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Father time 

For me, birthdays have long been the ultimate holiday: I tend to buy a new shirt for the occasion and, sometimes, spend a week or the better part of a month celebrating. This year—my 30th birthday, but my first as a father—involved a family cookout, a candy-filled pink flamingo piñata in the rain outside, a few games of pool and a basement rock show. Sure, I had my Zen moments to reflect on 30, but friends I've cared about for years occupied most of the day. I turned in relatively early, especially for a Saturday birthday celebration. Sunday was a family day, after all.

Hallmark holidays tend to be a different story, but my first experience with the fabricated celebration Father's Day erased my scrooge face for a day or two. Being on the other side of the table made me take a second look at the holiday's intentions, or at least what it could be. For Mother's Day, Stacy asked only to spend an entire day with Oliver and me. As my day approached, nothing made more sense. Father's Day became the Gant Family Unit trekking around, simply having fun together. It was just another family day.

On Saturday, Stacy threw a twist into my weekend with an afternoon date to the movie theater. While Oliver played with a few neighborhood kids, we enjoyed a few cold beers, popcorn and a big-screen comedy in the respite of air conditioning. Fatherhood felt quite good. Later in the day, I took a short break in between the family trips to the public pool to jot down some jargon for a graduate school application. That night, I played a few hands of poker with some architect friends. Again, I turned in early, knowing Sunday would be that much smoother sans the bourbon headache.

Sunday afternoon, Stacy and I experimented with the perfect mojito recipe before a cookout with neighbors. The World Cup—or its vuvuzelas, at least—blared in the background. I watched Brazil own the soccer ball for most of its 90-minute match against Ivory Coast. It made me want to jump up and put on my own cleats, but relaxing with Stacy on the couch while Oliver slept was pleasant enough. At the cookout, the kids ran around while we cooked, mixed drinks and discussed the latest World Cup statistics. The two fathers were the "guests of honors."

We had a date. We had some food on the grill. We made mojitos. We enjoyed the company of friends and raised our glasses to chasing kids around and having time to turn the compost every few days. Father's Day, turns out, is more about having a family than being a father. Today, on the summer solstice, I can return without circumstance to the latter: Oliver and I are back at home together all day watching more World Cup, kicking a ball around the living room, yelling "Goal!" By next year, maybe, he'll have that bicycle kick down.

  • Father's Day, turns out, is more about having a family than being a father.

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