Father’s Day is a relatively new national holiday in the United States. The campaign for it began as early as 1909, but it took 63 years for the legislation to pass. The men in government felt it was a frivolous holiday for stores to bring in more income that (at the time) they themselves, as men, would have to pay for. After all, for a long period of our history men were the primary bread winners and women stayed at home raising the family and managing the household.
World War II brought an immediate and lasting evolution in American society. Women had to work, and mothers and fathers became partners, each taking more responsibility within the family. As the evolution continued, fathers’ roles with their children became a larger focus. Research was being produced weekly that provided a greater realization of just how significantly fathers influence and impact their children.
Interestingly, it was a woman who spearheaded the 63-year push for a day to honor fathers. Sonora Smart Dodd and her five brothers were raised by her widowed father. Her mother died giving birth to the youngest child. Her father, William Smart, was a farmer and Civil War veteran. In 1909, Sonora attended a Mother’s Day service at her church. She was so significantly moved that she began her campaign in churches and YMCAs to have a day to honor fathers. The massive publicity she garnered over the years spread across the country. Finally, at the age of 90, Sonora reached her goal. Her father’s self-sacrificing love for his children led to a National Day of Recognition for all fathers and father figures. In 1972 the legislature anointed the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day, a national holiday.
Unfortunately, fewer Americans than ever celebrate Father’s Day today. This has less to do with how we view a father’s importance, and more to do with the nature of American society. Since 1960, the percentage of children who live only with their mothers with little or no contact with their fathers has risen 33%. Studies show that children without fathers in their lives are less likely to experience a healthy, contented, and successful life. Studies on gang members illuminate one factor that is always present…lack of a good father figure. All had fathers who were incarcerated, drunks, deadbeats, aloof, uninvolved, or not even present.
The wounds of not having a good father figure can run deep in a child. My father left when I was 18 months old and I never saw him again. He started a new family and died at the young age of 42. I never got to attend a father-daughter dance at my school. I never got dad’s wisdom, participated in dad jokes, or laughed about dad jeans. I never experienced the love and protection of a father. It was something I NEVER wanted my own child to experience.
But unfortunately, my daughter’s father died of testicular cancer when she was 5 months old, at the young age of 27. It pained my heart that she would now experience many of those same emotions.
Father’s Day can be a painful holiday for many. It can be surrounded by grief for several reasons. Fathers have died. Fathers have lost children. Fathers have left. Fathers have been abusive. Fathers go off and start new families, leaving their old ones behind. And, lastly, there are men who desperately want to be fathers but have been unable to thus far. Yes, the wounds and sorrow on this holiday can be remarkably deep!
The intention of the holiday is good. It was founded to celebrate the ideals of fatherhood set forth in Scripture. Fathers are to lead families. They are to protect and guard. They are to be examples of good character. They are guides. They are to give stability and take pride in their children. They are to reflect God’s unconditional love. Sonora fought for honoring men who embodied these ideals like her own father.
It took me years NOT to hate Father’s Day. It reminded me of the dad I never had, and that was painful. I always felt I was on the outside looking in. It brought up the longing to be picked up, swung around, tucked in, and tickled. It left a hole in my heart that still aches at times. Yet over the years, I found comfort and healing by intimately knowing God as my Father, the perfect guide who provides and gives amazing, unconditional love. And they don’t get better than that. But I also needed skin! And he provided that as well. A loving grandpa, uncles who took an interest in me, a pastor and male Sunday School teachers who guided and taught me. Coaches who provided examples and took pride in me. A brother who protects and guards me.
For all of you who are fortunate to have or have had a wonderful father, cherish him…honor him…love him. The best gift you can give your father is a four-letter word…TIME! One day you will run out of it, and you will treasure those gifts of time.
For those of you who have not had such a wonderful father experience, it’s a day to celebrate all the wonderful men in your life. It’s a day to realize that the lack of a good father figure does not define you. It’s a day to forgive him who has wronged you. And it’s a day to realize that you have a heavenly Father who loves you more than you can ever imagine and desires the best for you.
Lastly, for all you men who are being celebrated on this day. This is a day to realize the full measure of your significance in the life of your child. Studies have shown that children who have fathers who are actively involved in their lives have increased intellect, score significantly higher in cognitive tests, have boosted confidence, have fewer behavioral issues, have more differentiated problem-solving skills, and feel actively loved. Once again, the greatest gift you can give your children is that four-letter word: TIME! You will never regret it!
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Anne Hope is the award winning author of Bent Pages...a sharp, funny, and deeply inspirational narrative. Kindle version of the award winning, "Bent Pages" is now on sale at Amazon! Click on the link below to take you there.