Give daddy some lovin' - or else

Globe and Mail Update

This is a call to arms: Divalicious, high-maintenance dads, rise up! This Sunday, don't let anyone tell you it's a "Hallmark holiday." Insist on the royal treatment. And if you don't get it, I give you permission to throw the daddy of all hissy fits.

I remember my first Father's Day after my son, Nicholas, was born in 1996. My wife, Pam - who I should say is the queen of my world and has a soul of pure goodness and generosity - and I woke up around the same time. She looked over at me, smiled a special smile and said: "Happy Father's Day."

"Thank you, darling," I said, and smiled back at her.

I waited and wondered what would happen next. Perhaps she was about to scamper downstairs and whip up some eggs Benedict in a little French maid's outfit. (Not that she has a French maid's outfit, but she could have at least slipped into a T-shirt, panties and her thigh-high, zip-up leather boots. I think that sounds like a reasonable Father's Day outfit, don't you?) Then maybe I'd peek out the window and there'd be a handmade, single-speed track bike with a little ribbon tied around it ...

But there was nothing. No eggs Bennie. No track bike. Nada. Niente. Pam stretched, yawned, donned a thick terrycloth bathrobe and started talking to me like it was a regular Sunday.

In fact, I think she was hoping I'd make her some coffee and bring it up to the bedroom, a frequent Sunday routine.

"Hey, wait a second," I said.

"What about Father's Day?"

"Oh, come on, Dave, Father's Day is such a Hallmark holiday."

I drew my breath in sharply. Her words were like a knife through my heart.


"I mean, we never used to celebrate it for my Dad."

Well, gentlemen, I confess I went a little postal at this point. A little hissy-fit-o-licious. A little poopy pants. (Okay, a lot poopy pants.) When outraged, I can be very eloquent and, upon this occasion, I delivered a lengthy, emotional oratory on what being a father meant to me, my poignant emotions on my first Father's Day ever and so on - a speech so moving I may have teared up at a couple of points. That had her scampering for the door, hitting the streets, and she didn't come back until she had a full martini set.

Which mollified me. I mean, it's not the same to get a present after throwing a tantrum and making an ass out of yourself. But it's still pretty good. I relaxed, and everything went smoothly after that.

Now, you may be thinking: What a diva! What a girly man. And perhaps I am. I know men are meant to be stoic about everything and not mind about Father's Day, birthdays and all the rest of it.

My father was like that. He never seemed to care about his birthday, even, let alone Father's Day. Ten years ago, when he got prostate cancer, he shrugged and got an operation. "I caught it early. It'll be fine." When fluid was found on his lungs last year (a possible sign of lung cancer that turned out to be of mysterious origin, but definitely not the big C), he kept his cool. Once again he shrugged and went in for his tests.

I'm not like that. If a doctor even whispers the c-word around me, there's going to be a Dave-Eddie-shaped hole in the wall of his office, and they'll find me in the park, pounding the earth, dirt-streaked tear tracks running down my cheeks, muttering "Why? Why?!?"

Times have changed. These days, fathers are very different from our dads. Women are always talking about the changes they've undergone in the past 40 years, but in a way I'd say men have undergone an even bigger sea change. I mean, think about it: Our fathers used to come home, sit in an easy chair, read the paper and wait for a beer and their dinner to be served to them.

I think we can all agree that those days are long gone. As one friend of mine puts it: "If I came home, sat in front of the TV and waited for someone to serve me a beer, it'd be because I wandered into the Legion Hall by mistake, where I would soon find myself living full-time."

I like to cuddle. I like to be involved with the kids. I like to talk to my wife. At night, I express my emotions about all the lousy rat bastards I crossed swords with all day long, how they tried to screw me over, how I'm going to exact revenge if it's the last thing I do. Pam listens, then tells me about her day. Then I cook dinner. Our generation is more expressive than previous generations. My mother's father never told her he loved her - not once in her whole life. They lived on a farm, and like many salt-of-the-earth men of his time, he was too stoic and reserved for displays of affection.

But these days - in part encouraged by women, may I point out - none of the dads I know are like that. They juggle (just as much as women, though they don't get credit for it) the demands of work and home. They're more committed, communicative, involved, helpful and aware of child issues than their fathers, or their fathers' fathers, would ever have dreamed.

(I think of the 16th-century French essayist Michel de Montaigne's comment that he has "lost two or three children in childbirth, not without regret, but without any great sorrow." The crazy thing about that being: He wasn't sure how many. That is how men used to be.)

True, there's probably still quite a ways to go. On the housework front, say. We may be dragging our heels just a hair in this area. We still do that thing where we step over stuff on the staircase. We know it's annoying. We forget to offer you drinks when we pour one for ourselves. We know. We're trying to change, we're trying to improve.

All we need, ladies, to make that final leap, to become the Perfect Man, is a little encouragement. And Father's Day is your chance! It's your chance to show the man in your life you've taken notice that he's trying to be a good man, a better man, he's trying to help, bring home some of the bacon and still be useful around the house. Show him you see these things, you have taken note of them and you appreciate them.

Otherwise, he might just burst into tears.

David Eddie is an author and screenwriter. He has published two books, Chump Change and Housebroken: Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Dad.