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Why I Returned My Father’s Day Fitness Tracker

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Jul 15, 2016

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So, a couple of weeks ago we celebrated Father’s Day. Rather than write a reflect immediately, I decided I would let time pass to see if we could maintain the vibe for more than 24 hours. Father’s Day is already the forgotten holiday — well behind Mother’s Day in the level of devotion and importance; somewhere closer to Grandparents’ Day, which celebrates people who get their kicks undermining your parenting by feeding your children candy for breakfast. So as a dad, you have to milk it.

Particularly when, on this auspicious occasion, you get one of those exercise and health tracking watches that monitor your every move. The message from the family was: “Listen, my clown friend, you need to exercise.” Or maybe my wife simply wanted proof I actually do things during the day by way of a step-counter. Still, I thought I would take the gift in the spirit of love and try to use it.

The watch tracked my steps, gently informing me I could do better. The one time I ran an errand requiring walking I forgot to wear it. The watch also tracked my sleep, telling me what I already knew: I need more sleep. And it tracked my heart rate in an erratic and bizarre way that, if true, would indicate I live in an ongoing state of heart attack.

I could feel the fitness tracker judging me, telling me in its disinterested way that I was a pretty lazy human being and that other people were probably using it to do amazing, earth-shattering things. In all honesty … it was kind of like having a wearable version of my wife’s least endearing qualities. Or, like parenting.

So, after about two weeks, I decided it was just too much for me. I took the tracker back to the store.

Father’s Day gifts need to be thought of in a more robust way, I decided. In the way, say, of my neighbour’s family, who got him a skateboard for Father’s Day. My eyes lit up with envy when I saw it. This is exactly what I needed!

So, I ordered one to replace the fitness tracker. When I showed it to my younger daughter, she got very excited, and within five minutes, I was transported 30 years into the past, to the skateboarding days of my youth. We were out on the street, my daughter and I, she on her bike, I on an uncomplicated plank with two wheels that wouldn’t mistake my regular pulse for a life-threatening condition, smiling and laughing as we cruised around the neighborhood.

The skateboard is a simple device, you see. You don’t plug it in. You don’t track anything. You just cruise around on it beside your daughter. It doesn’t judge you, except by the basic laws of physics. If you lose your balance, you fall. If you stop paying attention, you run into a parked car.

It’s a bit like how parenting should be, but seldom is. Far from the mandate to raise children to navigate a dangerous world, I think teaching them to have uncomplicated fun is probably the most important thing I can do as a father (along with not putting my life in jeopardy at intersections).

This switcheroo from a fancy techno-watch to a grippy, black skateboard turned out to be the best Father’s Day present I’ve ever received. I had a trip back in time, found a new way to bond with my daughters, got up and moving, and savoured some moments of sheer joy.

Now the only thing left is for me to keep from breaking any bones. After all, I am way too old to be riding a skateboard. I’m a father, after all.

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Written By Rajat Soni

Rajat is an Indian-American stay-at-home father of two girls, aged 7 and 3, one of whom was born in India. After working as a lawyer and raising his girls for several years in Mumbai, he moved to the U.S., where he became the primary caretaker for his daughters while his wife started a new job. He’s interested in exploring the role modern fathers play in the lives of their young children.

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