Posted 15 Jun 2014

in News

Father’s Day 2014 by Gillian K Ferguson

Father on bike

If you’re a dad, I really hope you didn’t get socks today. Or a tie. Or a car vacuum. Or a card with a beer, a football, or a golf club – or, even worse, a balding man with a paunch watching football or golf on tv with a beer and a rubbish joke. Seriously, the stereotyping of dads on Father’s Day is even worse than the sickly Mother’s Day tat.

Since it was founded in 1910, commercialism has seemed an embarrassingly blatant impetus to Father’s Day; indeed, it didn’t really take off until US trade organisations for goods such as pipes, ties, socks, etc, got in on the act. But they doggedly – and ultimately successfully – fought off ridicule and cries of cynicism over many years to establish the day around the world. That’s why you might find yourself the proud possessor of a ‘World’s Best Dad’ baseball cap you would rather be eaten by fire ants than wear in public.

But like all these things forced upon us, it takes a hard heart not to recognise the day just because of a point of principle – i.e. a day manufactured to make us buy rubbish stuff. We can use it to celebrate the great things about fatherhood; devotion to children; a loving home, and the vital constant support of the paternal figure. And now more than ever fathers are showing they can take up their proper role – as equal parenting partners. Just a shame society, in most countries, has not kept pace.

Recent research in the UK found that a third of men weren’t even able to take up their entitlement of two weeks paternity leave – the expectation was still that they would be back at work within a couple of days. Presumably after a few manly beers and tears: rather than playing an equal role in looking after their newborn (and their wives). The shockingly depressing UK Government estimate was 4-8% of families using paternal entitlement; it’s enough to make women cry into their breast pumps – actually, they won’t even need them as they will probably have to stay at home. As ever, Scandanavian countries illuminate the way; fathers in Denmark are encouraged to take full paternity leave – and in Norway and Sweden, paternity leave is mandatory. Yes, that was not an hallucination, mandatory!! Hurrah!

On the positive side, dads spend seven times as much time interacting with their own children as they did in the 1970s – not bad. Though, saying it is Father’s Day, we shall draw a veil over just how short that time is… And mums still do much more – pleasingly taking the time out of housework; personally, I have always seen it as my feminist duty to do as little housework as possible (compatible with avoiding disease) to try to make up for the waste of women’s lives in the past.

Poetry about fathers – and mothers and children – have provided some of the most moving and visceral poems around; so we are opening a Poetryzoo Anthology today to explore the theme of ‘Fathers’. You might have a celebration, or a lament; or want to express your pain that you have been failed; or your joy that you have been blessed. You might be a father yourself, writing about your role; or have long-unfulfilled emotions about your own father.

For my part, Father’s Day still has the sweetness of melancholy, as my son celebrates the love of his own father; and I still feel the crippling separation of death. It’s now two years since my own dad died, and for most of that time, I have barely been able to dare think of him – too much like a hotplate for the heart and eyes. But he begins to smile out of my memory now – and I remind myself that in his case, death was release. I wrote the poem I am adding to the Anthology when I could sense the end – about how I would be able to find him in the garden, where he had known such rare comfort and peace. I wondered if it might be too sad to post today, but it is true that as the season moves to the time of year when the poem was written, and I inhale those floral scents described in the milky Northern evenings under a brilliant pepper of summer stars, I feel him there so intensely – and not where he lies under the cold stone and earth.

Fathers anthology

by The PoetryZoo Keeper