Those of you who follow this column know that I frequently mention my husband, The Lawyer. You undoubtedly know that he has three stents in his coronary arteries, likes his forbidden filets rare and thinks his bones are too heavy to allow him to swim laps. But diet and exercise aside, what you may not know is that he is one fantastic father. And that is why I dedicate this column to him. Besides, I’m sure he’ll find it a lot more flattering Father’s Day gift this June 17th than the usual hiking socks and superheroes boxer briefs.
All you wives and mothers understand that once we have children, husbands tend to be placed on the back burner. I mean, how much true, uncompromised mothering are we capable of administering? If we are dealing with, say, a child with a nasal drip that causes nonstop coughing, how can we possibly have patience for a grown up who complains that his chest, too, hurts and besides that, his nose is running. And whereas we might be willing to stay up till all hours of the night holding a cold cloth on the head of a feverish toddler, a hot husband (we’re talking temperature, here) would be directed to the medicine cabinet, where he would find the Tylenol. Better yet, the Tylenol PM so he would sleep all night without uttering another whimper.
One winter, many, many moons ago, I really did feel kind of sorry for The Lawyer as he somehow managed to always get sick at the exact same time as the children. Suffice it to say that not only did he get little sympathy, he also didn’t get the best parts of the chicken soup. The kids got the broth, breasts and potatoes; all that was left for him were parsnips, celery and the dreaded onions. So when everyone was well, I decided to make it up to him—big time. I would be the good wife. “Tomorrow dear,” I announced to him one cold December night, “I will prepare you a very special breakfast, lay out your clothes and drive you to work.” Consider this an early Father’s Day present, I thought to myself.
And that’s precisely what went down. In fact, I spent more time fussing over his meal than I did taking care of the children that morning. They had Pop Tarts, he had steel-cut oats with walnuts and warmed maple syrup. I carefully chose his suit and tie, and even made sure that he wasn’t wearing one brown sock and one black as sometimes happens when he dresses in the dark. And as soon as I rushed my older sons off to the bus and took my little girl to nursery school, as promised, I hopped in the car and gave him door-to-door service to his office.
An hour later, all missions accomplished, I, Wonder Woman, uber wife, returned to my office and started to write my column with still plenty of time left to meet my deadline. I sat back in the chair and let out a large self-satisfied sigh, thinking to myself, Who said you can’t have it—and, most important, do it—all? Just then the phone rang.
“Mrs. Michael,” stated the voice on the other end, “this is Mrs. Butters at the nursery school.”
“Oh hello, Mrs. Butters,” I chirped. “Did the class enjoy those chocolate chip cookies I sent in the other day for their recess snack?”
“Those were great.” She paused. “But the reason I’m calling is that you seemed to have sent your daughter to school in her pajamas.” Bam!
Husbands and dads play such an important role in our lives that the least we can do is dedicate one day a year to making them realize how special they are and how much we love them. That said, the following 12 suggestions, although perhaps not as appreciated as a new Mercedes S-Class sedan—or even a full-hour back massage—will at least help them feel healthy, fit and Better Than Before. Oh, and Happy Father’s day to my beloved daddy, The Judge. I just know you and mom are looking down from on high and saying, “Don’t you know by now that your husband hates onions?”
Know your ABC’s. If years of showering dad with articles on the intricacies of LDL/HDL ratios and the benefits of battling free radicals haven’t convinced him to follow a better health regimen, perhaps it’s time for a different approach. In other words, unless the information you give him is easy to assimilate and comes from a reliable source, he won’t even listen. That is precisely why I present to you easy-to-remember facts, courtesy of the U.S. Government Guidelines, no less. To help your father promote his health and reduce his risk for chronic illnesses such as heart disease, certain types of cancer, diabetes, stroke and even osteoporosis, suggest that he get a yearly physical and also have his moles checked by a dermatologist. Then have him relearn his ABC’s. In this case, that means A: Aim for fitness—maintain a desirable weight and be physically active each day. B: Build a healthy base—eat a variety of fruit, vegetables and whole grains. And C: Choose sensibly—opt for a diet that is also low in saturated fat, sugar, salt and alcohol in moderation. It’s just that easy.
