Father's Day is right around the corner. And while I don't usually pay much attention to it - or Mother's Day or Easter or Thanksgiving or most other holidays, for that matter - it isn't because, as some would say, they are business gimmicks or tricks designed to make us spend money. It's because I'm just usually not that into holidays.
This Father's Day, however, is a little different. It has taken on a new importance, as it will be my first Father's Day as a father.
In years past, I would make the obligatory call to Dad. We'd talk a little, plan to get lunch, and see a movie - science fiction, usually - and then we wouldn't talk for a month or two.
This year however, I'm a dad. And I'm oddly excited about it.
My wife and I had Baby Ida almost five months ago. I would be lying if I said it hasn't been stressful. Julie and I are both tired. Our schedules are out-of-whack. It seems almost impossible to find the time to do all of the ordinary things we used to do, like get dinner as a couple or hang-out with friends and enjoy a few cold beers.
Additionally, as parents and full-time activists/organizers we are both faced with a whole new set of challenges.
As a family, we are committed to the class struggle. We both work on electoral and issue-based campaigns. We both work with broad-based coalitions, unions, community groups, faith, and student leaders. We both optimistically and gladly take on the daunting challenge of trying to build a more just, more equal society, in a far-right state in the heart of a center-right nation.
However, now we have an even more difficult challenge: How do we raise a child, while maintaining the values and political commitments we hold so dear?
How do we balance the meetings, the pickets, actions and strikes with the dirty diapers and bottles? How do we balance the need to travel to meet with members and activists all across the region and all across the country with the fear that we might miss the first step or first word?
While I'm not usually the sentimental type, and while most of the activists/organizers I work with are all about the business of getting the work done, I'm going to take this Father's Day to not only recommit myself to fighting for a socially and economically just future, but to also recommit myself to being a father, the best dad I can be.
Julie and I are pretty traditional working class people. We both work. We both do the chores - dinner, yard work, laundry, cat boxes, sweeping, mopping, vacuuming. The list goes on and on. And we both try to spend as much time as possible with our beautiful baby girl.
We both come from union families. Her father and grandfather were both union roofers. My father and grandfather were both union autoworkers. Both my grandfather and father served in the military. We were both told "never cross a picket-line," that's stealing someone else's job. We were both told "it's because of the union that we have a roof over our head and clothes on our back." So we were raised with certain values and beliefs, values we hope to share with Baby Ida.
As a father I'm beginning to think about my life and its meaning a little differently. Yes, I want to change the world. Yes, I want to make the big banks, the corporate CEOs, and the super-rich pay their fair share - since they are the people ruining our economy anyway. Yes, I want to help all of my union brothers and sisters - and all working class folks - make a living wage with health care benefits and pension security. Yes, I want to be a part of the emerging labor-lead grassroots coalitions that will transform our country into the promise of what we all know it can be.
But, I also want to lounge around on the couch and watch Blue's Clues with my daughter, and blow in her hair because it makes her giggle. And sing to her. And put her in the stroller and walk her around. And watch her as she begins to explore the world around us with so much potential and promise.
I'm a father and a full-time activist/organizer. I feel like I have to be both because the fight for social and economic justice isn't just vanity. It isn't just ego or pride. It is a heartfelt desire to make sure that my daughter - and all children - grow up in a world fundamentally different, fundamentally better. We can do so much better.
That, to me, is the real meaning of Father's Day.
Photo: Tony and daughter Ida. PW