June 12, 2024
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A Mother’s Day for Fathers

I feel like Father’s Day and Mother’s Day are both in that category of “non-Jewish holidays that many of us don’t officially celebrate, but we also don’t officially not celebrate.” Mother’s Day in particular.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a column about the origins of Mother’s Day, and I said that even if you don’t think you celebrate it—even if your mother says, “No, no, you don’t have to get me anything”—you still say, “Uh, maybe let’s get her something just in case?” But for Father’s Day, your fathers says, “No, no, you don’t have to get me anything,” and you say, “Maybe let’s get him something just in case?” and he says, “No, I mean it. Please don’t get me anything!”

Officially, Father’s Day is a day to show how much we appreciate fathers. And the answer is, “Not as much as mothers.” It is a full month later. And it was definitely invented afterward.

So some people celebrate Father’s Day, while some people think honoring one’s father is bechukoseihem lo seileichu, at least on this one Sunday. “Every day should be Father’s Day,” they say. But realistically, do you buy your father stuff every single day? No? Good, because he doesn’t want your stuff.

He really doesn’t want Father’s Day. It’s the opposite of what he wants.

What are you going to get him? Are you going to spend his own money on him? Are you going to buy him something with that money that he could have easily bought himself, but he would have bought one he liked more? Are you then going to take him out to eat so that he has to spend even more of his money? On you? Okay, so let’s say you don’t go out. Are you going to make him his favorite meal? His favorite meal is probably something the doctor told him not to have. Are you going to make your father breakfast in bed? Your father has to go to Shacharis. Maybe you can let him take a nap, which is actually something he might want, and then wake him up for lunch in bed, but the truth is, he’d rather have the nap than the lunch.

Are you going to make him a handmade gift? Your mother’s the one who appreciates sentimental stuff. The father does not want it. He’ll say he likes it, and maybe he does, in concept, but now he has to find somewhere to keep it and use it when you’re around, so you’re really just giving him obligations.

And no father wants something that says, “World’s Best Dad” on it. Like a tie, for example. When is he going to wear that? He will not wear it because he doesn’t want to make the other dads at work feel bad. Or the other dads in shul on Shabbos. At best, he gets to wear your tie around the house that one day. On a Sunday.

How about making it on a weekday, at least?

That’s what Father’s Day should be about: giving the father choices. If you’re going to do it at all, it should be about finding out what fathers would want if it was actually up to them.

Mostly, what fathers would want on Father’s Day is to be left alone. Technically, we want that every day, but it doesn’t happen. But no, everyone’s going to gather around us because it’s Father’s Day. That’s not what we want!

For that one day, no one should speak to us unless spoken to. You can call your father to wish him a happy Father’s Day, but you’re not allowed to make him lead the conversation. And rebbeim are not allowed to give homework. For that one day, we should be allowed to sneeze as loud as we need to. And maybe people shouldn’t have all the lights on in the house all the livelong day. Also, for that one day, no one in my life should tell me that they told me something already.

And maybe laugh at some of our dad jokes, for a change.

Also, maybe we should get a break from all the stuff we do around the house that no one else will do. I want a day where I don’t have to stomp down the garbage, and where people don’t make me smell things to see if they’re going bad, and where I don’t have to wake people up for Shacharis while buttoning my shirt. That’s fun. I’m barely up myself.

“You have yeshiva today.”

“What?! But it’s Father’s Day!”

I’m thinking that if anything, Father’s Day should be more like a Jewish holiday. Not like a non-Jewish holiday where you give the guy a present and take him out to dinner. There are no Jewish holidays that are about that. A Jewish holiday is more about, “Here’s what we don’t do on that day.” Here are all the things you’re not allowed to ask your father to do on Father’s Day.

I mean, think about all the things that fathers do that go unnoticed and unsung:

Using that last sliver of the bar of soap because everyone else has clearly moved on to using the new one.

Taking the worst seat at the table—the one at the head where you can’t reach anything.

Going through the fridge and smelling things

Making our sons’ ties on our own neck.

Taking the dead bugs out of the house. Everyone’s afraid they’ll come back to life if they touch them, like the bug was faking it, as a prank.

Taking all the tangled hair out of brushes and brooms.

Putting all the loose Q-tips back in the box.

Taking the last few tissues out of the old box and stuffing them into the new box

Locking the front door every night after everyone is safely upstairs, and also checking to make sure the back door is locked. And then coming down to check one more time at the behest of our wife.

So maybe call your father this Sunday, collect. Or actually, don’t call him “this Sunday.” Call him “Abba.”


Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He has also published eight books and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].

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