Even just a candy bar

I have a complicated relationship with Father’s day.

My family, growing up, celebrated all of the Hallmark holidays — Grandparents day, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day. If it had the word day and a greeting card connected to it, my sister and I were expected to play our part. That might mean buying presents, making homemade cards, calling my grandparents, making heart shaped cupcakes. My parents, like many other families, were sucked in by Hallmark and we were made to participate in the “I have to show you I love you by buying you a card” machine. We would have a special dinner, usually chosen by the person being honored, have a special dessert and then open presents. I remember my father saying that he didn’t care what I got him even if it was just a candy bar. In other words, there was an expectation that was meant to be upheld.

Funnily enough, except for our birthdays and Christmas, my sister and I didn’t get to celebrate a holiday targeted at us. In Brazil, October 12 is Children’s day — an observed holiday celebrating children. Initially, it was created as an offshoot of the International Day of the Child, originally proclaimed in Geneva during the World Conference on Child Welfare in 1925. Of course, the toy conglomerates latched on to the concept and while it is still a day that celebrates children, it has become a day kids receive a present or two. When my sister and I would ask my parents what we were getting for children’s day, my parents would always brush it aside and say “every day is children’s day, you don’t need yet another day (haha jokey joke)”.

After becoming a father myself, I slowly began to realize that these days are nothing more than a commercialized way of guilting people into telling others that they love them. It took me a few years, but I have my wife and kids to thank for that realization. Truly loving them and being loved in return is enough for me to know that I don’t need a special day for them to tell me they love me. I am so happy that they are growing up without feeling the need to buy me a present, card, or even a candy bar.

This year, on mother’s day, I was at Publix. It seemed like all of Bartow was buying flowers, cards, stuffed teddy bears, balloons, fried chicken and cake to take to their mother for her special day. It made me question why, on this particular day, are we forced by society to prove our love to our mother’s by buying them a giant mylar balloon. It really put me in a foul mood for the rest of the day.

I’m sure father’s day will be no different, everyone will be rushing to get that father’s day card before they go see their dad because they forgot to get it early. Now, they are left picking over the dregs of rejected cards.

I still struggle, even as an adult, with the guilt of disappointing my own parents if I don’t get them something and tell them happy father’s/mother’s day. I will be the bad son, they won’t love me, or I will be disappointing them. I have spent countless hours talking about this exact thing with my therapist. But that is another essay.

Earlier today, my son told me he loved me before he left the house to hang out with his friends.

A few days ago, my son told me he loved me before we disconnected from a Facetime call.

Yesterday, my son texted that he loved me.

My daughter gave me a hug the other day.

These are the moments I need. Not an overpriced card. Not a random gift they bought just to make sure they had something. Not a made up holiday. Not just a candy bar.

Contrary to what my parents told me, Children’s day isn’t every day.

Father’s day is every day.

I am a father every day.

And I’m buying my kids toys this Oct. 12th.

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