By Dom Cioffi
I have celebrated Father’s Day in the same fashion for 16 years: My wife gets me a card and a thoughtful gift and places it next to the coffee maker, so when I wake up on Sunday morning, it’s there for me to open.
I have done the equivalent for her on Mother’s Day for the same 16 years.
In the early years, we signed the cards from our son, but when he was able to start writing, we both made sure he scribbled his own name and eventually wrote something semi-meaningful.
In the past couple of years, I’ve made it a point to emphasize to my son how important Mother’s Day is. I’ve told him that, as he grows older, he needs to make sure to acknowledge the date in a particularly poignant fashion so his mom knows how much he loves her.
I’ve also told him that Father’s Day is important too, but that he should never feel like he needs to get me a gift. Spending time with me is all I’ll ever want since I know our time together will grow less and less as the years pass.
He listens intently when I give him these talks, but I get the feeling it’s usually lost in the noise of his busy life. However, this year our son surprised us and took it upon himself to recognize Mother’s and Father’s Day on his own, making it the first year we didn’t cover for him.
For Mother’s Day, he bought my wife a lovely bouquet of flowers and a heartfelt card where he wrote a touching note about how thankful he was to have a mom like her.
For Father’s Day, I got an oddly fat card stuffed into a bulging envelope. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I opened it, but when I did, a country music song called “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” started playing, while a spinning hillbilly in overalls holding a beer danced inside the card.
My son thought this was the greatest card ever and laughed hysterically while I stood and stared at it.
I also laughed, but inside I was weirdly broken up as the reality of knowing he took the time to pick this card out by himself hit me. When I turned it over and read a short missive about how he was proud to be my son and that we would have many more Father’s Days together, I nearly started crying.
I suppose that was a bit of a turning point.
Both my wife and I have noticed a distinct change in our teenaged son lately. He’s attending to himself like never before. We don’t have to tell him to take a shower anymore; he’s making better food choices when he’s out without us; and he’s been surprisingly good about letting us know where he is since his friends with licenses are now starting to pick him up to go out.
This transition into adulthood has been fun to watch, but it’s not without its unique worries. Temptation is around every corner in today’s world and one poor decision can have a bitter lasting effect if kids aren’t careful.
I get chills when I think back to what I was doing at his age. I was friends with some great young men — all good kids with a strong moral compass — but boy oh boy, did we do some crazy things. And when I consider the number of close calls we had while “having fun,” I honestly can’t believe we made it through high school unscathed.
I’ve still got a few more years to influence my son’s direction in life, but I’m realizing more and more that the work I did years ago, when he was most impressionable, is what will likely guide him the most going forward.
I feel blessed to have my son. He’s given me the greatest joys in my life while also pushing my buttons deeper than they’ve even been pushed. I wouldn’t trade him for anything (even though I used to tease him that if someone offered me $100 bucks, I’d sell him in a minute).
This week’s feature, “Fatherhood,” starring Kevin Hart, is a fun-loving and touching missive about another father raising a child in a world of hurdles. This dad faces the multitude of dilemmas that any parent experiences while also battling an interfering job and family that wants to take precedence.
Check this one out if you’re looking for a solid emotional comedy peppered with the quick wit that Hart is known for. What’s most surprising is the range of emotion that Hart displays. He’s known for his comedy, but in this role he provides the whole acting package.
A domineering “B-” for “Fatherhood,” available for streaming on Netflix.
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at [email protected]