Once a year, for as long as I can remember, a magical day pops up on the calendars every June and rewards every fatherly figure with an extra birthday or Christmas, depending on how you look at it. And while gifts are given and cards are sent, what is really at the heart of the matter is the celebration and honoring of father’s, both living and deceased, fatherly figures, and fatherly leaders. I speak, of course, of Father’s Day.
Father’s Day was originally an idea thought up by one Sonora Smart Dodd who, wanting to honor her own father, lobbied religious leaders to support the notion that fathers should be given a day of honor. This was not such a radical idea, as mothers were already honored once a year with Mother’s Day, which was established in 1914 by President Woodrow Wilson. In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson officially proclaimed Father’s Day as a national holiday. In 1972, observance on the third Sunday of June for Father’s Day was decreed by law.
In my family, Father’s Day was an exciting time. There was usually a special meal prepared, gifts (of course), and an outing planned to the Zoo, to the park, to the museum, or even a long hike in the mountains. The gifts given were, in the beginning, simple cards from the store and inscribed with pictures of crayon and pencil in lieu of a signature my young hands could not scribe. Later, the time honored macaroni art and clay ashtray were also given, along with ties, shirts, and festive foodstuffs like stupidly expensive sardines swimming in a spicy mustard.
As we became more tech savvy in both our own understanding of the world and the culture around us, the young boys and girls of my generation began to give our father’s more “geeky” presents, even though we had no inkling of what “geeky” meant. Digital watches, Walkmans, tapes, and records became the norm and expressing our love through the medium of pasta art became a thing of the past.
Now it is my turn to be a father. With three boys of my own and Father’s Day quickly approaching, one cannot help but to be a little giddy. Receiving gifts is not the point of the holiday, but it’s fun to receive them, all the same. This is especially true as a geek. My interests and hobbies tend to gravitate towards technology, especially those pieces of technology that entertain or somehow improve my quality of leisure life. Here are just a few possible gifts I might receive for Father’s Day. Better yet, all of these gifts are readily available from one of the biggest store chains in the United States, Walmart, making them easy to find and accessible to my loving wife and family. In fact, Walmart has an entire web site dedicated to Father’s Day gifts you might want to consider checking out if you are stumped on gift ideas this year.
Back in the day, the Walkman ruled the hearts, minds, and ears of music lovers around the world. Slap in a tape and click Play. Later, the tape was replaced by the CD, the then assumed juggernaut of the music medium for all time. No more rewinding, no more fast forwarding, and certainly no more ejecting to hear more songs “on side B”. I purchased so many CD’s that you could decorate an 8-foot Christmas tree with them like ornaments and not have a single branch left to hang a bit of festive garland. But then digital copying became available and the emergence of the MP3 file compression format herald the final days of music being delivered on a physical medium. MP3 players became more and more available, but one in particular rose above them all. The iPod.
The iPod, simply put, was a game changer. It revolutionized how we listen to music and how the music industry does business, much to their chagrin. Over night, this MP3 players rocketed above the competition thanks to ad campaigns and endorsements that made it “the gadget” to have on your person if you were smart and trendy. But it is more than just a status symbol. The iPod, be it Nano or Touch, delivers superior sound quality and performance. Depending on the iPod you buy, you can even watch videos, download applications, and surf the Interweb on your way to work. Where the Walkman was a personal stereo, the iPod became a personal lifeline to the social and information world. Oh, and it also played music.
I would love to receive the iPod this year for Father’s Day because music has become more important to me as of late. Perhaps it is my old age or the fact that I see the world moving very fast around me, but all I really want to do is find a quiet place to be still and listen to some Enya. Yes, I admit it freely, I love Enya to pieces.
Hot on the heals of it’s big (but small in size comparison) iPod brother, the iPad made its big splash in 2010 with the release of the “First Generation” of tablet PC’s that did all it could to not be a PC. And what it did was simply everything, and if you found something that it could not do, you only had to wait just a bit and there would be an application available to handle it. In truth, it would seem that the iPad could do everything but scramble you an egg, but makes up for that shortcoming by offering you 100 ways to cook eggs, instead.
With the release of the iPad 2 earlier this year (the second generation of the hardware and services), the iPad became the object of love and admiration by geeks around the world. Thinner, faster, and sexier (presumably because it had a “2” in its name), those who purchased the first generation of the iPad passed them to fathers, mothers, and grandparents so as to make room for the new hotness.
