What does dad want for Father’s Day?
To borrow and re-contextualize the lyrics of a famous Prince song, “your extra time” – and maybe a kiss.
Dads are overwhelmingly likely to opt for “a day with family” as their No. 1 desire for Father’s Day, according to a Harris Poll taken last year. An impressive 57% of all dads surveyed ranked family time as their number one wish – a desire that handily beat “electronics/gadgets” (37%), gift certificates (37%) and “a home cooked meal (36%).
Time with loved ones is especially precious in a city where wages lag costs and many dads exhaust themselves on the hamster wheel keeping the children they love housed, fed and educated.
“Just to keep close to my kids and my wife – that is the most important thing to me,” for Father’s Day affirmed Leoncio Luna, 61, who said he prefers kisses to gifts. Why is time together so critical? Luna, who works as a parking manager in midtown, commutes each day from Toms River, N.J., waking at 4 a.m. and getting home at 8 p.m., leaving little time for socializing with the people central to his happiness and identity.
While Luna was once given an iPad by his kids, “I’m too old for it,” he protested. He logs on occasionally, but prefers face time and phone calls from his progeny. There’s an idea for audio-averse millennials: CALL YOUR FATHER.
Both single dads and coupled fathers crave “quality time” with their kids, said Kenneth Braswell, founder and executive director of Fathers Incorporated and director of President Barack Obama’s National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse.
Wages have remained mostly stagnant for 40 years, while the cost of living in general, and housing and education in particular, has skyrocketed: That means fathers are working harder and longer to provide for increasingly stressed out families, Brasswell explained. A few fraught, frantic hours at the end of a long day making sure the kids are prepared to face the next one, “is not the kind of time I want. The kind of time dads want is the time to see our children laugh and joke and smile,” Braswell said.
There’s another reason many dads opt for time over trinkets and power tools: “There are a lot more single dads now days,” who don’t get to interact joyfully with their kids nearly as much as they would like, observed Omar Paracha, 39, a limo driver from Hackensack. He shares custody with his ex-wife of their six-year-old daughter. Paracha wants a full day of play (“she likes to play with me”) and a daddy-daughter bike ride on Sunday. “I kind of like when they come home from school with the card,” he added dreamily: “It’s so cute. I save them.”
Many immigrant dads in NYC don’t get to see their kids at all, with distance making time together a matter of disembodied voices or Skype connections. “I don’t celebrate Father’s Day: My kids are back in Africa,” where the holiday isn’t observed, said Ale Oumoalaou, 56, a construction worker who lives in the Bronx but began life in Togo.
Damien Chavis, 36, a marketing manager from East Flatbush, is happy just to spend time with his wife and 10-year-old step-daughter, but does want something from all the other females in NYC on Sunday: Respect! “Say ‘Happy Father’s Day!’” just as you wish your besties “Happy Mother’s Day!” he implored, recalling like a famous Aretha Franklin refrain. The men who do pull their weight in parenting are tired of being grouped with guys who don’t and appreciate an acknowledgement of their contribution, he explained.
Many men share Chavis’s desire for more acknowledgement, Braswell confirmed: “When you say, ‘Happy Father’s Day,’ that validates men. We need more people to recognize and validate our importance in the family structure,” Braswell said.
While dads want more time with kids, women – the traditional primary caretakers – often plead for time AWAY from them on their day of honor, Mother’s Day. But as dads step up in parenting, they’re finding that they, too, appreciate “me” time: “I want my spa day!” joked Evan Lambert, 39, a chief financial officer for a non-profit who lives in Windsor Terrace.
A “very engaged,” hands-on parent to a one-year-old son and three-year-old daughter, Lambert wants a family picnic on Sunday but expressed the hope that after that, he might be able to take “a bike ride just for me.”