Happy Father’s Day to every dad…you are special

Published 9:32 am Friday, June 14, 2024

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Father’s Day, if you forgot, is this Sunday, June 16, that day set aside for dads to be treated as someone special, as they are and should be.

Fathers play a crucial role in the success and happiness of their children.

A day to honor fathers was the idea of a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd. As she listened to a Mother’s Day sermon at the Central Methodist Episcopal Church in Spokane, Wash., in 1909, she thought: “Why not set aside a similar day for fathers?” Her own father, William Smart, had raised six children by himself after the death of his wife.

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Ms. Dodd organized a Father’s Day observance on June 19 of that year. She didn’t get much support; even her hometown newspaper mocked the notion of a made-up holiday.

It didn’t help that she soon allied herself with the Associated Men’s Wear Retailers, a trade group – hence the inevitable ties, the bane of many a modern dad on this day.

But by 1913, Congress was listening. Rep. J. Hampton Moore, who was the father of eight children, introduced a bill into Congress commemorating fathers. Perhaps with that many children, he stood more to gain. However Father’s Day wasn’t recognized as a federal holiday until President Lyndon Johnson issued a proclamation in 1966.

Everyone’s relationship with their parents is a unique thing, which makes writing about Mother’s Day and Father’s Day tricky propositions.

The importance of fathers is undeniable. Fathers play a unique role in their child’s life. There’s no map that shows how to be a father, or how to be a child for that matter. There are plenty of ways to be good ones, and not always a way to know whether you’ve found one of them. There’s no shortage of ways to be a bad one, either. And they aren’t always mutually exclusive. Currently, 24 million American children – 34 percent – don’t live with their biological father.

Similarly, there are endless combinations of ways to be a father that are worth celebrating on Father’s Day – from fathers and grandfathers to stepfathers and uncles to any variation on the man who helped make you who you are today.

Mark Twain wrote this about his father: “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

For those of us who have grown up with fathers in our lives, we can surely sympathize with Mark Twain’s timeless evaluation of his own dad. When we’re young, a father’s steady hand on the wheel is an encumbrance, an unwelcome autopilot that keeps us from veering too far off course and into choppy waters.

It’s only as we get older, and take the wheel ourselves, that we realize how much that guiding hand would be helpful to have, and how lucky we were to have had it at all.

And for the sons who grow up to be fathers themselves, it can be a shock to learn just how hard it is to know when you’re guiding your own children on the right path, instead of into the shoals.

There is no map that comes with fatherhood, just the men who came before to look to.

Fathers are no afterthought. As for Father’s Day, it’s an appropriate time to commemorate both the role and the man.

Perhaps most fathers would agree with Mark Twain: You’ve come a long way since you were 14.

Happy Father’s Day.