The Real Gift of Father’s Day

by Adrian Kulp- June 13, 2013 • 1:40 pm

I have tons of fond memories of growing up in rural Pennsylvania with my two brothers and our mom and dad. Every year, before Eric, Travis and I were old enough to really make any money, my mom would give each of us five bucks, take us to the local mall and turn us loose. Our mission? Get “something” for Dad for Father’s Day.

Mom always got him the “big gift” from all of us, but I think she felt it was nice if we all played a part in the process, by choosing individual presents, too. In my head I’ve put together a montage of the various looks on my dad’s face, as he opened up the “junk” we truly thought were exceptional gifts. I mean, how many plastic flashlights can one man possibly need?

Every Father’s Day since, if we’re lucky enough to spend the holiday together, my brothers and I still crack up, thinking back about some of our “choice” purchases.

The old man was a good sport and played along enthusiastically as he opened yet another 3-pack of golf balls (those were on the high end). The real hysterics came, though (from us, that is), when he unwrapped his terrycloth headband/wristband combo pack (sport-striped), keychain featuring Mr. T himself pointing and saying “I pity the fool” and money-clip emblazoned with a crystal-studded dollar bill sign. And that was just from one year. Multiply that by about ten, and you can imagine the treasure trove Dad probably built up in his sock drawer.

And each time, we’d let him squirm a bit before Mom finally brought out the “real gift,” which was usually some sort of power tool or a new pair of work boots—stuff he really wanted. Later in the afternoon, he’d take my brothers and me out on the boat fishing. Occasionally Mom would join us, but I think she secretly enjoyed having all the men out of the house for a few hours so she could salvage anything we hadn’t completely destroyed.

Now I’m 37, married and have two kids of my own—3 ½-year-old Ava and nearly-2 Charlie. We haven’t really established a Father’s Day tradition yet, and maybe that’s because we’re somewhat non-traditional. Unlike my dad, who worked outside the home full-time, I’ve been a full-time stay-at-home dad for a little over three years now.

Perhaps if I were in an office all week and only got to see the kids at bedtime and on weekends, I’d want to spend the entire holiday with them. But the reality is that I’m the one, 24/7, getting head-butted in the groin (my favorite), wiping yogurt off the walls (I’m not making this up) and breaking up fights over who used the iPad longer than their turn dictated.

Of course I think that Father’s Day is an opportunity for kids to show appreciation for their dads and I would never deny them (and myself!) that, but seriously, I could use five minutes to myself in the bathroom (to do nothing, frankly), or a chance to pay a bill over the phone without having to lock myself in a closet to do it.

This Father’s Day weekend, however, will be a real first for us. Earlier this year I was lucky enough to see my first book published , Dad or Alive: Confessions of an Unexpected Stay-at-home Dad, and it came out just in time for the holiday.


So on Father’s Day, I’ll be doing a reading and signing in my childhood hometown bookstore, with my kids and my dad in the audience. It’s truly the best gift I could’ve ever gotten.

My comedic memoir talks about becoming a father for the first time, as well as my first year of being an unexpected stay-at-home dad. It not only reveals some of my insecurities (accessorizing a girl, not exactly knowing what to do every time I saw my wife haul out her boobs in public to breastfeed) along the way, but also talks about how it took me some time to realize—which I eventually did—that what I was doing every day was important.

Even though the number of stay-at-home dads pales in comparison to the number of moms who do it, I still continue to see more and more fathers getting involved and becoming active in raising their children. I think we undervalue the influence we, as dads, can have on our kids, in helping to raise kids with wonderfully well-rounded personalities.

In looking forward to the weekend, perhaps I should tell my wife about my family’s little childhood tradition, so she can bring our kids up to speed. Then I’ll get to see what it was like to be my father on his big day. Plus, who couldn’t use some new personalized refrigerator magnets or an ice scraper for the car?

More important than any five-dollar gift, however, is being able to spend time together, not only with my son and daughter, but with my dad again.

The day after I’m with my kids, reading the book that whose cover is donned with their picture, I’ll get the best of both worlds—being a son and a father—by going fishing with my dad, reminiscing about the old days and looking forward the new ones to come.

To all the amazing dads out there, Happy Father’s Day… you deserve it.

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