Saturday at our house is father-and-son day.
Usually that means running around chasing chooks, manhandling the sheepdog, and getting as dirty as possible. However, when our house burned down (a couple of years ago) we found ourselves holed up temporarily in the city — so I was forced to improvise.
Each Saturday morning, Louie and I would head off on a ‘great adventure’ around the concrete jungle.
Our first stop was Myer. We were nearly always the first people in the store. The shop assistants would be still applying their makeup, drinking takeaway coffee, and bitching about Myer’s share price.
As we approached the toy department I’d have my weekly Willy Wonka moment. Crouching down on one knee, I’d look little Louie straight in the eye and say:
‘See all these toys, tiger? Well, you can play with whatever you want … just put them back afterwards.’
‘Anything?’ he’d say, eyes bulging.
If you’ve ever experienced the toy section of a department store, you’ll know that toddlers are worse than teenagers: they completely wreck the joint.
Yet, for Louie, after an hour or so the excitement of playing with millions of dollars of the latest toys would wear off. He’d stumble back to me, exhausted, and announce, ‘Daddy … Louie go home now’.
Total cost of an hour’s worth of playtime with the best toys on the planet? Zero.
Priceless! And you know how the rest of the ad goes: ‘There are some things money can’t buy … for everything else there’s MasterCard.’
And there’s the rub: practically everyone else in that multi-level department store was using their MasterCard to buy stuff that would eventually end up in their recycling bin.
Marketers have long understood that we spend on our emotions: on how something makes us feel and also on how we think it will make other people feel about us.
‘I’m a hipster … like David Beckham.’
‘I’m a middle-aged, professional white guy, so I wear chinos and polo tops that have little red horseys monogrammed on the breast … just like every other DIK (Dad I Know).’
‘I’m like Kim Kardashian … or at least I smell like her. I bought her Eau de Parfum, ‘True Reflection’, which is said to have the aroma of a sleazy sex tape, infused with the scent of Kanye West’s sweaty crotch.
Don’t Live a Label, Live a Life
Let’s be honest. No-one really gives a damn about your car, your house or your clothes (okay, maybe a few people you know who are really insecure will be as jealous as hell). Most people are too wrapped up in their own stuff to give a stuff about your stuff.
You matter a hell of a lot, but only to a handful of people — and those people don’t give a rats about your status symbols. They just love you.
Besides, isn’t it true that the people we admire are those who are genuinely happy in their own skin?
Kids inherently understand this. Your kids don’t care about your status. They just want to spend time with you.
Case in point: on our way home from Myer on one of our father-and-son Saturdays, Louie and I decided to catch the train. One whole stop (Thomas the Tank Engine has a lot to answer for). As the train arrived at the station, he almost jumped out of his skin when he saw the driver and did a ‘toot toot’ signal with his arm. ‘That’s Mister Conductor!’ squealed Louie.
‘Mister Conductor’ waved meekly, then looked away.
When the train stopped, I took my son’s hand and introduced him to his hero. He was in his 50s, pasty-white, with a mixture of dandruff and sausage roll covering his standard-issue Metro woollen jumper. He wore a wedding ring, and I assume he was someone’s dad. He wouldn’t lift his head to make eye contact with me, but then Louie caught his eye and greeted him like he was a god, almost peeing his pants to actually shake the hand of Mister Conductor.
And for our one-station train ride, the driver dutifully tooted his horn so many times for Louie that I’m sure our fellow passengers wondered if there was some emergency.
As we got off at the station, Mister Conductor waved to us like John Wayne sitting atop a stallion.
‘Seeya later, partner!’
He looked like he’d grown two feet taller in one stop.
As we walked home from the station, Louie squeezed my hand and grinned up at me.
Paediatrician Meg Meeker says that if parents could look at themselves through the eyes of their kids — and see just how big and important and powerful they are to them — that’s all the status they’d ever need.
So this Father’s Day I want you to do something simple but meaningful with your dad.
The Ultimate Father’s Day Present
If you’re lucky enough to have your father still with you, here’s how you can give him the ultimate Father’s Day present. Go and see him, whip out your phone, hit ‘record’, and ask him the following questions:
1. How did you meet Mum?
2. What advice can you share with me about money, life and happiness?
3. What does being a dad mean to you?
4. What are you most proud of?
5. How would you like to be remembered?
This is not for Facebook or Snapchat. It’s for you and your family’s legacy. One day, it’s all you’ll have left of him.
And you’ll treasure it.
Tread Your Own Path!