My family always pampers me on Father’s Day. I get to sleep in, eat a decadent breakfast, and open a very cute card from my daughter with a hand-drawn picture of a bald stick figure. Then, after some family time, my wife always tells me to take the afternoon to do whatever I want. Usually I have from about 1-5pm to make my leisure time dreams come true.
This four-hour, responsibility-free window is always a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s a very sweet gesture which lets me be me. On the other hand, I feel immense pressure to make the time count. With every second that slips by without maximizing my Matt potential (aka Mattzimizing – trademarked), I feel like I’m failing Father’s Day. So I fall into the same trap every year: I make an ambitious list of the things that I love to do and then realize that I have too many lists and agendas and calendars in my life and boldly decide that the best plan is NO PLAN! My structure-less plan is always a sh*tshow, yet I repeat this pattern EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR. What could be the ideal Father’s Day afternoon devolves into something like what went down last year:
1 PM. The clock starts. All itinerary options make me anxious, like that feeling I get when I’m looking at the menu at the Cheesecake Factory. There are too many choices! I need to focus. I’m thinking lunch, movie, record shopping. Sure, it’s a lot to squeeze into four hours, but DOLO (Dads only live once)! I look online for the best lunch recommendations. Tacos? Fish and chips? Sushi? No, I don’t eat sushi on Sundays. It’s not fresh. But that’s just a myth, right? I Google sushi Sunday fresh or not.
1:23 PM. Dammit! I’ve spent too much time Googling about old sushi, which took me down a rabbit hole of food expiration dates and how some people don’t trust the date listed by food companies because they think it’s just a ruse to get you to buy more food, and now I’m starving so I hop in the car and decide to get a gourmet hamburger because why pay $4 for a burger when you pay $12 and get a brioche bun.
1:45 PM. Yelp tells me (ooh, here’s an idea…when Yelp tells you something, it should TELP you…Yelp + tell? Telp! That’s gotta be a thing… another thirty seconds wasted… OMG). Yelp tells me that my favorite fancy burger place isn’t open ‘til 4 so I go to plan B which is pizza down the street. I order two slices of white cheese pizza (the thinking man’s pizza) and berate myself for wasting my precious Father’s Day lunch on pizza given that I eat pizza all the time because parents eat what their kids eat unless they are the kind of parents who have time to make separate meals, which we do not.
2:04 PM. I’m excited for a movie. I search for tickets at the fancy movie theater with the reclining seats and concession delivery service. I’m fine with this because Father’s Day is about indulgence (even though no day should give you the right to have a human being hand-deliver you Goobers). Unfortunately no showtimes coincide with my curfew of 5pm, but now I’m kind of fixated on the question of whether Goobers even still exist. I Google Goobers.
2:23 PM. Another internet rabbit hole, this time about movie theater candies. If Father’s Day was a celebration of wasting time online, I’d be winning. I overhear some bro-y dudes talking about a nearby hike. Before I had a kid, I used to be a bro-y dude! (not really). I should take a hike!
3:05 PM. The entrance to this hike is farther away than I thought, and there is no #$%&ing parking. I see lots of dad bods stretching by their cars, clearly procrastinating what was never their ideal Father’s Day activity. Like me, they’re here to prove that they’re younger than they are — and to put on IG that you have to “climb every mountain.” I’m extremely aware that I’m almost halfway done with my Father’s Day Fun Time and I’ve done nothing except eat two slices of pizza. Eff this parking situation; I park in a loading zone. I know I’m rolling the dice but I need to achieve at least one thing.
3:17 PM. By the time I’m 15 minutes into this hike (it’s more of a “slightly uphill walk“ TBH), I’m not feeling so confident about my parking sitch. I Google “loading zone Sunday,” and the results are inconclusive. I decide my impulsive parking is dicey enough, so I turn around to walk back and move my car. But it’s already being hooked up to the tow truck. I argue with the tow truck driver that I was just gone for five minutes and that’s Father’s Day, but he says if he’s gotta work on a holiday, then we all gotta follow the rules. I tell him that it’s actually not a real holiday. It’s a Hallmark holiday. This detail doesn’t help my argument, and he pulls off with my car.
4:04 PM. My Lyft driver drops me off at the impound lot which is all the way across town, and it costs $167. As I’m paying for my car, I start thinking I should just call it a day when I realize that this impound lot is right across from my favorite burger place!
4:21 PM. I’m having the best burger of my life, and even though I also had pizza two hours ago, I am wolfing this down because I always feel the need to salvage hope from despair, even if I’m going to be sick. I’m also having a beer because I am a father, and fathers drink beer on Father’s Day.
4:59 PM. Home. I pull into our driveway, and I feel like garbage, but dammit, I did it my way. I don’t have as much control over my time as I used to, but, today, I had freedom to make choices. In that spirit, I ask my wife for another half hour because my stomach might explode, and she says “of course, take all the time you need. It’s Father’s Day.” I lie down and vow to do Father’s Day differently next year, which I won’t. But hey, one of the most important parts of fatherhood is being consistent, and I am nailing it.