When you’re a kid, it’s hard to think of our parents as people. They’re our parents. But, since it’s so close to Father’s Day, let’s specifically consider the unique identities of our fathers. Because, the marketing around Dad’s special day also has a lot of trouble treating Dads as people. It’s assumed by the marketing bombarding us that every Dad wants a mancave filled with sports-related décor, unspeakably huge televisions, a beer fridge, and maybe some gunracks and tiger-skin rugs (OK – I may have overdone that last part …).
Some Dads do want all of that stuff, of course. And that’s great. But, life is more complex than marketing. It’s more complex than cultural assumptions about Dads too. So, if you’re planning a space for your Dad for Father’s Day, is there a better approach? Well, yes. The simplest one is to identify who your Dad really is, and what he values.
Dad the life-long learner
Maybe your Dad is a sports guy, active in sports himself, and enthusiastic about watching sports on TV. But, very often Dads also like a place to go to contemplate the world, and feed their minds with big ideas that go beyond the big game on TV. Many Dads like to learn new things, gain new perspectives, and have interesting conversations with you, and with other people they respect so that they can learn even more.
Planning a space that encourages his mind is a great way to appeal to this side of his personality. Think about getting new chair, a bookcase for his favorite books, a reading light, a table for a hot drink or a cold one. All of these can serve as the basis for a reading nook, or a quiet place to chat that is specifically zoned in a family room, a spare bedroom, a refurbished garage space, or even an outdoor space designed specifically for him. This approach goes beyond the traditional mancave. It appeals to another aspect of his personality that perhaps our cultural assumptions about Dads don’t address.
Dad the gardener
It’s a mistake to think that Dads can’t nurture, or that if they do then they do, it’s outside of their comfort zone. This is a pretty screwy idea in our culture. Because, your Dad may be just the type of guy who is in touch with that impulse to care for something that’s growing, to make sure that its potential comes to fruition. After all, that’s what any good parent does, right?
So why not encourage your Dad’s passion for gardening? Maybe Dad would appreciate a trip to the nursery with you to pick out the kind of plants to grow in his garden. Maybe too he’d appreciate your help in planning the layout of garden beds, choosing the right vessels for raised container gardens, and maybe seeing about replacing some of those old garden implements. If your Dad is an avid gardener or landscaper, then maybe the gift of time itself in the garden with him is just the thing. Helping in the research of a professional landscape contractor to aid in your Dad’s creative vision for his ideal garden might also be something you could help him with.
Dad the cook
Some Dads only cook when a BBQ, a slab of meat, and an open flame are involved. If this is the case for your Dad, then accessories to support those activities is a great call. But, what if your Dad’s passion for the culinary arts goes beyond that? If your Dad loves to cook, and to entertain friends and family, then maybe his perfect mancave is actually his time spent in the kitchen.
An important trend that is emerging is the supplementary kitchen, either outdoors or in specialized interior areas of the house. Much like a garden, a kitchen is the center of creative pursuits that go beyond what we associate with the traditional mancave. And depending on the depth of your Dad’s passion, it may involve the help of professionals to get things to the level he wants them; new appliances and their installation, gas fitting, landscaping for an outdoor dining space, new countertop installations, and more. Not only can this be a great area to develop for Dad’s benefit, a secondary cooking and dining space can also add to the value of a home, too.
Dad the family man
Another assumption that the traditional mancave makes is that Dads always want a refuge away from their family. It’s true that most people need time alone with their thoughts away from distractions or to pursue activities that are only of interest to themselves. But, it’s not always the case that Dads want to retreat from family life. A space that helps to encourage and even help to strengthen his familial bonds can be the perfect Father’s Day gesture for a certain type of Dad.
In existing entertainment rooms, studies, workshops, or wherever your Dad spends most of his time, artwork, photos, and mementos of the past can serve as the perfect décor. Think about tasteful frames to accompany it all. Scrapbooks of photos are also a great way to frame your Dad’s family life. Arrange photos and mementos by era, by event, or by milestone. These memories and connections to the people your Dad loves are tied to his personal history, to his identity, and to those whom he loves best.
Your Dad is a real person
Your Dad is bigger than the marketing about mancaves and all of the things that “should” go in them. He is a real person, with a whole inner world of interests, passions, and motivations that go beyond the stereotypes. He is multifaceted. When you’re thinking about what to get Dad for Father’s Day, maybe this is the best place to start the process.
Rob Jones is a writer, editor, and publications manager, serving as Editor-In-Chief of the BuildDirect Blog: Life At Home. He’s been a Dad since 2005 to a daughter whose curiosity, affectionate nature, and emotional intelligence constantly amazes him.