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Crowning Him King for a Day
We seem to treat fathers—our own or the father of our children—differently on their Special Day than we do mothers on Mother’s Day. Maybe it’s because we’re wired differently. (I mean, seriously, when was the last time the man in your life asked for flowers, chocolate, and food? And do men even eat chocolate?!?) But breakfast in bed, whether it’s just served hot coffee with The New York Times, is similar to that pastry and whipped cream-topped strawberries we asked for on our mama tray. I have found that men are deeply appreciative of all simple loving gestures made on their behalf. The little breakfast my kids made with their dad today—with coffee, handmade cards, poems, and wrapped gifts—did more to get him going than anything else we could have done. It read: “We haven’t forgotten you this year, Dad.” (We honestly forgot about him a few years ago…)
Father’s Day has its origins in Mother’s Day. As a thoughtful Sonora Louise Smart Dodd listened to a sermon on Mother’s Day, she felt that fathers deserved just as much appreciation and attention — if for a day — as mothers. She approached her minister in Spokane, Washington in 1909 with her idea of a special Father’s Day sermon in memory of her own father, William Smart. widowed during the birth of her sixth child, William single-parent that newborn baby and also the couple’s five older children. Now an adult herself, Dodd understood all too well the personal sacrifices her father made during those many childhood years, and she wanted to honor him in June, the month of his birth. Because their minister could not respond quickly enough to honor his exact birthday (June 5th), he scheduled his father’s appreciation sermon for the 19th, or the third Sunday in June.
And so the first Father’s Day sermon was on June 19. Other historians claim that Dr. Robert Webb celebrated the first Father’s Day at the Central Church in Fairmont, West Virginia in 1908; still others argue that Harry Meek’s “Originator of Father’s Day” inscribed gold watch lays claim to the holiday. However, President Woodrow Wilson officially endorsed the idea in 1916, in 1924 President Calvin Coolidge officially endorsed it, and in 1966 President Lyndon Johnson officially issued a presidential proclamation marking the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day. But it wasn’t until 1972 that it was declared a national holiday. And, interestingly enough, it is a uniquely American holiday; other countries celebrate it, but only in America is it placed on our national calendar.
How we celebrate the day is as unique to each family as fathers are to their own children. Because while Mother’s Day has its own set of expectations: flowers, chocolates and gifts, Father’s Day offers more spontaneity. Just like father himself. Oh sure, there’s the proverbial tie. Or socks. But because fathers have hobbies and sporting interests ranging from one end of the spectrum to the other, the day is celebrated with a myriad of activities. Golf? Fish? Relaxing with coffee and a good book?
My husband and I went into town today. The weather was as perfect as we had ever seen: blue skies and 78 degrees with no humidity. We attended worship services in midtown, followed by lunch al fresco on a patio right on 7th Avenue. A long walk through Central Park was not only exciting; the picture-perfect sky served as an umbrella for the hundreds of New Yorkers throwing Frisbees, volleyball, canoodling with their honey, and basking in the warmth of the sun on blankets stretched over the open area of lawn.
I was very aware throughout the day of the unique role my husband has in our family, as well as in shaping our children’s vision for fatherhood. He is our provider and our protector. Yet he is so much more. He is a co-breeder. Not necessarily the first one that my children would run to with skinned knees, but the one that would run to them when emergencies hit home. He’s the one who took our three-month-old baby to the hospital for an initial biopsy (without anesthesia) when we found out he needed an emergency colostomy; the one who took the phone call when one child ran (a mile) from home and was discovered by our local police; the one who stood by me just this week when I had a brief medical scare. He is our rock.
He bears the financial burden of our family, the direct result of decisions we made together almost twenty years ago. And when it gets rough, he goes on. In front of the sun, commuting through suburban New York City traffic, he fights for bottom lines, quotas and margins all day, every day. With rarely a word of complaint or frustration.
Most fathers have learned to deal with the harsh realities of everyday life. They had to. My own seventeen-year-old son came downstairs a few weeks ago, wandered into the kitchen, and said, “I figured it out. You go through school, get good grades, so you can get into a good college, get a job, screw you up, and then you die.” Hardly the happy outlook I preferred, but an assessment of part of a man’s reality.
On Father’s Day – and every day – we should be more mindful of the generous efforts that the fathers in our lives make for us. We must be aware of the sacrifices to their personal time that they make on a daily basis. That they rarely have time for lunch with the boys, morning tennis match and sauna, or afternoon bridge. That they have accountability issues that we may never fully appreciate. That they have superiors to honor, subordinates to lead, and colleagues to inspire. That they have bottom lines, quarterly quotas, profitability measures and responsibilities to shareholders. That they fight the traffic on empty stomachs. And catch early morning flights on very little sleep.
The fathers in our lives would undoubtedly travel to the ends of the earth for you and his children… if they knew they would be greeted by several pairs of open arms on the other side of the front door.
Let’s hope that fathers everywhere understand the unique role they play in our lives, in the lives of their children, and in today’s culture in general. Let’s hope that father’s day felt special everywhere. That they know, deep down, that their efforts for us are fully recognized, truly appreciated and deeply appreciated.
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