Happy Father's Day - June 20th

Monday, June 14, 2010

Did you know that the United States is only one of a handful of countries in the world that has an official day on which fathers are honored by their children? On the third Sunday in June, fathers all across the United States are given presents, treated to dinner or otherwise made to feel special. Those of us men that are blessed enough to be able to be honored this day owe our gratitude, not surprisingly, to a woman - Mrs. Sonora Dodd of Spokane, Washington. She thought of the idea for Father's Day while listening to a Mother's Day sermon in 1909. Sonora wanted a special day to honor her father, William Smart. Smart, who was a Civil War veteran, was widowed when his wife died while giving birth to their sixth child. Mr. Smart was left to raise the newborn and his other five children by himself on a rural farm in eastern Washington State.

After Sonora became an adult she realized the selflessness her father had shown in raising his children as a single parent. It was her father that made all the parental sacrifices and was, in the eyes of his daughter, a courageous, selfless, and loving man. In 1909, Sonora approached her own minister and others in Spokane about having a church service dedicated to fathers on June 5, her father's birthday. That date was too soon for her minister to prepare the service, so he spoke a few weeks later on June 19th. From then on, the state of Washington celebrated the third Sunday in June as Father's Day.

States and organizations began lobbying Congress to declare an annual Father's Day. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson approved of this idea, but it was not until 1924 when President Calvin Coolidge made it a national event to "establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children and to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations." Since then, fathers had been honored and recognized by their families throughout the country on the third Sunday in June. In 1966 President Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the 3rd Sunday of June as Father's, and then six years later, in 1972, President Richard Nixon signed into law a permanent U.S. Father's Day.

As any dad will tell you, there is no Father’s Day that is ever more special for a man than his very first one as a dad. I celebrated my first in 2006, and I still have that very first Father’s Day card displayed in my office. And it was made all the more special by being able to share it with my own father (really my step-father, but he’s the dad I never had). For the first time, I understood what the day meant to him, too. It’s hard to put into words the pride and joy that I held in my heart as I looked out over the dinner table with my dad to the right of me and my new baby son to the left. It is a day of such happiness!

As has become an annual tradition for the media, however, in the days leading up to Father’s Day, you will begin to be bombarded with stories and images of deadbeats, abusers, abandoners and other so-called “men” that give the whole lot of us a bad reputation. It’s almost as if Father’s Day has now become a day not to honor fathers, but rather to admonish them and look down on them with a despicable glare.

I am the media’s greatest hallelujah choir in taking these “men” to task for their irresponsibility and bad decisions. But Father’s Day is NOT the time to do it. Father’s Day is a day that we honor good men who own up to their responsibilities and, while they’re not perfect, are good dads. We should be using this day to raise up and praise fatherhood, sending a positive message about why engaged dads are so important to their children and communities, and highlighting those dads that are worthy of having this day named for them, just as Sonora Dodd did 101 years ago.

What message are we otherwise sending to the next generation of fathers - and mothers – if this day is just to talk about all of the bad things that some “fathers” are and do? If all they hear about on this day that is all about dads is how fatherhood is bad, what prize are we giving them to aspire to? What 4 year-old wants to grow up to be a “bad guy” or marry a “super villain”? Wouldn’t being a good father be more attractive if it means being a “real man” or a “superhero”? As I always say, any member of the male species who has the ability to reproduce can be a father; it takes man to be a daddy. Let’s use June 20th to celebrate daddies!

Contributed by Christopher D. Maples, Dad & Director, Dads Inc. - A Division of The Villages

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