Channel (Coco) Chanel. Remember, it’s not just about what you say, it’s also about how you say it. Alas, in my case, it’s probably both. The Lawyer always reminds me to be more “French.” And by that he means that instead of blurting out, “Don’t wear that hideous purple shirt, are you color blind?” I might get better results with, “Don’t you always say that blue is your best color?” You see, according to him, men just hate to be ordered around. And French women have perfected the art of getting what they want–and then, of course doing what they want–by simply being gracious and allowing men to think it’s their idea to begin with. Yes, I know, the concept is so, well, Leave it to Beaver-like, but between us, have men really evolved as much as we have since then?
Get down. Does dad have a spare tire around the middle? That’s probably one of the worst offenders for his heart. “Indeed,” says Darren Capik, of Watch It Now Entertainment, where he directs and produces fitness and wellness videos with the likes of Bob Harper, Billy Blanks and Deepak Chopra, among others. “I view overweight as being an emergency; it is so unbelievably bad and taxing on every part of the body. And if you have a family, there’s even more reason to lead a healthy life.” Darren adds that the outcome of losing weight is incredibly positive. “Your physical, mental and emotional states will immediately feel better, and you will realize that this is the right way to live. And after you embrace that feeling, you will never want to go back to being overweight.” His weight-loss program is simple: Reduce calories (a lot of lean proteins, vegetables and no carbs at night), eat three sensible meals and two snacks in between, and drink a lot of liquids throughout the day.
Make fitness fun. Ever since he got stuck in the Lotus position, The Lawyer simply refuses to go to another yoga class. And if your dad is also unwilling to do, say, the Downward Dog or even attend a Whittle the Middle class, thankfully, there are other options. Steven Derissin, senior fitness director at the Equinox Fitness Club in New York City and founder of the mobile personal training company Cause and Effect Fitness, suggests giving your dad the gift of, well, fitness this Father’s Day. Sharing personal training sessions with him is not only fun but also provides a great bonding experience, and you both can greatly benefit by motivating each other to attain your fitness goals. The initial session should include measurement of your weight and body fat, and also a comprehensive assessment of your flexibility and cardiovascular levels. “Pick a trainer based on referral or reputation to make sure that you like his/her style,” Derisson adds. “Remember, too, that there are many great deals out there!”
Block and tackle. Skin cancer, both basal cell carcinoma and melanoma, is more prevalent in men than women. Why? According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, 47 percent of men report never wearing sunscreen. And while women have the extra protection of moisturizers and foundations that contain an SPF (sun protection factor), men are left to face the elements totally defenseless. UVA rays are present year-round, rain or shine, no matter what the season or cloud cover. While they play a role in skin cancer, they are the ones reponsible for the signs of aging as they penertrate deeply into the surface of the skin and damage the cells beneath. However, it’s the UVB rays, stronger in the summer months, but that also reflect off water and snow, that are primarily to blame for most skin cancers. So it’s important to protect the skin all year long. And not all sunscreens do. Specifically, look for those that say UVA/UVB or broad spectrum coverage. And encourage dad to slather it on each morning. An SPF of at least 15 is recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation for every day use. And SPF-30 or higher should be worn for any extended outdoor activity, for example washing the car, doing yard work or attending an outdoor sporting evert.
Good for the sole. When we first got married, The Lawyer developed a nasty cough. Rather than insist that he go to a doctor, I consulted instead with my guru-du-jour, Swami Bobo. He recommended what he deemed a “magic remedy’” that would break up any congestion: Grape juice laced with cayenne pepper. How was I to know that my husband had triple pneumonia? (He told his mother I was trying to kill him.) That said, a natural remedy that is truly beneficial and that he never refuses is reflexology. The theory is that meridians, the pathways by which energy travels in the body, end in the feet and every organ, gland and body part relates to a place on them. Therefore, massaging these points breaks down any blockages so that the energy current flows freely again. So if you are looking for an inexpensive gift that has many health benefits, why not just give dad a foot rub? Check online for socks with diagrams that show each part of the foot and how the energy flows from a specific point.
