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No Neckties, No Cologne: 20 Father’s Day Gifts I Really Want

You guys are the gift.

Three-and-a-half years ago, when I first became a dad, I had no idea what I was in for.

No one ever knows, really.

One day you’re standing there, caught up in your own world, thinking about how you can make your life better;  thinking about what you can’t wait to do this weekend, and the next minute: everything has changed forever, in a zillion different ways. Of course, how you handle it, whether or not you choose to run with that new life you’ve inherited, is the only true and genuine measure of whether you ever achieve that much-coveted, magical “Daddy” title in this world, as opposed to simply being a “Father.”

Anyone can be a father.

Only the very best can be a dad.

(And in that sense of the wordplay, Father’s Day should probably be called Daddy’s Day. But I guess that’s a whole different debate, huh?)

My point is that being a daddy, just like being a mommy, is such a wild and wonderful trip, with so many hills to climb/lessons to learn/tears to dry/and hugs to collect along the way that sometimes it hardly seems like we were even actually living before the whippersnappers came along. We were, obviously; we were alive and kicking; but we were only cruising around the backstreets, you know? We weren’t anywhere near the fast main drag of BabyTown that we were headed for, whether or not we even knew it.

Father’s Day comes once a year, and if people wanna buy me presents, that’s cool. I’m not about to stand in their way. Because, as dumb as I am, and as thick-headed and slow, one thing I have definitely come to recognize is that there are, in fact, some really decent gifts that can be bought with cash money.

But, then again, there are so many, many more that are as free as the sun in the late morning sky.

Here’s my list, then.

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  • The Perfect CD 1 of 19
    The Perfect CD
    Most dads like some kind of music. He might be a Rolling Stones guy, maybe a Beatles guy. Or maybe he's Hank Williams all the way. Or jazz. Or swing. There's a trillion ways he might go when it comes to personal musical taste. One thing is for certain: when someone gives me a record (I'm a vinyl guy these days) it is almost always something that they took the time to search for, something they just knew that I would be into.

    That says a lot about the gift itself, that they cared enough to find something right up my particular alley. Giving dad a CD or a record shows that you have been watching closely and really paying attention to the sounds that help him escape this crazy life.
  • Something for the Little People 2 of 19
    Something for the Little People
    Truth be told, becoming a dad has been such a sensational life-altering thing for me that I would seriously be just as happy to get a Father's Day gift that is actually for the kids. Watching them having fun crawling through the tunnel we set up in the dining room, or the T-ball stuff we set up in the yard, is about as great as it gets. Plus, it practically begs for a nice afternoon of family time: I've been secretly hoping for a cheap soccer net for the yard lately. I am really getting interested in the game and I am hoping my kids will be too.
  • Accessories for His Favorite Hobby 3 of 19
    Accessories for His Favorite Hobby
    Father's Day should be mostly about hanging with the gang, I reckon. You can't put a price on time or memories and so really, for me, my favorite Father's Day gift is all about having a blast together somewhere. That said, my friends, I am only human. So, if you absolutely HAVE to get me something, a special tangible gift that I can unwrap and hold in my hand....well, I'm not going to say no, right?! And so, I'll throw some hard present ideas in here as we go.

    For me, an avid fly fisherman, you can't go wrong with something to do with fly fishing. For other pops, it might be golf or gardening or small engine repair or a million different things that they love to do with a passion and turn to for escape. Zero in on that hobby/pursuit that Dad loves and you will end up making him really happy.
  • Tools for Mr. Kinda-Fix-It 4 of 19
    Tools for Mr. Kinda-Fix-It
    I like to work on things around the house. That's not all that original, I know. But still, I get a good solid whiff of DadPower whenever I can paint a room or re-sand a hardwood floor — anything that impresses my wife and makes my house a little cooler to live in for my family. If your dad is anything like me in that sense, then don't overlook that side of him. It might not seem like it's all that fun to get a new socket set or a belt sander for a gift, but trust me... it really is. (Note to Monica Bielanko: Echo Weed Wacker. Wait/What!? Who just said that?!)
  • A Solid Photo Shoot of the Kids 5 of 19
    A Solid Photo Shoot of the Kids
    One thing we do in this family is take a lot of pictures. My wife, Monica, has become a fantastic photographer the past few years and so come Father's Day, I really feel like one gift that is always WAY WAY better than a macho, mall cart, musk-scented soap-on-a-rope is when she takes the time to shoot a bunch of pictures. And it isn't all about me either.

