Father’s Day

Simon Hooper, AKA @father_of_daughters, reveals what dads really crave on Father’s Day, and what they desperately don’t want

When Father’s Day creeps up the calendar, Clemmie and the kids start scrambling to pull together ideas on what to get me, the man in their lives. I’m sure that finding something to give me is a difficult proposition. I can’t speak for all men, but I know that I’m not that easy to buy presents for – I’m not deliberately awkward, I’m just not materialistic and I have most of the things I want or need already. This all leads to frustration and last-minute present buying, just so they have something to give me on the day.

Of course, there are the last-minute/easy-option presents that most dads have received at some point in their parenting career – I’m sure I gave some of these to my own father when growing up.

Coincidentally, these are also the standard-issue gifts that stink of desperate present buying and only show that you haven’t really put any effort in for the man who spends most of his waking minutes putting his family first…

With that in mind, here are the top presents to avoid giving if at all possible:

The comedy mug – this is something that I’ll grin at for the kids’ benefit and use for the next two days, until it swiftly works its way to the back of the mug cupboard. The next time I’ll see it is when I’ve forgotten to turn on the dishwasher and I’m forced to rootle around in the dark recesses for something to drink out of. I’m not a mug, so please don’t give me one.

Cufflinks – I only have two shirts that don’t have buttons on the cuffs, but I have around 20 pairs of cufflinks. You do the maths and tell me if I need any more.

Flowers – one of my ‘dad friends’ was bought peonies for Father’s Day. I almost wet myself with laughter when I heard this. Never has such an obvious present for oneself been dressed up so badly as a present for someone else. Unless Dad is a horticultural wizard, don’t buy him flowers.

A cheaper version of something you know I really wanted – if I’ve expressed a desire to buy a specific thing, it’s for a reason. Take this random example – a power drill. To you, a drill is a drill, but to me a drill has impact and hammer actions, 15 speed settings, two gearing ratios, an LED work light, lithium batteries and an ergonomic handle. Please, please, please don’t buy me something that isn’t the exact item I was planning on purchasing, or I’ll quietly cry a little inside every time I use the inferior version I’ve been bought. I’ll know full well that you meant well, but now I’m stuck with something that isn’t quite what I wanted and is impossible to trade in without hurting little people’s feelings. (This makes me sound awful but you all know exactly what I mean!)

So, now I’ve advised you what’s better not to give as a gift, let’s move on to what I actually like to receive – and probably most other dads too. These things are simple in nature and can be easily achieved with very little outlay – they just take a bit of thought:

Anything made by the kids – I know my wife hates this stuff and it quickly ends up (accidentally on purpose) in the bin, but for me, if my children have taken the time and effort to make me something then it means the world to me. It could be anything from a card to a picture, a cake or something else completely. These are the kinds of things that in the future, I’ll look back on and smile about. The best one of these creations I received was a bird box that had been decorated by Marnie aged three. It was covered in the devil’s own dandruff, otherwise known as glitter – the herpes of the craft supplies world that you’re never able to get rid of, but it still sits in the box of memories next to my bedside table as it’s special.

Breakfast – most days of the week I’m in charge of the morning routine, making breakfast for the children while forcing my eyes to open properly, getting hair brushed, finding missing shoes, feeding babies, changing nappies, etc. I never get time for breakfast myself and by the time I drink my tea it’s lukewarm at best. What I really want is a breakfast (not in bed – I’ve never understood why people eat in bed, that just seems gross to me) where I do nothing. One where my kids tidy up afterwards and with tea that is hot. Perhaps even with the papers to read, but I don’t want to push my luck.

A day without arguments – this might be wishful thinking but it would be lovely to have a day when I’m not prying the children apart with my fingers or breaking up petty arguments about who flushed the lip gloss down the toilet. The phrase “that’s not fair” would also be banned.

Time to do what I want – I know Father’s Day is a celebration of being a father, but perversely the reward should be not being a father for a day and doing what I want. An hour (or several) off from parenting to go in the shed and finish off a project, ride a bike, do some shopping or whatever else I might fancy, is important and of enormous value.

A four-pack of my favourite beer/cider – I’m not saying that I’ll be drinking all day, but for someone to present me with a beer that I like would be fantastic.

Though I can’t speak for all men, this should give you some ideas to consider. In the end, we’re relatively simple creatures and as you get older, wiser and more creaky around the joints, you realise that the old proverb actually rings true – the best things in life really are free.

© Simon Hooper. Copy taken from Simon’s book, Forever Outnumbered.

Forever Outnumbered by Simon Hooper, £16.99 (Coronet), is out now

Photograph: Philippa James Photography. Illustrations:  Fay Crampin