Dads and grads, oh my

Fathers don't get enough respect in this society, honestly. To find Exhibit A, all you have to do is walk into any store -- ANY store: drug store, department store, pet store, book store. In there you will see two words knitted together that drive me crazy: "Dads and Grads!"

The come-on here is that you can kill two birds with one stone -- don't waste all your time looking for a gift for just, well, DAD. While you are here, you can pick up something for a GRAD, too. Now, that's getting value for your investment!

This doesn't happen with mothers. It wouldn't be tolerated. Imagine if stores suddenly began displaying signs exhorting you to by gifts for, say, "Moms and Proms!" Get a new robe for Mom, and pick up a cute little clutch bag for the teen at home getting ready for her big night out. Motherhood would be seen as undermined and under attack. Op-ed pages would be filled with articles about how devalued the maternal role has become in our society. Mothers, the anchors of family values, can even get a day to themselves. What has America come to?

But no one complains about "Dads and Grads." No attack on the family is seen; no authority is eroded. Nothing.

And here's the real sting: who, exactly, is funding the "grads?" Even after decades of double-income households and bold new forms of parenting, that person is still most likely to be... Dad. So pairing Dads-and-grads really is like matching up military-and-budget, or pork-barrel and spending. It just reminds Dads that once a year someone runs out and gets them a neck-tie with a beer stein motif, while all year long they are a central source of revenue for the nation's higher education machinery.

I'm looking down now at a card shop across a busy street with a large Dads-and-Grads sign in the window. It's enormous and I do want to be angry at how I need to "share" my day -- but I'm staring down at that store from a high-rise hotel room. I'm out of town for work, three-thousand miles away from my own kids. That's something I've never gotten used to: it feels liberating to leave the family behind -- but with me, that feeling lasts about four hours. Then I want them back again, with all the fighting and bickering and help with homework and cleaning up after.

So, OK, I'd rather share the day then not celebrate it at all. Waking up with your kids on Father's Day, looking through the home-made cards and the hand-made gifts -- it's true: you can't put a price on that.

Unlike "grads." That, you can put a price on. Oh, yes.

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