I was at the store the other day hunting for a Father's Day card.
I kept coming up short. According to Hallmark and the rest of the greeting card contingent, dads come in only four categories: grill masters, sports fanatics, golf aficionados or anglers.
The problem is, my dad doesn't fit into any of these categories.
In fact, many of the father and husband figures in my life can't be boxed into such limited stereotypes. Sure, they might watch the occasional football game, but they can't be constrained by fishing poles and grilling tools.
Looking at the cards, one would think we are still firmly in the 1950s, where the distant, authoritative father figure is defined by what he does instead of who he is.
The fathers of today, the ones I admire, are thoughtful, sensitive and good communicators. They are on the ground, in the trenches (dispelling another Father's Day card trope, the one that begins with "Dad, I know we never talked much.")
They are on the floor changing diapers. They've got a toddler on their hip in the foyer at church. They have spaghetti up to their elbows because they are parked in front of that high chair.
They jump on the trampoline with the kids. They sit by their son into the wee hours, coaching him through long division.
When I look at the dads of today, I have great hope for the future. They build relationships with their children. They are open about everything from finances to intimacy. They present themselves to their children not as untouchable gods, but flawed individuals acting upon grace, learning precept upon precept.
I can't help but think that our sons and daughters are going to be well-equipped and better adjusted because of these father figures. Dads of today don't just swoop in right before the closing credits to dispense sage advice. They don't hide behind a newspaper or a lawnmower.
The dads I know don't get stuck in a dreaded desk job, punching the clock. An astounding number of them take daring leaps into the unknown. They write books, start businesses, invent a new way of making ice cream. They create things with software or with 3-D printers. They go back to school in their 40s, or they drop down to part time so their spouses can pursue their dreams.
In fact, if I were to rewrite the Father's Day card, it wouldn't be a card at all. A card is too one-dimensional, too stiff. And perhaps that's the problem. I imagine the good fathers, the ones worth emulating, haven't changed that much in the last 50 years. They've simply given themselves permission to break out of the stereotype affixed by TV shows and beer commercials.
In my mind, the perfect Father's Day card would have to be a 3-D model, painstakingly printed over years of coaching and mentoring. It would be exactly life-size and entirely indispensable.
Every year, I grow more grateful for the role of fathers, grandfathers, uncles, brothers and strong male role models. We need more of them. And the ones we see who are lugging a diaper bag or throwing themselves in the middle of the action need to be encouraged and celebrated.
Happy Father's Day to all the good dads of the world.