In search of a Father’s Day card

by Eszter Hargittai on June 15, 2014

I have never given my Dad a Father’s Day card until this year. I’m pretty sure the holiday didn’t exist when I was growing up in Hungary, certainly not in popular consciousness. But since I sent my Mom three really cute Mother’s Day cards this year, I thought I’d look for something for my Dad as well. I’m especially proud about having sent my Mom a card on time for once, by the way. Mother’s Day is a week earlier in Europe than in the US, which has gotten me in trouble more than once.

For my Mom, I was able to find some cute cards that were just cute, period. One was more gendered than I would have preferred with its focus on cooking, but given that my Mom is in fact a superb cook (having even published a cook book in addition to her lengthy list of scientific publications), it worked as one of three.

I fired up Etsy to look for something sweet for my Dad. The dog holding a wrench fixing the car made me laugh out loud. The card with all the sports paraphernalia resulted in the same reaction. Then there was the fishing theme and the lawn mower. Oh, and golf. None of these even come close to describing my experiences with my Dad in any way. The extent to which these cards in no way reflect anything I know of my father was at first amusing, but eventually disturbing. Is it really that hard to come up with something cute or funny, or gosh, perhaps even both that doesn’t play into such stereotypes? I can’t be the only person with a father for whom fixing a car or going fishing are not standard activities.

Thanks to some Etsy sellers’ flexibility in what they sell, I did get to ask a card maker to create something that was more about the bond than the activity. Happy Father’s Day to all caring and loving fathers, whether your preferred activity with your child is playing ball, baking a treat or solving the Rubik’s cube.



Phil 06.15.14 at 7:34 pm

Apparently Father’s Day was invented in the US about 100 years ago; some historically Catholic countries celebrate fathers on St Joseph’s Day, but in most places it’s either died out or never was.

I like the dragonfly card on the linked page. I’d much rather think “my Dad’s a person, people like looking at nice things, I’ll get my Dad something nice” than try to Encapsulate Fatherhood in an image. (It hasn’t been an issue for me for some years now.)


Phil 06.15.14 at 7:38 pm

Oh, and I think my favourite shared activity with both my children at the moment is watching DVDs of Buffy and the IT Crowd (my 14-year-old daughter is a huge IT Crowd fan). My son and I share some reading, too, & have for several years – it started with Anthony Horowitz & Eoin Colfer; we’re currently on Adam Roberts. I love my family.


Philip 06.15.14 at 8:50 pm

I find it the same for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, most cards are based on stereotypes that don’t really reflect my relationship with my parents. So if I don’t see one I like I just get something generic, like the dragonfly one, and just write what I want to.


JanieM 06.16.14 at 12:23 am

The card you ended up with — presuming it’s the hedgehog one — is sweet.

My dad’s been gone for a long time. For Mother’s Day now, I call my high school classmate who’s a florist and trust his judgment about what to get her — usually something that’s flowering in a pot that she can keep on her porch all summer. So, no card at all except whatever the florist sticks in.

After digital cameras came out and I fell in love with picture-taking, I started making all my own cards (unless I want a funny one). My pics aren’t professional quality, but some are kind of pretty, or apt, and I print them on card stock and hand-write a little message inside. I like doing that much better than trying to find a card that fits my sentiments. They’re all too stereotyped, as you say, or too sappy.


Main Street Muse 06.16.14 at 12:51 am

Most cards are awful. My father was a single parent raising three adolescent girls on his own. I learned most of what I know about parenthood from him. Key lessons: show up, have dinner together, listen. He died nine months after I graduated from college and I still miss him very much.


Eszter Hargittai 06.16.14 at 1:26 am

Phil, yup, I went for the relationship sentiment rather than the activity.

Philip, yes, many Mother’s Day cards are horrible stereotypes as well. The main card I sent this year for my Mom was one I made from scratch using a program and it included a photo of us from when I was little.

JanieM, yes, I got the one with the hedgehogs. (There is more of a story there as my two oldest childhood friends and their families still call me a diminutive of hedgehog in Hungarian. Not sure how that started, but it stuck long term.) As for photos as cards, I’m with you! Over the past year, I have started creating greeting cards from my own photos. But I still like getting others as well. This particular Etsy seller makes very nice quality cards, is willing to customize, and the price is very reasonable if you compare to what greeting cards cost in a store so I have bought a bunch from her.

MSM, so nice to hear what an amazing father you had. I am so very sorry that he died so early in your life.:(


Chris E 06.16.14 at 11:02 am

Fathers don’t get a lot of press in popular culture (except as fairly distant figures) – one of the few exceptions being “Finding Nemo”


bad Jim 06.17.14 at 7:03 am

I’m now as old as my father was when he died, on his fortieth wedding anniversary. I’d been working for him for years, as had my brothers and sister. His company was a fraternalistic* enterprise; the pay wasn’t great, but everyone had health insurance and bonuses when the business was profitable.

Perhaps its most remarkable characteristic was that he spent three nights a week in his office with his girlfriend. He was the president, so his office was big enough for a convertible sofa.

His father, an economist, was emotionally remote. By his account, he sought out alternative father figures, mentors, including my mother’s father. I found him more than enough; his girlfriend was like a second mother, which I needed as little as an additional orifice.

He was the sort of Irish drunk you can see in Sean O’Casey’s plays. I lived with him and my mother, and had to deal with pugilistic misbehavior on a regular basis. He was also one of the sweetest and smartest people it’s ever been my pleasure to encounter. He didn’t watch much TV; when you can get through a detective novel in an hour or two, other media forms seem pretty sluggish.

After he died, and my brother and I had started our own company, which we ran in much the same way he had, I’d consort with our former fellow employees, who would tell me “Your father was a saint”. Then I’d go home to a family who still are inclined to opine “Thank God he’s dead.”

My late mother’s first caregiver is a tiny, feisty Salvadoran with a PoliSci degree from Long Beach State and I can’t look at her without thinking (a) “My dad would have been all over you” and (b) “You would have loved him.” Pointless regret.

* The sort of place where people who’ve quit or even been fired still attend company gatherings just to share the affection.


SusanC 06.17.14 at 9:44 pm

Most of my family are dead, so I don’t have to send many cards these days. When I did send cards, I’d usually send something I thought they’d like, rather than something that expresses the nature of family-ness.

As a art exercise, I tried drawing something. The picture I ended up with was me as a child in bed before going to sleep, and my grandfather bringing me my night-time drink of hot chocolate, and staying to draw pictures with me. (We kept the sketch pad and pencils on my bedside table). I wonder if Zoe would draw something similar of JohnH.

I’m a tiny bit inhibited in drawing this kind of thing because I have a little knowledge of the interpretations some therapists would put on kid’s pictures of these subjects. Another try at drawing something — this time not an image suitable for a gift card, but something from a (genuine, not fictional) nightmare. In this comic book extract I appear to be in a “Final Girl” horror movie. But note: my family is the only thing that has _not_ become monstrous in this science fiction horror flic. Some film director totally ought to do this[*]: Final Girl movie, but the protagonist (e.g. Sigourney Weaver, Jamie Lee Curtis) has flashbacks to relatively normal childhood scenes in between all the gore. As I said, most of my family are dead, which probably affects how I draw this.

[*] “From Dusk till Dawn” maybe counts as an extant example.


F 06.19.14 at 12:27 pm

Mother’s Day is a week earlier in Europe than in the US
That’s if you don’t count France inside Europe. Mother’s Day is two weeks after the US there.

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