One Dad’s Heartfelt Advice for Celebrating a Meaningful Father’s Day

By Mitchell Clute

The history of Father’s Day is a lot shorter than the history of fathers. First celebrated in Spokane, Washington, in 1910, Father’s Day took fifty years to become a true national holiday, signed into law by President Nixon in 1972. Now dozens of countries—from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe—celebrate along with the US, declaring the third Sunday of June to be a day just for dads.

But really, it’s always about just one dad—the one you celebrate. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to this most personal of holidays; it all depends on the dad in question. But there are four key elements to any memorable Dad’s Day shindig or expedition. There’s the food, the gift, the activity, and the kids—with that last one being the one that really matters.

So what makes a perfect Father’s Day? Thinking back over two decades of celebrations with my own three kids, I’ll offer a few tips gleaned from personal experience.

Food Is Good

Whether it’s a champagne brunch, a BBQ throwdown, or a picnic in the wilderness, Father’s Day without food is like Valentine’s Day without flowers. But while all dads love to eat, only some dads love to cook; and while a well-charred burger might be just the ticket, maybe the dad in your life wants something a little more refined. It can’t hurt to ask. Does Dad want to be waited on, or does he want to dive in and cook? Does he want to lead the charge, or would he rather kick back and do absolutely nothing for a change? Does he want to stick to routine, or is it time to try something new? Whatever is on the menu, try to get the kids involved, even the younger ones. Imagine how much better everything tastes when the kids help whip it up.

Fine-Tuning Your Outing

Picnics and cookouts are the standbys in my house, with the occasional hike sprinkled in. But, hey, dads can have culture too. What about a museum day, a concert in the park, or simply a family movie? What about a spa day for Dad, complete with massage and pedicure? Some dads thrive on tradition; others are open to surprise. Some want control; others want to be taken care of—though they mightn’t know it yet. Maybe this is the year to shake things up a little with an outside-the-box outing. Even if it’s a disaster, he’ll at least remember it!

Stuff Guys Love

Yes, one year I got a grill for Father’s Day. And I love my grill, in spite of the fact that I still tend to set things on fire, even after years of practice. But recently I came across a box with all the hand-drawn Father’s Day cards I’d saved. Believe me, if I had to choose between my shiny grill and those dog-eared cards, I’d take the cards in a heartbeat. Whether it’s a homemade gift or a store-bought one, make it personal. What’s something Dad has always wanted but would never get himself? Or—if you’re up for the risk—what’s something Dad never knew he wanted, but is going to love? Bass guitar lessons? A home-brewing kit? A painting class? A pair of cowboy boots? How about a hammock so Dad can just lie around on his special day (and probably for many days to come)?

The Greatest Gift

Let’s face it: If it weren’t for the kids, all the gifts and activities in the world wouldn’t amount to much. Kids put the father in Father’s Day. So, kids, what can you do to make this Father’s Day special? Just be there. No distractions, no devices, no hanging out with your friends. Today is about Dad. So if Dad wants to tell a story you’ve heard a thousand times before, humor him. If he gets teary-eyed talking about how grown up you are, give him a hug and let him know he’ll always be your dad. It doesn’t matter if you’re eight or forty-eight. And if you notice you’re a lot nicer to Dad on Father’s Day than on most days, maybe it’s time to show a little more appreciation the other 364 days of the year.

Of course, that goes both ways. I love Father’s Day because I love being a father. Ultimately, the holiday is just a reminder that the greatest gift I could ever receive is the one I already have—these amazing children that have made my life so rich.