I would love to receive the iPad this year because I find my laptop clunky and cumbersome. Yes, I know the laptop is “portable”, but I argue it has that title only because it is significantly lighter than a normal personal computer. All I had to do is try the iPad for a half hour and I started to see the merits of having the gadget in my life. All my photos at my finger tips, digital board games to play with my sons when we travel, and watching movies with my wife out in the back porch. These are all things that could be made possible, easily, with the iPad.
While the iPad has everything, too much of that can be exactly what you do not want. There is still a market for gadgets that do one thing and do that one thing very well. The eReaders have come into their own in the last number of years with improved performance and usability. But their rise in popularity is more tied to the publishing companies releasing their books in a digital format that can be consumed by the eReaders. After all, without a large library of digital books at the ready, what good is an eReader?
My current favorite is the Nook Color that, honestly, has much in common with the iPad, but is very focused on books and magazines. With connectivity to the Interweb wirelessly, I can read my books, magazines, and email in full color and get new ones on demand. If I get tired of reading, I can play a few games like Angry Birds or watch some videos of family and friends uploaded to YouTube.com. Best of all, when you purchase new books and magazines, those titles are referenced and then used to suggest additional titles you might very well not have known about that are related to your current interests. Snazzy!
I would love to receive the Nook Color for Father’s Day because the quaintness of holding a book in my hand has been trumped by the lack of time I have to read them. I might have a few minutes here and there, but the timing is always off. For example, I could be waiting in the car with my three boys while my wife runs into the store. I could use the Nook Color to pull up a children’s story and read it to my kids. Or, when my two oldest are playing outside and my youngest is taking his afternoon nap, I can read some magazine articles or continue to work my way through George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. The joy of it is I can have all these available to me in one device that is small, light, and highly portable.
Flat Panel Television
While all the other tech gifts I have described so far are portable, this gift, the Flat Panel Television, is decidedly not. They come in many different sizes, but always provide outstanding image quality. Their very existence has called into question the need to go to the local movie theater. Why bother when you can have crystal clear and perfectly rendered films in the comfort of your own home? Sure the popcorn is better at the Multi-Omega-Supra-Plex, but you don’t have to pay $10 for a small lunch bag full of hot buttered popped corn at home, do you?
The current generation of Flat Panel Televisions put their predecessors to shame. The technology is better and cheaper allowing more and more homes to invest in a new television that delivers superior quality through and through at prices that are reasonable and scale appropriately when you begin to look for bigger models. Add a Blu-Ray player, Xbox 360, Playstaion 3, or any other device that pushes high definition, and your Flat Panel becomes an entertainment window and hub the likes you have not seen since the days of the TV/Radio combo.
I would love the receive a Flat Panel Television because my sons are becoming more and more interested in animal documentaries and movies. Watching these on a 32″ standard non-high definition television is painful at times. This is especially true when you know the picture could be bigger, crisper, and all the more exciting. Watching a great white shark erupt from the ocean to grab a seal in high definition is the stuff of legend…and nightmares. Note to self, do not let my youngest watch that clip.
All the gifts listed here would be fun to own, but I’d take macaroni art or a clay ashtray any day. It is not the size or the cost of the gift that counts, but the thought that goes into it. This is especially true when we consider that the gifts are coming from our children. Everything they create seems magical and wonderful to me. I have to stop myself from saving every little scrap they write or draw on. To do so would require a lot more physical storage space than I could ever hope to have at my disposal.
Let us also not forget to thank our sons and daughters on Father’s Day, for without them, the third Sunday of June would just be another day. We are fathers because of them and it is for them we live and strive to be better people, solid role models, and deeply compassionate friends and confidants. I know that my sons have made me a better person and for that I am in their gratitude.
It is for this reason (and many others), that I give the best gift any child could possibly receive from not only their fathers but from any loved one. I give them the gift of my time, my full and rapt attention, and genuine interest in them as a person. In my busy professional life, I cannot always be there for my children emotionally or physically, but I make certain whenever I can, I let them know I love them and think of them as my world.
Father’s Day should not be the only day we celebrate and honor our fathers, gather close to us the ones we love and protect, and exchange gifts and tokens of appreciation. But then again, having an excuse to do so doesn’t hurt one bit, either.
I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour by Dad Central Consulting on behalf of Walmart and received a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.