    I just love having shots of the kids doing their thing in the yard or wherever we end up. Life gets busy, you know, and taking pictures can sometimes be something that gets put on the back burner. But an afternoon set aside for snapping away usually ends up coughing up at least a few photos that are priceless.
  • Sitting in a Lawn Chair Talking to the Flies 6 of 19
    Sitting in a Lawn Chair Talking to the Flies
    Few and far between are the times when most dads get to just lounge around with a favorite beverage and stare at the sky (or the TV, depending on what sort of dude you are, I guess.) So don't underestimate the power of a few hours of off-duty time for the father in your life. There are times when having a couple hours to just veg out on a Sunday afternoon is all I care to dream of. It rarely happens, but if it does, I'm a happy man.
  • A Topper for Your Mad Hatter 7 of 19
    A Topper for Your Mad Hatter
    I like skimmer hats. Maybe your dad/man digs Yankees caps or top hats with beer holders on them. Either way, if you have a hat man for a daddy in your life, start dropping some hint bombs to see if he might be needing a new one. My one and only skimmer came from a NYC street vendor years ago and it's basically coming undone now. (Hi, Monica ... remember I have a beachball-sized skull, size 7 5/8. Wait! Who said that?)
  • A Grill for Your George Foreman 8 of 19
    A Grill for Your George Foreman
    This has to go in here somewhere. It just has to. You know it ... and I know it. It's the grill. The BBQ. The backyard firebox where heavenly scorched perfection gets born and delivered by a dad sippin' a cold beerski in the late afternoon glow. I think it might be overlooked as a gift too, because most people either have one already or it just seems too obvious, but I am here to say: I need one ... I want one ... and I am not alone.
  • A Freeze Frame 9 of 19
    A Freeze Frame
    Like I said earlier, my wife, Monica, is a really great shutterbug, and one thing she's done for me in the past is get pics that I love printed out pretty big so that we can hang them in our house. These are seriously some of the best things that I own in this world. I dream of someday having this picture here on a giant canvas to hang like a Times Square billboard in our place somewhere. To look at it everyday would be insanely cool, I think. Any dad will flip out over the gift of a picture that they cherish, something of them with the kids. It's a failproof gift. Promise.
  • Naptime Dirty Dancing 10 of 19
    Naptime Dirty Dancing
    See that woman there? That's my wife. We have been married long enough to know that marriage is a fifty-year wagon train ride across the wide open prairies, mostly uphill in the hot sun, with moments of beautiful scenery and wild sunsets that make it all worthwhile. But one thing is for certain, I am still insanely attracted to her and when other dudes look at her in the Walmart, they don't even know how close they are to meeting my alter ego, Dr. PantherMan. Whatever. What I'm trying to say is ... hey baby, when the kids are taking a little nap: please don't overlook the ancient bedroom arts as part of our potential most epic Father's Day ever!
  • Getting the Whole Gang Involved 11 of 19
    Getting the Whole Gang Involved
    I can't lie here: my kids are three and one, so trying to really explain the meaning behind Mother's Day to them this year wasn't exactly easy or all that fruitful. First off, one-year-old Henry was out. He doesn't need to understand anything except how to smile and pee and somehow get pancake syrup inside of his ear hole. But Violet, at three, is beginning to really get things, to understand and appreciate some of my basic explanations and little lessons.

