Fathers' day is a tricky one. Unlike moms, who are often very receptive to the fool proof formula of flowers or fancy soaps, dads can be a bit harder to please. Most father's day gift guides revolve around a presumed love of golf, or whiskey, or ties. The thing is, not all dads golf and very few are fanatical enough about the sport to appreciate golf-themed paraphernalia. Same goes for whiskey and ties.
My father, for example, is notoriously hard to impress with presents, in part because he is constantly trying to eradicate clutter from his house. It seems like most dads -- and most of us -- could do with a little less clutter this year, a little less stuff. There are so many gifts that you can give your dad that cost nothing or nearly nothing, that will likely please him every bit as much as a cookie-cutter bottle of aftershave. This year, instead of plonking down a hefty sum on designer alcohol or an impractical silky caravate, consider a slightly more off-beat -- dare I say holistic? -- token of your love and appreciation. A few years ago my brothers and I came up with the ultimate gift solution for our dad (who's birthday is in early July, making him a prime candidate for a 2-for-1 fathers' day-birthday gift.) We built raised beds in his backyard and planted him a garden of tomatoes, cukes and herbs, which we we replant each summer with new seedings as his gift. Works a charm!
Most likely, anything you give your dad will mean something to him, especially if you tuck in a nice card or even head over to spend the day with him. But here are a few gift suggestions that might mean more to him than something he could pick up himself next time he's in the airport at duty free. It's the thought that counts -- so try and really put some thought into it, and give your dad whatever it is that will make him smile.
Beyond the Gym: Many dad-types I know are constantly trying to stay in shape or shape up. Why not turn introduce your dad to a new form of exercise? Trying a new form of physical activity can be deeply rewarding, even if it doesn't 'stick' or become your dad's go-to work-out. It's kind of like eating cereal with your non-dominant hand -- a great way to engage your brain. You could set your dad up with a private lesson at a his local yoga studio or a pack of beginner's classes or even an instructional dvd. He might be particularly tickled if the sport in question sounds somewhat obscure -- like gyrotonic or tai chi. If those sounds a bit posh for your dad's taste maybe give him a badminton or petanque set instead.
Down in the Dirt: Gardening is stereotypically thought of as moms' domain, but dads like to potter about the yard, too. Gift-wise, try to think beyond fancy gardening tools. Maybe come up with a project -- be it planting a simple herb garden or putting together a few cheery window boxes -- and encourage dad to pitch in and get his hands dirty. After all, the best part of vegetable gardening isn't the resulting pristine cucumbers, it's the satisfaction of having grown something edible from seed (or seedling.) Or turn your dad onto composting with this neat composting robot. Might want to throw in a how-to guide that explains the basic principals.
Homemade Treats: Tasty home-baked goods make fool-proof gifts. Whip up a cobbler or pie with luscious local summer fruit. If your dad is trying to eat more healthfully, encourage him by preparing a recipe that incorporates whole grains and goes easy on the sugar. For a more long-lasting gift, prepare some pickles or a homemade jam -- according to the New York Times, home canning is all the rage.
Tech Support: Some dads are less tech savvy than others. If your dad struggles with attachments or hasn't quite figured out how to text, why not offer to sit down with him for an hour or two and patiently talk him through it? Before you know it, he'll be IMing you to say what's up while you're at work. Even if he later forgets the ins and outs of twitter, it might help him feel a bit more with-it.
Intellectual Fodder: If your dad is a more cerebral type of guy who prefers his armchair to the great outdoors, he might be inspired by The One-Straw Revolution By Masanobu Fukuoka, a recently published manifesto about farming and eating. If your father prefers fiction, load up his Kindle with the good stuff. Or, if you're going to support the felling of trees in the name of summer reading, keep in mind that books can and should be pleasing aesthetic objects and look to publishers like NYRB Classics and Persephone who reprint forgotten favorites in handsome paperback editions. Alternatively, scoop up a selection of titles in his genre of choice (historical fiction...) at his local library for him.
We want your Father's Day Stories! Tell us about what your father means to you.