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When a father’s day card doubles as a report card - but you still get the socks


It’s the one day of the year when dads of all shapes and sizes get their annual performance review. Handle with care, writes Michael Blucher

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I was going to write about Father’s Day last week, but I figured it might be better to wait a week. Wait until I’d received my “loot”.

It’s always interesting what they come up with – not just my three, but sons and daughters of fathers everywhere – all ages, all sizes, all different socio-economic brackets.

And I’m not necessarily talking about the presents – I’m thinking more of the peripheral commentary – what’s conveyed in the cards, the poems, the paintings, the jingles – the crystal-clear window into their mind and mood.

In a corporate sense, it’s like our annual performance review – here’s what you’ve achieved over the past 12 months, this is what we’ve noticed, this is how we’re feeling, and … here’s a pair of socks. Enjoy.

As much as we love the socks – let’s face it, you can never have too many pairs – it’s the aforementioned “report card” that we really cherish.

As a father, as much as we might think we’re doing a good job, we never really know. There’s next to no feedback – for either parent. You’re stumbling around blindly, devising your game plan on the strength of what you remember worked for you when you were young, and steering clear of the things that didn’t.

Father’s day cards and the like are a barometer – a manifest of what’s been heard and seen, even adopted amid the chaos and hurly burly of day to day family life.

Some fathers think kids don’t listen to what they say. To the contrary – they listen, and when the annual opportunity arrives, they remind you – in the most loving possible way – that they they’ve heard the same thing 400 times over the course of the past year.

A few that came flying back at me this year… ‘Don’t go chasing the ants while the elephants are getting away”, F*ck it up, fix it up! and probably the most well-worn of all: “That’s the problem, what’s the solution?”

Have I really become that cliched? Apparently, yes. I’m a parody of myself.

The good news is, I’m not alone. All the dads I know are pretty much in the same boat – counter-bombarded with the same observations and pearls of wisdom they apparently proffer weekly, if not daily.

“Geez they can put a man on the moon but they can’t get the bloody traffic lights to sync”. “Don’t drink your money, and don’t drive with emotion”. The list is endless. We all have our own go-to phrases, that might not be as original or fresh as we think.

That’s of course just what we say – according to the detail served up in the performance appraisal, it’s clear they are also keeping their eyes peeled on the little things we do, repeatedly, whether we’re aware of it or not.

In my case for instance, burning back the maidenhair ferns to rejuvenate them, even in a total fire ban. Shoving bananas in the freezer – there’s another one.. Or making a hell of a racket trying to get the pizza oven out of the back of the bottom cupboard on a Friday night.

Even risking injury by wrestling violently with the hose when watering. (I am aware of this – the tangled garden hose – a natural enemy of the impatient male. Guilty as charged, you’re honour).

At another level, we should be encouraged by their powers of observation. If they are watching us do stupid sh*t, perhaps too they are taking notice and picking up subtle queues from the more important stuff – watching how hard we work, and how we treat people, particularly their mother and those not in a position to influence or enhance their lives.

This, of course, is where the real power of parenthood begins.

The final paragraph of the annual “father’s day performance appraisal” is of course what we are given by way of gifts – in summary, their combined interpretation of what they think we like, what we want, and what they think we need.

Canvassing the collective haul of dads, young and old, wealthy and well worn, there was an impressive show of out-of-the-box thinking, but no apparent consistent thread or theme, belong socks and jocks.

There was golf clubs, alcohol – lots of expensive craft gins, there was travel vouchers – hopefully with extended use-by dates, chocolate, expensive leather belts, boots, quite a few electronic nick-nack type things – a writing tablet, airpods, and ample gardening gear – Hoselink, at $200 a nossle, was particularly prevalent.

One dad of three small girls I know received a giant steak – “a tomahawk”. That’s a great present just because of the name. I think there was even cooking included – hopefully supervised. I’ve seen the girls in the kitchen by themselves. Not even a tomahawk would stand a chance.

My own haul, not for the first time, had a strong “op shop” theme – all part of our family commitment to recycling. And what a haul it was.

There was an angry birds pencil case (which has already taken pride of place in my golf bag), Golden Gaytime popcorn, two sets of Trivial Pursuit cards, a hessian bag for preparing “Perfect potatoes” in the microwave (if we can get the said microwave to work), a home-baked chocolate cake, decorated in bananas, liquorice all-sorts and ferns, and my outright favourite, a crudely prepared “Day in the life of Dad” diary, comprising vintage post cards, with disingenuous, hand written captions.

It’s difficult to know precisely, how all this plays out in my performance appraisal. No talk of any bonus, but I’d like to think I’m safe in the job for at least a few more years yet.

“Thanks dad for all the semi-useful average advice” – that’s a ringing endorsement isn’t it? In the absence of anything more effusive, I put it in the “win” column.

On behalf of all the dads: stick with us kids!

In case you haven’t worked it out yet, we’re all pretty much the same. A ragged bunch of well-intentioned, under-qualified battlers, muddling our way through, just doing the best job we know how.

With a bit of luck, you’ll all get to experience the joys of performance appraisals at some stage in your life.

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