Father's Day 2014                                                                                        Sun, 15th June, 2014

Today's blog is by my wonderful wife Betsy...Thank you for this Father's Day gift!

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Today, as a small gift to my children’s father, I took on the Sunday blog to give him a little more time to enjoy the day. The warm almost-summer breeze out on the patio is delightful, and one has to leave the laptop inside to enjoy it fully and hear the birds. My spouse, like many dads, has a hard time putting down the laptop/ hedge trimmers/ paint brush/ dirty laundry/ iPhone to relax and “just be.” But I gave him that assignment today, and he is always very conscientious about completing assignments.

My children have this in common with me: they can’t quite relate to those Father’s Day cards that tease the stereotypical Dad about sleeping in the La-Z-Boy and endlessly watching sports. My overwhelming impression of the father figures in my life has been of almost ceaseless activity. When my dad wasn’t at work, he was mowing the grass, washing and waxing the car, reorganizing the camping gear in the garage, out running or cycling, or grilling something. When he wasn’t doing all of that, he would come in and invite us kids out to work on our baseball skills by playing “pepper” or catch in the yard. Even though he had a comfy, squishy armchair in the living room reserved just for him, sitting in it apparently required a self-improvement excuse, such as watching the evening news or reading the newspaper or some law journals (a stack of them lay at the ready on the floor next to the chair). And my dad was typical of the men in my family – enormously productive in his off hours but just a little hard to keep up with. Small wonder, then, that I married a man in the same mold. With his own hands, brick by brick and stone by stone, he laid the very patio he enjoys today.

One possible down side to this model of paternal industriousness became evident to me many years ago when my daughter and I were shopping for a birthday gift for her friend Sophia. We had found a lovely unpainted bird house at Ben Franklin, and Meredith enthusiastically planned out how she would paint the bird house. But then she got a look of concern on her face. “I can’t give Sophia this bird house, because she doesn’t have a dad!” When I questioned her about that statement, she explained that because Sophia had a single mom, no one at her house could hang up a birdhouse. My feminist heart cringed as I realized the message implicit in my willingness to let the man of the house tackle every job requiring a hammer or nail, even though I am perfectly capable of doing those jobs and indeed did so frequently before I married. Somehow my daughter had internalized some “Leave it to Beaver” gender stereotypes simply by default.

The other possible down side is that the habits of industriousness can make it hard for such fathers to accommodate the pace of their young children. It is hard to sit on the lap of a man who never sits down. But perhaps the answer to that problem lies with time. To everything there is a season… My own childhood lap was provided by my grandfather, who had an amusing habit of dozing off sometimes while I was sitting there, but who more often just listened to my prattling with unfeigned interest and recited poetry from memory. My brother and I have shared our amazement at watching our father practice similar patience with his young grandchildren, playing the slow games toddlers love or rescuing a fallen toy from behind a piece of furniture. So I have a word of advice for all of the super-productive fathers out there – take care of yourselves, and realize you have a different kind of work to do when your building and bricklaying days are over. We need you around for years to come, and we’re saving you a chair so you can make your lap available when it’s your turn. Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads, granddads, and nurturing men in our lives.

—Betsy Grimm-Howell​​
My father with his father circa 1943
My Grandpa Giebler in 1985
Daughter Meredith and her Grandpa George in 2003