With all due respect to the moms out there—especially the ones doing it all alone—there are some gifts a little boy should really get from his father. Or even an uncle. I mean, moms can come through on some of the items that follow, and I’m sure there are some single dads who’ve had to buy their little girl her first bra (poor fellas), but we’re talking best-case scenario here…

Model Airplane (or Race Car)
A little boy’s first stab at assembling those tiny little plastic pieces, model glue maddeningly sticking to his fingers, the diagram growing blurry from the constant scrutiny—it’s rite of passage territory. It’s a project for father and son together, too, which is really the whole point.

Baseball Glove
Baseball gloves are often the first purchase a father will make for his son, oftentimes while the kid is pretty much the same size as the glove! Yeah, we buy them for ’em young—too young—but it’s only because we cannot wait for that first toss; the maiden voyage of that baseball from dad to Junior, daydreams of a future Yankee dancing in our heads.

Toolbox
I’m not talking the toy variety here. This ain’t about squeezable plastic hammers and a drill that doesn’t even work, for Pete’s sake. I’m not talking about a real drill, either. But I am talking about a real toolbox. The “starter” one. Dad buys a light, lunchbox-sized tool kit and simply begins loading it up with stuff like a screwdriver, some measuring tape and, yes, a hammer. A tiny but very real hammer. Let the destruction begin!

Swiss Army Knife
This one is dependent upon age, of course, but the time-honored brand does have several ridiculously small, affordable, and relatively harmless ones among their stable. A boy’s eyes will widen upon receiving this treasure, as if you’re acknowledging some test they passed that they had no idea they had taken. It’ll have a tiny scissor that can be plucked out, a file, and a blade. Small, to be sure, but the sucker can still slice, and we live in a day and age where this bad boy cannot be taken to school. But it can turn a boring day in the backyard into an adventure, too.

Watch
I’m not necessarily talking some family heirloom here, although those always make for powerful moments during the holiday. I’m talking about that first watch, with its sturdy band and implication that it is time to become aware of the time all on your own, plus make some of your outfits start popping. Most sons notice their fathers tending to their own watches and covet them in silence, unbeknownst to Pop in the first place.

Compass
Nothing says “adventure awaits” like a compass. Engrave the sucker too, with either his initials, or something like…. well… adventure awaits. Don’t let our tech-riddled world, with that watch you got him no doubt having a GPS option, rob you of moments every father and son should have. It’s symbolic at the end of the day anyway; the compass says “there’s a great big world out there,” and this classic gadget can help you navigate it.

Bicycle
Many a mom buys her son a bicycle—especially that first one, with its wobbly training wheels and useless horn (how fast are you going anyway?)—but Dad’s got the eye. Dad is the one who will pimp your ride. He’s also the one that should let go of it that first time, only to watch the boy either bounce on the pavement or sail down the street, getting his first taste of sweet two-wheeled freedom.

BB Gun
The BB Gun need not come with political underpinnings. And, yes, most moms will be certain he’ll shoot his eye out. He won’t. What he will do, however, is feel like he’s becoming a man—he’s gotta be, or his dad wouldn’t have gotten him a BB Gun, right? Nothing super-powered here, and the accompanying “leave the squirrels and birds alone” lecture has to be well-rehearsed. That first time he pegs the can of soda you propped up on a tree stump in the backyard? Magical, man.


Sled
Mothers will get their little boys the most adorable plastic saucer to coast down a tiny hill on, SpongeBob or Power Ranger stickers and all. But it’s Dad who’ll go the distance and get you something that can fly. There could be blades beneath its wooden frame, or maybe even straps for your feet, should you choose to stand on the sucker. Mom doesn’t want you to get hurt, but Dad wonders what the point of it all is if you don’t. Oh, and the two of you should name it, too.

Condoms
Sure, they’re everywhere these days. Some nightclubs have them in buckets by the entrance. But, that doesn’t mean your boy will use one. Coming from you—awkward as it may be—there is an added gravitas. No sermon need accompany the presentation. Nah, just a knowing look, an arched eyebrow, and a slow but steady nod.