How I Want to Be Celebrated for Father’s Day

Dads are notoriously hard to shop for — and in many ways they earn it. But this Father's Day, you have the guide to breakthrough.

by Adam Bulger
Jeremy Nguyen for Fatherly

This story has been produced in partnership with the maker of Enfamil, and the award-winning Enspire, the only formula with immune-supporting Lactoferrin added as an ingredient.

When you become a father, you often become a little less worried about your looks, a little less into shiny new watches or cool shoes, a little less materialistic. It’s at this point that you also become a lot harder to shop for. After all, what do you get someone whose priorities are not really their own?

This is the quandary that Father’s Day brings to so many homes.

The truth is, most dads like myself want to spend quality time with their families. But that’s not a thing you can gift. Not exactly. You can give dads experiences, you can give us peace of mind, you can also give tools that help us be our best selves. What do dads really want for Father’s Day? Here’s your starter guide. And if all else fails, ask. Sometimes, it really is that simple.


Dads embrace routine when we have kids. We have to handle a lot of new responsibilities with a lot less sleep and quickly learn that the chaos and spontaneity of life before kids won’t cut it. Everything’s easier and more stable when we stick to a regimen and stay on a schedule. And overall, it’s fine. Kids need a lot of attention, and we’re happy to provide it.

But over time, the routine becomes monotonous and stifling. We miss the chaos and unpredictability. New experiences can recharge our batteries and make us better parents when we return. Whether we’re checking skydiving off our bucket list or seeing our favorite band in concert, we come back home with new perspectives. Moreover, by being brave and open to new possibilities, we’re being good role models, showing that exploring this great wide world is the best way to tackle life.

How to Gift It: There are a few ways to gift experiences for a dad. You could act as his travel agent by researching and setting up a family vacation (or a dad-only solo adventure), where he can scratch whatever itch needs to be scratched. Or you could reflect on his passions and give him what he needs to make it happen for himself. Surprise him with a gift certificate for, say, the rock climbing gym down the street and then a plane ticket to San Jose, so he can take his new skills to Yosemite, the mecca of climbing.

What Dads Really Want

“This Father’s Day, the biggest gift would be knowing that my kids, my wife, and I are becoming more connected and better attuned to each other as we shelter together. I would also love to do simple things like go to church in person (instead of online) and sit down in our neighborhood coffee shop. I now recognize these rituals as the gifts they’ve always been.” —Matthew S. Rosin, California

Peace of Mind

Dads worry. It’s part of the job. We fret about the distant future and whether our kids will go to college and become happy adults. We anguish over the choices we’re making with our kids in the present. Did we buy the right crib? Do we have enough wipes and diapers? Are we playing our kids the right music? We agonize over whether or not we’re approaching our babies’ sleep habits correctly. Sometimes it gets so intense for dads that our concerns about sleep keep us up at night.

Any relief from the pressure is welcome. Whether it’s a book on sleep training, a music class that’s focused on child development, or assurance that we are, indeed, meeting the baby’s nutritional needs — a little comfort for new dads is a great gift indeed.

How to Gift It: You can’t wrap a bow on peace of mind, but you can remind dads about their informed victories. Parents of infants need to make sure all the infant’s shots are scheduled, the parents themselves are calm, and baby’s nutrition is handled. So, book the pediatrician appointments, schedule a massage for Dad, and get a tub of Enspire — then remind Dad that this is the only formula that has immune system-supporting protein Lactoferrin added as an ingredient, making it Enfamil’s closest formula to breastmilk. Then tell him to just go on and relax for the day.

Something to Fix

Who doesn’t love to fix things? Whether it’s fixing a bike flat, repairing a running toilet, or constructing an inset bookcase, being given a project — something broken, easily fixed — is wildly satisfying. If it’s not the competence you’re after, thank you for at least giving us a sense of purpose. We may need to watch three hours’ worth of instructional videos to do it, but we’re going to get the job done eventually. We appreciate the vote of confidence. And your patience.

How to Gift It: Of course, to be a fixer, one needs tools. And what tools does Dad need? That can be a tough one to answer, depending on the state of their toolbox. You can’t really go wrong if you simply ask someone in a hardware store what’s the best-seller for Father’s Day. But here’s another tip: Jewelers’ tools are clutch for dads of young kids. Kids’ toys have tiny screws embedded deep into plastic molding crevices. A thin and reliable screwdriver can ease a lot of potential headaches.

What Dads Really Want

“My whole life, and this may be just a Northeast thing, but I’ve always wanted one thing when the day came that I was eventually a father. I desire the “Fudgie the Whale” cake from Carvel. But it HAS TO say “You’re a Whale of a Dad” on it. My life will be complete at that moment.” —Peter Tirella, New Jersey

Home Workout Equipment

Babies are enemies of fitness. They need round-the-clock care, which leaves dads little time or energy for the gym. Sadly, once we stop exercising, bad eating habits and sedentary lifestyles all too often push us over the edge to dad bod. But while we can’t get out to a gym, we can still keep moving — and you can help us on our path.

How to Gift It: Pricey home exercise equipment may be out of reach for our family budgets — and it usually ends up collecting dust in the basement, anyway. But, thankfully, smaller purchases like weights, running shoes, books, and fitness app subscriptions can kickstart fitness journeys just as well. Better yet, start with one of the more fun pieces of exercise equipment: the balance board. Basically a skateboard deck on a roller, this piece of equipment is your one-stop shop to a fit upper and lower body. Bonus: It’s wildly fun as well.

What Dads Really Want

“I’m in a two-dad family, which ups the ante on Father’s Day. In the past, I’ve vetoed one of us taking Mother’s Day because I want to honor the moms in our lives on that day. I’ve proposed that we each get a Sunday in June instead, and we can alternate each year which one of us gets the official date. Assuming we are able to leave the house, I’d like to spend the day hiking with the family, relaxing at the beach, and not having to do any of the cooking or kitchen cleanup.” —Peter Gandolfo, California

Outdoor Cooking Gear

When we were 20, we scoffed at backyard grill-loving dads as we drank beer in trendy city bars. But when we reached our 30s and got a yard of our own, our opinions took a 180 spin. Yes, a dad tending an outdoor grill is a cliché. But it’s a cliché for a good reason. As we quickly learned, grilling rules. We get to cook outside, standing on land we own, tending an intensely hot flame that flares on contact with fat and oil. And since we’re grilling meat a grand majority of the time, that flame flares up on the regular. Grilling is just about the chillest time you can have while still being a responsible adult preparing food for your family.

How to Gift It: Grilling gadgets are plentiful and fun. You’re spoiled for choice when buying for us. Because they’re used with open flame and designed to keep us from singeing our arm hairs, or worse, grilling gear is comically oversized. It’s a thrill just to open them and marvel at their ridiculous proportions. Besides enormous tongs and spatulas, there’s a never-ending array of grill gear we can use to bring our grilling game to the next level, from kebob grilling baskets to steam-cleaning grill brushes.

What Dads Really Want

“As with all families, COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on our family’s tightly managed schedule. This Father’s Day, I would love to be celebrated as the dad who tried to keep things fun and interesting during our multiple weeks of sheltering in place. I want to be celebrated as the dad who saved delivery boxes (after cleaning, of course) so the kids could build a massive fort with masking tape and scissors. I want to be celebrated as the dad who woke up early to go on weekly grocery runs (with gloves and masks on), so our family could have fresh fruit/vegetables and we could make home-cooked meals five times a week. I want to be celebrated as the dad who planned social distancing adventures, such as short hikes, bike rides, and other outdoor activities. Last, I really just want to celebrate our collective health and well-being!” —Jimmy Tran, Texas