Backstory: Just call it 'Dad's Day'
Someone who is called 'Father' by his children belongs in a Victorian novel.
Hard as it is to believe, more good reasons exist for being a parent than watching your 6-year-old hit a single off a batting tee. In my case, it gave me the opportunity to pin a new name on myself. I have always disliked my birth certificate name, Charles, although for some reason I wrote four books using it as my first name, until I realized Charles only worked with the word "Prince" in front of it.
So when it came time to select something for my son to call me, I went with your basic Dad. Pop and all its derivatives were a no-go. Pops, Papa, and, gulp, Pappy belonged to a time and generation I did not want to belong to.
One reason I liked being a Dad is that Dad definitely sounds as if the person referred to is younger than the age on his driver's license. Someone who is called "Father" by his children belongs in a Victorian novel. He wears a coat and tie to the dinner table, "harrumphs" a lot, looks disparagingly upon all attempts at levity, and refers to his wife as "Mother." He belongs in a stiffly posed portrait hung above a mantle.
So, having a holiday called Father's Day always seemed odd to me. Dad's Day is both more alliterative and appropriate. It definitely sounds better to say "Hey, Dad, how about playing catch?" Or "Dad, can I have the car?" Using "Father" in either instance would probably bring a "no."
Still, now that my son is 24, living nicely on his own, I am wondering if it's time to finally change the nomenclature of our relationship. The question arose because of his recent visit to Northern California (where I live) from Southern California (where he lives). In the past, he has arrived in town solo. On the last visit, however, he brought along a "friend," and I got the sense one night that we were "double-dating."
Not that we were, of course. Yet, for once, it seemed more like a Jon-and-Chuck-type situation. Except that my son would feel almost as uncomfortable calling me "Chuck" as I would calling him "Son." So the word "Dad" was still used to identify the guy in the front seat of the car, the man sitting across from him in the restaurant.
I know this concern was mine alone and not his. Nonetheless, now that I am in my pre-Grandfather, Grampa, Gramps days, I kept worrying about it, concerned that maybe even Dad isn't right – not man-to-man enough.
But before I could get too concerned, it was time to say good-bye. To hug good-bye. And in the midst of our holding each other, I realized he was still, all 6-foot-5 of him, my little boy. And, come to think of it, if he wants to call me "Father," I might smile wistfully, but I wouldn't mind. I wouldn't mind at all. And if he or you or anyone else wants to wish me a "Happy Father's Day," well, that would be just fine, too.
• Chuck Cohen is a satirist.