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Crowning Him King for a Day
We seem to treat fathers—our own and our children’s fathers—differently on their special day than we treat 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 dinner? And do men even eat chocolate?!?) But breakfast in bed, whether it’s just hot coffee served with The New York Times, equals shortbread and strawberries with whipped cream, which we asked for on the mother’s tray. I have found that men deeply appreciate any simple loving gesture made on their behalf. The little morning romp my kids did with their dad today—with coffee, handmade cards, poems, and wrapped presents—did more for him than anything else we could have done. It read, “We didn’t forget you this year, Dad.” (We honestly forgot about him a few years ago…)
Father’s Day has its origins in Mother’s Day. As thoughtful Sonora Louise Smart Dodd listened to a Mother’s Day sermon, she felt that fathers deserve every bit of recognition and attention—if only for a day—as mothers. She approached her minister in Spokane, Washington in 1909 with an idea for a special Father’s Day sermon in memory of her own father, William Smart. William, widowed during the birth of their sixth child, raised this newborn child as well as the couple’s five older children. Now an adult herself, Dodd appreciated all too well the personal sacrifices her father made over the many years of raising children, and wished to honor him in June, the month of his birth. Since her minister could not act quickly enough to honor his exact birthday (June 5th), he scheduled his father’s thanksgiving sermon for the 19th or third Sunday in June.
And so the first Father’s Day sermon was preached on June 19. Other historians claim that Dr. Robert Webb celebrated the first Father’s Day at Central Church in Fairmont, West Virginia in 1908; others claim that a gold watch inscribed “The Originator of Father’s Day” belonging to Harry Meek earned him the holiday. However, in 1916, President Woodrow Wilson officially endorsed the idea, in 1924, President Calvin Coolidge officially endorsed it, and in 1966, President Lyndon Johnson officially issued a presidential proclamation designating the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day. But it was only in 1972 that it was declared a national holiday. And interestingly, it’s a uniquely American holiday; other countries celebrate it, but only in America is it placed on our national calendar.
The way we celebrate this day is as unique to each family as dads are to their own children. While Mother’s Day has its own expectations: flowers, chocolate and gifts, Father’s Day offers more spontaneity. Just like dad himself. Sure, there’s the proverbial tie. Or socks. But since fathers have hobbies and sporting interests from one end of the spectrum to the other, the day is celebrated with a myriad of activities. Golf? Fishing? Relax with coffee and a good book?
My husband and I went to town today. The weather was as perfect as we’ve ever seen it: blue skies and 78 degrees with no humidity. We attended services downtown, followed by an al fresco lunch on a patio right on 7th Avenue. A long walk through Central Park was not only exciting; perfect skies served as an umbrella for hundreds of New Yorkers tossing Frisbees, playing volleyball, canoeing with their honeys, and basking in the warmth of the sun on blankets spread out on the open lawn.
Throughout the day, I was aware of my husband’s unique role in our family and also in shaping our children’s idea of fatherhood. He is our provider and our protector. Yet there is much more. He is a fellow educator. Not necessarily the first one my kids ran to with skin on their knees, but the one they would run to when an emergency hit home. He’s the one who took our three-month-old to the hospital for the initial biopsy (without anesthesia) when we discovered he needed an emergency colostomy; the one who took the call when one child ran away (miles) 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 carries the financial burden of our family, which is a direct result of the decisions we made together almost twenty years ago. And when it’s hard, it works. Up before the sun, commuting to suburban New York City, fighting for profit, quotas and margins all day, every day. There is 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 this out. , go crazy and then die.” Hardly the view of happiness I would prefer, but an assessment of part of the reality of being a man.
On Father’s Day – and every day – we need to be more aware of the generous efforts that the fathers in our lives make on our behalf. We must be mindful of the sacrifices of their personal time that they make every day. That they rarely manage to have lunch with the guys, a morning tennis match and a sauna or afternoon bridge. That they have liability 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 metrics and shareholder accountability. That they fight traffic on empty stomachs. And catching early morning planes on very little sleep.
The fathers in our lives would no doubt travel to the ends of the earth for you and his children… if they knew that there would be several couples on the other side of the front door welcoming them with open arms.
Hopefully, 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 dads everywhere felt special this Father’s Day. That they know deep down that their efforts on our behalf are fully recognized, truly appreciated and deeply appreciated.
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