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Crowning Him King for a Day
It seems that we treat fathers–our own as well as the father of our children–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 out? And do men even eat chocolate?!?) But breakfast in bed, or just hot coffee served with The New York Times , equals that bagel and whipped cream-topped strawberries we asked for on our mom tray. I have found that men deeply appreciate any simple gesture of love done on their behalf. The Thursday morning my kids had with their dad today–with coffee, handmade cards, poems and wrapped gifts–more to encourage him than anything else we could do. 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. When thoughtful Sonora Louise Smart Dodd listened to a sermon on Mother’s Day, she felt that fathers deserve every bit 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 their sixth child, William single-parented that newborn baby as well as the couple’s five older children. Now an adult herself, Dodd appreciated all too well the personal sacrifices her father made during those many child-rearing years, and she wanted to honor him in June, the month of his birth. Since her minister could not respond quickly enough to honor his exact birthday (June 5), 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 preached on June 19th. Other historians claim that Dr. Robert Webb celebrated the first Father’s Day at Central Church in Fairmont, West Virginia in 1908; still others claim that the inscribed gold watch with “Originator of Father’s Day” belonging to Harry Meek earns him a claim to the holiday. However, by 1916, President Woodrow Wilson had officially endorsed the idea, by 1924, President Calvin Coolidge had officially endorsed it, and by 1966, President Lyndon Johnson had officially issued a presidential proclamation marking the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day. But only in 1972 was it 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 dads are to their own children. Whereas Mother’s Day has its own set of expectations: flowers, chocolate and gifts, Father’s Day offers more spontaneity. Just like dad himself. Oh sure, that’s the proverbial tie. Or socks. But since 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? Is it fishing? Relaxing with a coffee and a good book?
My husband and I went into town today. The weather was as perfect as we’ve ever seen: blue skies and 78 degrees with no humidity. We attended services downtown, followed by lunch outside on a patio right on 7th Avenue. A long walk through Central Park was not only exhilarating; the picture-perfect sky served as an umbrella for the hundreds of New Yorkers tossing Frisbees, playing volleyball, canoodling with their honeys and basking in the warmth of the sun on blankets spread across the open expanse of lawn.
I was very mindful throughout the day of the unique role my husband plays in our family, as well as in shaping our children’s vision of fatherhood. He is our provider and our protector. However, he is much more. He is a fellow believer. Not necessarily the first one my kids would run to with skinned knees, but the one they would run to when crises hit home. He’s the one who took our three-month-old baby into 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) away 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 shoulders the financial burden of our family, the direct result of decisions we made together nearly twenty years ago. And when the going gets rough, he starts. Up before the sun, commuting through suburban New York 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’ve figured it out. You go to school, get good grades, so you can get into a good college, get a job. , work yourself crazy, and then you die.” .” Hardly the lucky perspective I would have preferred, but an assessment of part of the reality of being a man.
On Father’s Day–and every day–we need to be more mindful of the generous efforts that the fathers in our lives make for us. We need to be mindful of the sacrifices to their personal time that they make every day. That they rarely have time for lunch with the guys, a 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 shareholder responsibilities. That they fight traffic on empty stomachs. And catch early morning planes 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 open arms on the other side of the front door.
Let us 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 on Father’s Day, fathers everywhere felt special. That they know, deep down, that their efforts in us are fully acknowledged, truly appreciated, and deeply cherished.
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