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Thoughts on Father's Day from a Man Who Isn't One

  • Tim Laitinen Contributing Writer
  • 2014 10 Jun
Thoughts on Father's Day from a Man Who Isn't One

What is it about Fathers Day?

I have a loving father who introduced me to the Lord at an early age. Not only has he been a Godly discipler, but he’s been a faithful husband, a concerned brother, a church elder, and a respected employee. But for some reason, in our family at least, Father’s Day has never had the same resonance that Mother’s Day does.

More Emphasis on Moms?

When my brother and I were kids, the churches our family attended would give mothers a carnation or something on Mother’s Day. And the commemoration of the day went not just to mothers, but to every woman who was attendance that Sunday, whether they had children or not.

Every Father’s Day, however, though a general announcement about thankfulness for dads would be offered from the pulpit, that would be it. No token gifts were distributed to the dads in the congregation, and only males who had progeny were acknowledged, not all men in general, regardless of whether they had kids. Single men, unlike single women, were ignored.

For my church at least, Mother’s Day was a gender-based holiday, whereas Father’s Day, to use a Biblical phrase, was a “fruit of the loins” holiday.

I used to wonder if single women find the distinction patronizing. As if failing to include them somehow indicates they are less of a woman because they aren’t mothers themselves? Most single men don’t seem to care one way or the other.

I know; I was a weird kid.

Did your family make the same kind of fuss over dads that our society makes over moms? In our family, we always took Mom out for lunch after church, but on Father’s Day we usually just went back home and maybe had steak. Gifts for moms usually run the gamut, too, from cheap jewelry to fancy chocolates to bouquets of flowers, while dads maybe got a monogrammed golf shirt, or a new necktie.

Showing Dad He Matters

Now that golf’s popularity is on the decline, and most men don’t wear ties anymore, what do families get their fathers these days? If anything?

I was at our local mechanic having the oil changed in my parents’ minivan last week and another customer there was bragging about the custom steel bumper his kids helped him buy for his pickup truck on Father’s Day last year.

Hey, we live in Texas, and pickup truck bumpers are a big deal to lots of folks here!

Maybe it’s that macho thing, like helping good ol’ Dad buy an enormous steel bumper for his full-sized pickup, which keeps Father’s Day separate from Mother’s Day. After all, we’re enculturated to presume that sentimentality and nostalgia simply don’t fit within a masculine context. But my father, although he grew up as a street-wise Brooklyn boy, complete with his own slang nickname, isn’t exactly macho. He was a homebody who spent as much time with his family as he could, eschewing golf, boating, and other “masculine” hobbies for gardening, woodworking, and other activities that he did at home, and that directly benefited his family.

He and Mom were a team, and he was the spiritual leader of our home, just like the Bible says fathers should be.

So even if the rest of our culture kinda treated Father’s Day like some sort of awkward bookend to Mother’s Day, I would wonder if my family should have been doing something special for dear ol’ Dad. Not that I did anything about it, however. I can’t even remember the last gift I bought my Dad for Father’s Day.

On the other hand, it’s easy for my brother. He’s now got five kids of his own! All he’s got to do for our Dad is put the grandkids on the phone to speak with their “Pozzy” on Father’s Day, and Dad is pleased as punch! Even though he now has dementia, and can’t put their names with their faces. Or even remember five minutes later that he’s talked with his grandchildren.

They call dementia “the long goodbye,” and that’s certainly an apt description of it. There are days when my own father doesn’t recognize me or remember my name. I used to hear other people say how hard it was when their parents could no longer remember them, but I never understood how hard that is until it started happening to my Dad.

Mom has said there are times when he asks her about his sons, whom he usually remembers as being kids. Mom tells him that my brother is married with five kids, and Dad reacts with shock. His jaw will drop. “Five!” he’ll utter in amazement.

And then he’ll ask Mom if I’m married. And she’ll say no, Tim never got married.

For some reason, he never forgets that I’m single, nor does he react in surprise when Mom confirms it!

Desiring to be a Dad?

I’ve known some single men who pine for offspring like many single women do, but the men who do so seem to be few. I’ve sometimes suspected that the reason even churched folk celebrate Mother’s Day inclusively, but not Father’s Day, is that it’s easy in our society to presume – however subconsciously – that the guys who’ve managed to avoid marriage and children are more fortunate, or clever, or something.

Admittedly, I’ve never pined for children of my own. My four nephews and one niece are wonderful kids, and maybe if they weren’t in our family, I’d view having children of my own in a different light. But even though my age is creeping ever more closely to the ominous half-century mark, and having kids is looking more and more unlikely, I’m still not bothered or wistful for what might have been.

But what about the men who are? What about the guys who either haven’t gotten married, or haven’t been able to biologically reproduce? How often are we in the church as careful about their feelings as we are about those of childless women? After all, the “biological clock” may be gender-specific, but the desire to have offspring isn’t.

Nevertheless, being a parent should not be the ultimate goal for any of us, regardless of our gender. It is one goal (among many) that is good, and can please our Heavenly Father as we wait upon his sovereign provision. But for us children of God, honoring him with the whole of our lives should be our highest focus. If parenthood is part of the life he gives you, or me, then we should strive to be godly parents. But his eternal purposes for us will not be thwarted by our lack of biological progeny.

Besides, no matter how good of a father we’ve had, or how good of a dad you may be, none of it can compare with having the holy God of the universe as our Heavenly Father, can it? Have you ever realized that God loves being your father? He even rejoices over us with singing! He guards us as the “apple of his eye.”

And since this is the day that the Lord has made, along with everything in it, every day is technically our Father’s Day.

From his smorgasboard of church experience, ranging from the Christian and Missionary Alliance to the Presbyterian Church in America, Tim Laitinen brings a range of observations to his perspective on how we Americans worship, fellowship, and minister among our communities of faith. As a one-time employee of a Bible church in suburban Fort Worth, Texas and a former volunteer director of the contemporary Christian music ministry at New York City's legendary Calvary Baptist, he's seen our church culture from the inside out. You can read about his unique viewpoints at

Publication date: June 10, 2014