    I spent the days leading up to Mother's Day really whispering to her that we had a secret together. I kept talking to her about the flowers we would go buy mommy on Sunday morning, and the card she would have to sign with her favorite color crayon. By the time Mother's Day arrived, Violet was pretty excited to help her mom celebrate and I think it added a lot to be able to have one of our children finally in on the big event. So, if mom wants to get our daughter psyched for Father's Day, I would actually consider that a milestone gift.
  • An Easy Rider 12 of 19
    An Easy Rider
    When our daughter, Violet, was born three years ago, someone (a super kind stranger who reads my wife's blog) sent us one of those child-carrier backpacks in the mail. It literally changed my life for the better. I have so many awesome memories of hauling my daughter up and down canyons, taking her on long hikes with our dogs. It made the outdoors really possible with a tiny bambino. Sadly though, I have used it so much that it's starting to bust up. So, if your man is like me and has a new kid to haul around: make sure that his backpack or his chest carrier are up to snuff. If not, it's a pretty perfect Father's Day gift, I think. (Note to my lovely lady: one of those fancy Kelty ones in green or blue would be interstellar wicked.)
  • The Kitchen — All to Himself 13 of 19
    The Kitchen — All to Himself
    Look, going out to eat is fun and all, but if your daddy-dude likes to cook, then don't look past the possibility that he would actually really dig cooking up a big Father's Day dinner. I'm that way for sure. I would so rather cook up my ultra-special Official Soprano's Cookbook Sunday Gravy with rigatoni, sausage, and meatballs than go out. And chances are, if you have a foodie dad living with you, he'll feel the same exact way as me. So let him hit the market if he wants, and then give him the kitchen and prepare for a visit to Flavor Town.
  • Sleepin’ In 14 of 19
    Sleepin' In
    This year for Mother's Day, my wife made it overtly clear that the greatest gift in the vast galaxy of endless possibilities for her was to be able to sleep in late when the day rolled around. "I don't want breakfast in bed," she told me without mincing words. "I want to sleep." Okay, at first I thought she was being a little cold, but then it dawned on me that, hey, that's not a really strange or difficult request. And it's certainly cheap and do-able, huh? Then, when I pulled it off and she got to sleep until about 10:30am, she was in such a radically good mood that I decided that I might just like a bit of that treatment myself.
  • Vino Amore 15 of 19
    Vino Amore
    Most dads have their poisons. It might be old scotch. It might be new prune juice. For me though, I love wine. Especially red wine from Spain. Nothing fancy. Mind you, I haven't sipped many vintages in my time or anything, but nowadays you can get great bottles of wine for under a twenty spot. Receiving a bottle or three of wine that I can share with my wife some evening after the kiddos crash is a fabulous gift, and an easy one to get hold of.
  • One for His Collection 16 of 19
    One for His Collection
    I'm a book freak. Some dads might like acquiring comics or baseball cards or old Civil War bullets or whatever floats their boat, but me? I love books. My wife is the same too, so it's nice to be able to have a partner in my madness (although I have to admit that for her, books are a true interest, whereas for me they are a borderline problem of space and money). A book or two will make a killer Father's day gift for me or any guys out there who love books like I do. (Did I just pretty much self-describe myself as a Super Nerd? Ugh. Oh well.)
  • A Day Out 17 of 19
    A Day Out
    People spend a lot of time and energy and cash on Father's Day and that's all well and good, but let's remember one thing. This is supposed to be a day about being a dad. And for me, there is really no reason/excuse to not spend the day with my kids (and my wife, so I'm not stuck chasing a one-year-old around the whole time). I actually really dig hanging out with my daughter, 3, and my son, 1, so if we can go to a park and throw some crackers at some ducks or maybe take a stroll along a lake or something, I'm good. Cologne is for dorks. Just let us run around together.
  • The Ultimate Gift 18 of 19
    The Ultimate Gift
    Two years ago, my wife had her camera aimed at me as she egged my little daughter on to hand me the small, wrapped Father's Day gift in her tiny hands. With my wife rolling video, I tore off the paper with Violet to find the best gift I'll probably ever unwrap, no matter what the occasion. It was a positive pregnancy test. We were gonna have another one. I almost passed out from excitement. It was the kind of once in a lifetime thing that can only really happen if the stars align with a certain Sunday in June. I wish every dad could get a gift like that at least once. I can't make that happen, but ladies, if you have a surprise like this up your sleeve, that day is the perfect day for it.
  • A Surprise 19 of 19
    A Surprise
    Listen. At the end of the day, I really don't care all that much about the gifts we can hold in our hands. And, chances are, if you're a dad, neither do you. Being a father is by far the coolest thing that has ever happened to me. I could live a thousand different lives, but the ones where I was being a dad would still probably edge out all the other ones every time. So, don't worry so much about me on Father's Day. Just hang out with me, run across some green grass with me, eat some good grub with me. If you wanna get me a gift, that's fine. I appreciate it. Feel free to surprise me. To be honest, as hokey as it might sound, anything my kids or my wife get me I'm going to hang on tight to, for as long as I can. To exchange the thing for something else would seem almost like a super lame crime.

You can also find Serge on his personal blog, Thunder Pie.

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More from Serge:

25 Things About My Daughter, Violet

The Time Flies Baby And Everything Else Blues

25 Super-Cool Baby Keepsakes For New Dads!

 

 

 

 

 

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