It can be tricky to get the right tone and substance whenever there’s a special day to celebrate. The ‘greeting card’ occasions are days when we’re encouraged and enticed to buy something for someone special – a loved one on Valentine’s Day, Mothers in May, Fathers in June. Did you know that Grandparents Day is September 8th this year; and Siblings Day was April 10th?  And in many provinces in Canada we can now get a day off from work or school to celebrate Family Day.

In 2019 the family looks much different than it did when I got married in 1982. While married couples remain the predominant family structure, there are many variations and combinations of family members.

The 2011 Canadian census identified common-law families, lone-parent families, same-sex couples with children, step-families, and grand-parents who are raising grand-children. There’s even a small proportion of children under age 14 who are living in households with relatives or non-relatives that don’t include a parent or grandparent. And for the first time, the census counted foster children. 

Even without knowing the data, we can see observationally and anecdotally that families are more colourful, diverse and inclusive than ever. Which prompts me to wonder… when we celebrate any kind of ‘family’ day, are we getting it right? Are these special days recognizing the diversity that now exists within family units to ensure that all kinds of families are honoured and included?

I’ve always been cautious and understated when ‘family days’ are upcoming. Not because I’m opposed to celebrating my own amazing family – I’m blessed with a wonderful family! My hesitation to recognize these days in a big ‘Hallmark holiday kind-of-way’ started when I became a teacher. I learned quickly that not every child in my class had a greeting-card family. That meant I had to get creative with student-designed cards and classroom crafts so that everyone was included in celebrating Moms and Dads.

This innate teacher hesitation to celebrate family days became personal in 1999, after the death of my husband Tony. As the mother of two young boys, ages 6 and 11, I dreaded that first Father’s Day when my sons would be involved in June art activities that undoubtedly had something to do with neck-ties, baseball or bbq’s.

I consider myself lucky that I get recognition from my children on both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. The boys have picked up on my subtle and understated approach to these days; neither one of them makes a big deal of it. No, I’m not showered with cards and flowers, accolades or tributes. Flashy and overt is not my style; but I definitely feel the love. The messages come early in the day; they are simple, heart-felt and sincere; they’re filled with appreciation and love. I know these days are not just about me as parent; these days are about ‘us’ as a family unit. I celebrate my children on these days as much as they celebrate me. That’s how our family does it.

So as Father’s Day draws near, and you’re encouraged to “celebrate Dad and save 50%” take whatever approach works for you. Not everyone has a father to celebrate with. Not everyone has a father-child relationship that is worth celebrating. Not every father has a child, if there was childhood loss. Greeting-card occasions can be stressful, sad, lonely and confusing. Whatever you choose to do, or not do… that’s ok.