Father’s Day Gifts: Getting More Meaning, Less Packaging

By Meta J. Mereday


                         Although Father’s Day continues to lag behind Mother’s Day in the spirit of giving, it is no less important as an opportunity to celebrate parenthood and the role of fathers.  How the celebration has changed in terms of gifts for Father’s Day is a reflection of society’s view of fathers and the dynamics that comprise a family. 

Although the structure of the American family has challenged the role of fathers and their place as the head of the household, gifts for Father’s Day continue to symbolize that the father is and has been the rock of support to so many and the way fathers are honored includes some of the traditional gifting models and some new twists.

In light of the current atmosphere that finds the United States launched in a series of battles both within the family and externally, it is interesting to note the similar scenario that brought us Father’s Day. 

According to the St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, the origin of Father’s Day represents a grassroots phenomenon that characterizes American reverence for the family and remembering a veteran who was also a father.  It was a holiday that was reportedly inspired by a sermon and a woman, Sonora Smart Dodd, who wanted to honor her father who raised her and her five siblings when their mother died. 

In what could only be termed as a delayed reaction to the inevitable, it took sixty-four years from the date of the first recorded Father’s Day celebration in 1908 to 1972, when it became an official national holiday. Interestingly, Mother’s Day was celebrated as a national holiday since 1914.   

Gifts for Father’s Day have taken on a wide range of shapes and formats during that period of time for an event that began largely as a church based recognition with a special, home cooked meal.  Humorous cards for Father’s Day outrank the percentage for Mother’s Day, and cards for both holidays fall far short of the mark for those sent for Valentine’s Day. Spending for gifts for Father’s Day, which was estimated in 2006 by New York based research firm Brand Keys to be a whopping $8 billion, will include items ranging from clothing and tools to alcohol and power tools.  

            Studies show that apparel continues to lead the way as one of the favorite gifts for Father’s Day, encompassing over 25 percent of this market share. In addition to the traditional tie selection that has been the brunt of many jokes and awkward acceptances, sports apparel and fashion brands are also leading items of choice for gifts for Father’s Day. Coming in second are gift cards, which have been called the “dark horse” of gifts for Father’s Day and an entry on the rise of late, providing fathers with opportunities to make their own selections and not have to worry about making returns or stockpiling those ties.

Next in line and spurred on by the rising “do it yourself” movement in the country, are power tools and home based equipment as promising gifts for Father’s Day. Spending in this product line ranging from drills and hammers to garden tools and hoses has been consistent over the years at eleven percent.  Rounding out the top five choices of gifts for Father’s Day are purchases of wine and alcohol and CDs and other forms of music.

Currently, there is a new momentum among fathers and the rise in father’s rights initiatives that is changing the framework of Father’s Day and what the appropriate gift would be.  

“The ultimate gift for Father’s Day for me is to hear from my children and have them say ‘Dad, I know you gave up a lot for your children and we appreciate it,’” notes Alan Miller. President, A. Miller Group, Inc.  “That would mean so much and to add to that instead of getting me an expensive tie that I will never wear, or clothes that they bought to borrow for themselves, they would insert a $50 bill in a Father’s Day care and say we know how you taught us to pay our debts, and this is just a small token in repayment of our debt to you.” 

Miller, who is also a writer and poet, is the Founder of the Common Sense Project and understands how children who become young adults and possibly parents think. “The things we wish our kids to do, sometimes they do. But we all are just thankful when they do not end up in jail, strung out on drugs or unemployed. I would guess that alone is a gift wish for many fathers.” 

            There are many fathers who are wishing just to have the contact to build the relationships with their children and cherish the gift of time. “For my Father’s Day gift, I want to be able to spend that holiday and regular days just being a father to my son,” comments Harry Hamilton, an attorney and former professional athlete whose stellar career at Penn State University gained him a spot in the NFL where he racked up impressive statistics while playing for the New York Jets and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“People think that those of us who have lived in the spotlight get everything that we want, but that is not the case.  We suffer the same challenges; sometimes more so, in achieving those simple things in life including just spending equal time with my son, which is the most important thing for me right now.”

Hamilton has been embroiled in an extensive custody battle and continues to challenge the stereotypes that African American males fall victim. “My father, Dr. Stan Hamilton, did not shy away from his responsibilities to raise me and I am fighting for the same opportunity to raise my son so he can be better equipped to face the world around him.” 

Studies have shown the detrimental effects to male children, especially African American males, who experience being raised in a household without a father figure or strong male role models. A report from the National Center for Policy Analysis states that virtually every major social pathology — including violent crime, drug and alcohol abuse, truancy, teen pregnancy and suicide — is strongly associated with fatherlessness.   

In addition, the connection of social pathologies with fatherless homes is so strong that some researchers have concluded that the likelihood of children’s involvement in crime is determined by the extent of both parents’ involvement in their children’s lives, rather than income or race. 

A number of organizations have been involved with bringing about social changes and addressing stigmas and stereotypes that have hampered the role of fathers. Real Men Cook has launched national tours to highlight the well rounded male and to highlight male role models and fathers in their local communities.

            “We have to collectively address the fact that all fathers are not dead beats and many want to actively participate in the lives of their children,” adds Hamilton, who is continuing his late father’s legacy of making sure that no child is left hungry or homeless. “I see what is happening to children who are forgotten and lost in the system. I hope to stand up for them as well as for my own rights as a father.  We need all hands on deck to bring about the changes that are needed to happen to make the role of fathers more equitable for the sake of the children.  The time has more than come.”

             Father’s Day is the holiday to celebrate our fathers, grandfathers, brothers, uncles, nephews, sons and all those male role models who have positively influenced one’s life.  Whether the gifts for Father’s Day are a shirt and tie or a homemade meal, the new era of celebration includes a new awareness of the role of father in our society. When one talks about gifts for Father’s Day, maybe this is the time to look beyond the material items and look towards each other with helping hands united. R&B Artist Teddy Pendergrass once sang “The world won’t get no better if we just let it be.  We have to change it, yeah, just you and me.” We are all in this together.

Mereday is a contributing writer for Regal Black Men’s Magazine.

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