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Sleeping the sleep of the dad

Mother's Day is all about guilt; Father's Day is all about naps

Let’s face it: We dads are children of a lesser holiday god.

Father’s Day is the sleeping midget among red-letter days. It pales beside the REAL holidays, of course, the ones that drive economies, the Christmases, Thanksgivings and Fourth of Julys (yes, even small fireworks- and beer-based economies need their big days). Retailers can’t even work up a good sale for Father’s Day without making it a Dads AND Grads event.

A personal note about those things retailers do try to push for dads: I’m not handy. I don’t grill. I don’t wear ties. I don’t like electronics that I can’t figure out. Plus, I have no place to hang a hammock. So I’m down to about the fifth tier for gift options. You don’t want to know what’s down there, but Dante would have been proud to write about them. That said, a hammock is in the ballpark. In fact, a hammock in the ballpark would be just about perfect, though I suspect the fire marshal would frown on hammock seating at Safeco Field for Mariners games. Snoozing dads don’t evacuate well, especially not through an obstacle course of hammocks.

But I digress. …

As holidays go, you can almost forget Father’s Day. In fact, that’s part of its special charm — you can forget it, with not a consequence in the world. Given half a chance, a beer and a good, long nap, Dad might well forget it’s Father’s Day, too. And if he doesn’t, that’s OK. If you confess your forgetfulness, any dad worth his salt will belch, say, “Oh, it’s Father’s Day?” roll back over and re-engage in what he had hoped to do on his special day anyway: sleep.

Matched up against its natural holiday rival, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day might as well not get off the couch. Mother’s Day has a finely tuned, wide-ranging set of traditions, and woe be unto you if you ignore any of them. Flowers? Check. Breakfast in bed? Check. Maudlin card? Check. Spa treatment? Check. Chocolates? Check. Jewelry? Check. Excursion to an event designed to be excruciatingly, interminably boring for the offspring who feel compelled to go along and feign tolerance? Check. Chick flick? Check.

Speaking of flicks and traditions, about the only thing beyond a good nap that passes for a Father’s Day tradition is cable channel marathons of mindless action movies. That’s fine, since mindless action movies are natural generators of naps. But Father’s Day is inextricably linked with reproduction. Mindless action movie marathons are inextricably linked to Sylvester Stallone. And under no circumstances should “reproduction” and “Sylvester Stallone” be inextricably linked.

But I digress again …

Mother's Day motivationsWhat is the common thread that ties together that frenzy of Mother’s Day activity? The people at Hallmark, FTD and Zale’s would have you believe that it’s pure old-fashioned love. The folks down at the day spa (and every ad copywriter since the dawn of motherhood) would insist that it’s all about obligatory pampering.

But c’mon — would any self-respecting kid put himself through a full-day stroll with Mom through herb gardens motivated solely by love and a desire to pamper? Mom’s nice and all that, but be serious. The real motivator is that stock-in-trade of moms since moms crawled from the primordial ooze: Guilt!

An observation worth making here, if only to deflect the guilt rays now being targeted at me by moms around the globe using the latest in GPS technology: Many dads have chosen to remain in the primordial ooze. Kudos to you moms for climbing out.

But I digress. Back to the subject at hand.

Guilt! That’s the Mother’s Day X factor. And after reviewing the discussion so far (a task necessitated by my numerous digression transgressions), I have identified the Father’s Day X factor (or is that XY factor?): Z’s! Guilt-free ZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzz’s. If Dad gets a reasonable nap on his day, all is right with the world, no matter who remembers what or forgets everything.

You may object that moms love a luxurious snooze on their day, too. True, true. But the experience is steeped in guilt — it’s about the quality of the pampering, not sleep as an end in itself (and sleep as evidence that one is not obliged to do any other darned thing at the moment, thank you very much).

No pampering neededA Mother’s Day nap isn’t worthy if the walk to the bedroom isn’t made in new fluffy slippers and thick robe, if there’s not a new flowered down comforter on the bed, a cozied pot of chamomile tea on the bedside table, a new massaging night mask over the eyes, blackout curtains, tiptoed silence, etc., etc. And nine times out of 10 the result will be: “Oh, I didn’t get to sleep — too much on my mind … ”

All Dad needs for his nap is a sofa. Or a hammock. Or a rug. The spot in the sun if the cat will share. If you really want to make the experience special, make sure that when he wakes up, the remote is where he left it when he went to sleep.

Oh yeah — and tell him that you love him. (That’s no digression.)

So cash in your guilt-edged securities for Mom on her day. She’ll appreciate the effort.  As for me, might as well call the Department of Homeland Security — I’m going to be a one-man sleeper cell.

Between bouts of holiday narcolepsy, Mark Stevenson is a senior news editor at He is the proud father of two teenage sons who probably won’t forget, who do respect a good nap and who have survived more than one other holiday in the herb gardens.