildly, we see fathers very differently from how we see mothers.

Motherhood is near-sacred, sentimental and in many case, somber.

But fatherhood?

If American pop-culture is any kind of indicator, dad is a doofus.

Pick any current sitcom or movie and dad is rarely, if ever, a figure worth emulating.

From Homer Simpson to any given current big – or small screen father, dad is consistently the most clueless, last-to-know, bungler in the household.

Father knows best?

But that was not always true – at least on the small screen.

Pop culture father figure can be goofy. Or cool.

Or stern. Or wise.

In the past 60 or so years programs like “Father Knows Best” and “Leave It to Beaver” gave us models that, for whatever reason, have shifted to the far end of the wise/nitwit spectrum.

Consider the near divine character of dads like Ward Cleaver (“Leave it to Beaver”), Mike Brady (“The Brady Bunch”) and Howard Cunningham (“Happy Days”) who, like an implied deity, dispensed sound advice and doled out stern but gentle discipline when needed.

And then there are dads like Andy Taylor (“The Andy Griffith Show”), Steve Douglas (“My Three Sons”) and Danny Tanner (“Full House’) who were widowers trying to be both mother and father to their broods, creating both hilarious and touching moments.

And then we had bumbling dads like Homer Simpson (“The Simpsons”) and Tim Taylor (“Home Improvement”) who made us laugh at their silliness.

Whether they’re hardworking or shamelessly lazy, full of wisdom or reliant on mom for decision-making, a crime boss or an honest business-owner, television dads have been entertaining, and modeling dad-hood, to us, if not the entire world, for decades.

Some television dads are comforting (like Ralph Waite as John Walton, Sr. of “The Waltons” or Lorne Greene as Ben Cartwright in “Bonanza”) or anchors of a previous cultural mind-set (like Carroll O’Connor as Archie Bunker in “All in the Family” or Michael Gross as Steven Keaton in “Family Ties”).

There are many more influential small-screen fathers, but each one of them shows a vision of the reach – and inherent bafflement – of being a father in America.

From “Full House” to “My Three Sons” to “The Brady Bunch”, the template for contemporary American fatherhood, for better or worse, has been broadcast into a waiting world.

Rad dad?

I recently saw a man (proudly) wearing a “Rad Dad” T-shirt (at a big-box hardware store, where else?).

The word “rad” has layers of meanings, but what it might mean in relation to fatherhood is far beyond me.

Would any mother wear anything like this?

I can’t think of too many words that rhyme with “mom” – “Bomb mom”, for example, would never work.

Mother’s Day has become a commercial powerhouse with cards and catered events.

A Father’s Day BBQ is not quite the same.

I don’t know about the father in your life, but my sense is that the majority of fathers don’t care that much about cards or gifts or being feted at a banquet or brunch.

Most fathers I know would prefer to be left alone – and that, to most of them at least, is what a “special day” would look like.

There’s not much commercial potential for a holiday like that, but perhaps the best thing might be to ask the dad in your life what they would like.

That might be a good thing to ask moms around Mother’s Day as well.