Ah, Father’s Day. The most inequitable holiday of the year. Think about it: according to a statistic whose source I can no longer recall, mothers in dual income families do approximately seventy percent of all household and child-related duties, while fathers tackle the other thirty percent. This, by the way, is hailed as progress. Yet, somehow, mothers and fathers are celebrated by society for the exact same amount of time each year. We have Mother’s Day, and we have Father’s Day. Seems pretty unfair to me. I’m thinking it should be more along the lines of Father’s Morning, or Father’s Late Afternoon (or, in the case of my husband, it could be Father’s Ten Minutes Before Bedtime).
Our family spent most of Father’s Day on an airplane, as we were returning from a long weekend in Park City, Utah. As an aside, I have to say that Utah might just be the best place in the entire world to fly to or from with small children. I try to never fly with my twenty month old son, D., but if I must take him on an airplane, I immediately introduce myself to everyone around me and apologize in advance for the seat-kicking, high-pitched screaming, hair pulling and general unruliness that will unquestionably ensue. On flights to New York, I am generally met with unsympathetic stares and immediate requests for seat changes. But on flights to Utah, I get big, understanding smiles. “Don’t worry about it,” said one nice man who sat in front of me. “I have six of my own.” The airport in Salt Lake even has a carpeted children’s area, complete with toys and a kid-sized playhouse. I gotta’ say, those Mormons don’t miss a trick.
I hesitate to call our little trip a vacation, because the word “vacation” implies actual enjoyment, which clearly did not occur. I like to think of it more as a “transportation of misery.” We went from being miserable at home, where I have everything that I need to feed, clothe and entertain my children, to being miserable in Salt Lake City, where I had very few of those things, plus outlets with no covers on them. My husband planned this trip with visions of mountain biking excursions, white water rafting trips, fishing expeditions and scenic chair lift rides high atop the mountains. I tried to explain to him that our children are old enough for none of these things, but he wouldn’t hear of it. So, of course, when we arrived and were told that, in fact, our children are old enough for none of these things, the misery only intensified. Because now we were in Salt Lake City, in a condo with no outlet covers, with absolutely nothing to do for four days. Thank God for portable DVD players.
D. is, to put it kindly, at a difficult age. At four, our daughter, H., is far easier. Fun, even. I hate to say it, but I much prefer sitting on the floor and coloring with H. to chasing D. around and trying to keep him from killing himself and others. My husband feels the same exact way, and isn’t shy about saying it, either. But I have to say, he pulled his weight with D. for the majority of the trip. He took him down to the “toddler room” with the pretend kitchen in it, he volunteered to be on sunscreen duty – no easy undertaking – and we took turns sitting next to D. at meal times in order to make sure that he didn’t climb out of his high chair, rip the tablecloth off of the table or throw knives at the other guests in the restaurant. But on Sunday morning, all bets were off. D. woke up at 6:15, which is really 5:15 LA time. Usually, we bring him into bed with us, give him a cup of milk, and doze while he watches The Wiggles. But my husband rolled over and smiled at me.
“It’s Father’s Day,” he said, eyes still closed. “I’m sleeping in.” Okay, I thought. That’s fair. I went and got D. and, when my daughter woke up a few minutes later, we watched TV in her room. But it went on like that all day. At breakfast, I sat next to D. because it was Father’s Day. At lunch, same thing. We went into Park City and took them to this place where they have kiddie rides and miniature golf and some bouncies; it was Father’s Day, and he wanted to have fun. So he took off with H. to wait in line for a big slide that you have to be at least two years old to go on, and I got stuck chasing D. around, trying to keep him from eating rocks and from climbing into the middle of the merry-go-round and electrocuting himself. It’s funny, I thought, that we celebrate being parents by avoiding the very people who allow us to qualify for the holiday in the first place.
I’ve neglected to mention that I had a horrible cold the entire weekend. The kind of cold that makes you want to do nothing but lie in bed and drink tea. Congested to the point of practically choking on my own mucous. Sledgehammer-like headache. By the time we boarded the plane that afternoon to go home, I was done. I made my requisite round of pre-flight apologies, and just as I was about to dump D. into my husband’s lap, he slipped a pair of headphones over his ears, leaned back, and closed his eyes. I tapped him on the shoulder.
“What?” he asked. I glared at him. “It’s Father’s Day,” he replied matter-of-factly, as if this somehow explained everything.
“I love you,” I said, “but you’re not that good of a father.” And then I dumped D. on his lap and proceeded to watch Barbie’s Mermaidia with H. on the portable DVD player. Overall, I’d say he made out pretty well. He got a Father’s Three-Quarters-of-a Day, which, if you do the math, is way more than fair.