Let Papa preach. You know how your father loves to tell stories—either about himself, which you’ve no doubt heard a million times before, or really embarrassing ones about the kids that they would rather never hear again. But this Father’s Day, make it a group effort to show him support. For example, take a stroll with him down memory lane. Let him pull out all the scrapbooks, photo albums and home videos he has taken over the years. Make some popcorn and settle in to watch and listen. Silently! No eye roiling allowed, either. Also no complaints or long faces if he suggests a family outing that may involve something golf or car show-oriented.
Ease his burden. “Balancing out the feminine principle that gives us birth, our fathers provide each of us with direction, clear boundaries and an example to follow,” says interfaith minister Skye Ann Taylor. This is a tall order for anyone, and Skye feels that the men in our lives could all do with a little bit of slack when it comes to our expectations and demands. She says that although we should not let them off the proverbial hook all together, we should realize that we often judge what is missing, rather than accept what is given. “Fathering is difficult,” she contends, “a big job and sometimes a thankless one. And not being thanked may be the biggest wound of all.” To that end, Skye feels that each of us should appreciate what our dads canand do do without measuring them against another or expecting what is not possible. So here’s Skye’s Father’s Day message: “Lighten up, Gentlemen! Laugh often, play less seriously, provide without overworking, come home, unwind and, most important, allow happiness the time and space to arise.” The Lawyer will no doubt say amen to that!
Write on. A common experience we all share when we lose a parent is to wonder, Would Mom or Dad be proud of me if they knew what I was doing with my life? When Juliet Barbara’s father passed away suddenly and unexpectedly, she struggled to find a way to continue to connect with him. He was a scientist, and while she didn’t have a background in science, he instilled in her an appreciation for innovation and creativity. So she started reading everything she could find on those topics. And when the right time came, she felt strong enough to do something with the information she had learned: She began writing a blog on advancement and innovation for Forbes, where she works as Executive Coordinator. “Not only did I gain an outlet for communicating with my dad,” she says, “I joined a group of thinkers around the world who appreciated the topics my dad valued. Even today, every post I write is like a conversation with him and a reminder that the things he loved most in life still exist.” So no matter if your dad was a scientist—or a mechanic—there are ways to still keep his memory alive. And that can be the most healing experience of all.
Time to move. “Whether in your at-home or away office, our bodies were made to move, and sticking them in a chair behind a desk for hours on end is one of the worst things we can do,” says Ryan Moore, VP of FitDesk. Ryan’s start-up suggestions that will help initiate a change for dad include standing up while you eat lunch, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, avoiding the people movers at the airport, parking at the far end of the parking lot and knocking out your emails and social media while doing some form of exercise, such as riding on a stationary bike or using the innovative FitDesk, which allows you to exercise while using a laptop computer or playing a video game.
Share the moment. “Although ties and socks are appreciated, and at times needed, more than anything Dad wants something from the heart,” says Robert “Daddy” Nickell, founder of Daddyscrubs.com, gifts that celebrate fatherhood. He suggests that families consider favorite shared past times with Dad. So take a tip from the Support section–or create your own. Was it fishing? Find a photo of the two of you fishing and enlarge it in black and white for his office. Did you ever make a dessert together that sparked an inside joke for years to come? How about treating him to that along with a nice card? Or going with him to a concert of his favorite band or musician? “Father’s Day is about remembering time shared,” Robert says, “so keep that in mind as you search for the perfect gift.”
A father’s love is forever. The dad of my friend, PR/marketing strategist Samuella Becker, died four months before she was born. Her mother decided to honor his memory by giving their girl a feminized version of his name. “Growing up in Akron, Ohio, ” she says, “was a little bit different from today, when everyone wants a unique name.” In fact, she remembers a childhood of being assigned to boy’s gym classes, of being accused by a substitute teacher of sitting in the wrong seat on purpose and of desperately wishing for a glamorous, feminine name like Diana.” But she’s learned to love her name for its uniqueness and for giving her a memory of a father whom she never met.