Today, 8 June, the second Sunday of June, is Father’s Day in some parts of the world. In America we celebrate it next Sunday, 15 June, the third Sunday of June. I will be taking that day off, but will probably repost a blog I find significant.
Father’s (Fathers, Fathers’) Day is celebrated throughout the world, on dates spanning the calendar. It celebrates many different aspects of Fatherhood, but I’ll be focusing on Father’s Day in America.
As in many counties, it started not as a response, but as a complement to Mother’s Day. It was initially conceived in Spokane Washington on June 19, 1910, at the YMCA, by Sonora Smart Dodd, who had been born in Arkansas. Her father, the Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart, was a single parent who raised his six children there. The holiday met resistance from Congress, which felt it might be commercialized (and we say they never get anything right). In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers, designating the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day. Six years later, the day was made a permanent national holiday when President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1972. Personally, I feel that speaks volumes about the forgotten parent. Father’s Day was officiated during the birth of “Women’s Lib.”
The role being a father is a tough gig. Unlike being a mother, the male has the choice to be present, so every father is a volunteer. The balance of love and discipline is often difficult for children to see, until they become parents themselves. Societal prejudices have shaped the perceived role in ways that do not reflect reality. Being male, I have only been a father, and I would never judge the role of mother on any balance, both roles are exceptionally complex.
In some countries, Father’s day is seen as a celebration of immediate fathers, but is often celebrated at the eldest grandfather’s home. It is a celebration of fatherhood, and fatherly bonds across generations.
My relationship with my own father has had its ups and downs, but I never stopped loving him as a father. My relationships with my own children have had their ups and downs, but I never stopped loving them. I assume it will work for them as it worked for me. In more ways than any child can imagine, Father’s Day is a day in which fathers take pride in their children.
My children may not realize that it is their independence I admire most in them. I see myself in them. Each of them different, each displaying a different character trait of mine.
On our first summer vacation in Belgium, there was a terrible storm. The garage and basement took on about a foot of water, and as the storm passed, Lieve and I went down to move the water to the drains. The garage had a lip of cement at the entrance, with a large drain was just on the other side. Lieve’s father took a hose and made a siphon.
Lieve turned to me, lifting one knee and grasping a fist in the air with the other arm said. “My dad is a physicist” with such pride I was moved. He didn’t see it. I’m sure my father knows as little of my pride in him if measured by such moments. Both fathers know that love and respect is there, and that’s a large part of being a father. Missing some of the grand moments, but remembering all the small ones, some the children didn’t even realize had taken place.
This year, on the day before Father’s Day, my youngest daughter, Meghan, will graduate from Drexel University with a degree in engineering. She’s certainly at the top of my mind right now, but no child is ever a favorite. My oldest daughter, Devon, is making a life for herself and my grandson Tommy in Colorado, having made some difficult choices in her life she remains strong. My eldest son, Leyland, is making a career in the Air Force, and married just last year. My youngest son, Nolan, is making a living as an artist in Huntsville Alabama, moving from media to media. What better Father’s Day gift than to have four successful children?
I was touched by a photograph of a friend and his son at a graduation ceremony last week. The mutual pride glowed through the image. That’s the way we would like it to always be. Being a father is seeing that picture when your child says they hate you, remembering how you said the same words to your father, and knowing their child will say the same words to them. Seeing past the moment, knowing the picture is how it really is.