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Today's dads deserve a better holiday

Another Father's Day has passed without much hoopla. There were no all-star salutes to dad, no Charlie Brown special and most certainly no special episodes of "Oprah" leading up to the big day. Like all the Fathers' Days before it, this one went by quietly, leaving little more than the pleasant smell of barbecue and a slew of pun-filled cards in its wake.

Whereas Mother's Day follows only Christmas and Thanksgiving on the media hype scale, Father's Day languishes at the bottom of the list near Arbor Day and Flag Day. Only slightly more important than Armistice Day and losing ground to Administrative Professionals Day, Father's Day has not gained in stature despite the role of the dad changing so much in the last 20 years.

On Mother's Day society celebrates mom for her tireless, and often unappreciated work, caring for home and family. On this day, moms traditionally get either breakfast in bed or taken to a fancy brunch. Gifts are lavished upon her and actual thought must go into buying presents for mom, not for the house. Things like spa gift certificate and jewelry make the cut, while a new vacuum cleaner would be considered a faux pas.

On Father's Day, dad gets a handful of cards that he must pretend to care about and gifts that inevitably involve either grill accessories or a book about grilling. There might be a tie and there could be something involving a fishing rod, but anything in a gift box counts. Dad also gets a barbecue, where he has to do the cooking, which he wants to do, because at least if he's at the grill he doesn't have to interact with all the obscure relatives he never wanted over in the first place.

This lack of respect might have been fine for the traditional dad - the one whose validation came from his career, not his family - but it's hardly deserved by the modern dad. In addition to making a living, the modern father shares the household chores, takes an active role in child care and has responsibilities his dad never dreamed of. For many men, the traditional gender roles have disappeared and many of the duties traditionally associated with women fall to the man.

Up until the current generation, manhood was defined by the size of your paycheck. A good father and husband provided financially for his family and anything else he offered counted as a bonus. Society had no expectation that men would have a role in parenting beyond a little roughhousing with any sons and maybe the occasional evening spent "babysitting."

Of course, some men offered more, but they did so by choice, not because they were expected to. Work long and hard, put a roof over your family's head and food on the table and you met every qualification to be defined as a good man.

The current generation of fathers, at least a great number of us, faces a different set of challenges. Most of us still feel the pressure to provide for our families - even though our wives have successful careers - but we must also be involved parents. Modern dads contribute in areas of home life that our fathers never even considered.

Instead of simply mowing the lawn and taking out the trash, today's father must cook, clean, and take part in all areas of child-rearing. Whereas my father's generation returned home to a hot meal and maybe a martini served on a silver tray, I come home to making dinner, changing diapers and trying to get a two-year-old to eat dinner, not put it in his hair.

The modern dad does this by choice and by economic necessity. Having an increased role in the home comes with rewards as well as sacrifices, and while I can't sit quietly sipping a drink and reading the paper when I get home, I do get to have my son on my lap while we watch his "Thomas the Tank Engine" video for the ten thousandth time.

Still, it would be nice if once a year, on the holiday that supposedly celebrates fathers, today's dad could get a little recognition for doing what moms have done forever. I'm not asking for jewelry or a trip to a spa, but brunch would be nice and maybe a card that doesn't have a talking fish on it.

Daniel B. Kline is the author of "50 Things Every Guy Should Know How To Do," which is available in book stores everywhere. He can be reached at dan@notastep.com.

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