Greeting cards adopting more positive paternal images

Fathers sleep a lot, and they snore loudly. When they're awake, they like to fish or golf, but they're comically bad at both. They drink so much beer they're practically alcoholics, and they're complete couch potatoes, always watching television and hogging the remote.

At least, that's the less-than-favorable image of Dad on Father's Day greeting cards. It's a striking contrast to the poetic praise often expressed at Mother's Day. Many men say they are tired of the "put-down" cards and would like some affirmation for a change — and at least one greeting-card company is listening.

One father in Washington, D.C., who used to stay home with his kids and blog about his life as an at-home father, says the golf and fishing cards don't bother him, but he doesn't like the ones that make dads look incompetent.

"This idea that men are somehow biologically incapable of caring for their children is the sort of thing that I don't find particularly funny," said Brian Reid, father of two.

Greeting cards can be a good litmus test for the way society perceives various relationships and people. Companies want to sell cards, so they aim to hit a spark of truth. But generalizing in order to reach people can lead to stereotypes that then get perpetuated and take on a life of their own.

One Hallmark card this season showed a cartoon depiction of "When dads pack lunches." In the picture, some kids are eating lunch together, and one says, "Looks like I got a peanut butter and salami sandwich and a can of WD-40."

But our culture might be headed away from that and offering credit to both units in the parental pack. Hallmark says it is offering more positive cards this year.

"Men have told us they would like to feel a little more appreciated," said spokeswoman Deidre Parkes. "That doesn't mean you can't give your dad a funny Father's Day card, but it can be maybe complimentary humor rather than a negative card."

Indeed, the greeting card industry might be getting the hint. Other than the small handful of "put-down" cards, Father's Day greetings are appreciative and often quite mushy.

"I love you just like I did when I was little ... only now I appreciate you even more," reads one.

This Father's Day remember: Dads are people, too.

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