This Sunday is Father’s Day, a holiday created (but not officially established) more than 100 years ago to complement the already-established Mother’s Day. Yes, that’s right. It was one of the few times in world history when women were recognized before their male counterparts. While Father’s Day was first celebrated in Spokane, Wash., in 1910, it took the male-dominated federal legislature until 1972 (58 years after Mother’s Day was signed into law as a national holiday) to make the observance official.
While it may seem easy to take a few potshots at Father’s Day, it might be because our popular culture has impacted how we view the role. Many television dads, for instance, have questionable parenting skills. Some leave you wondering how they ever got, much less keep, the jobs they have. And yet they manage to solve the world’s (or, at least, their spouse’s or children’s) problems in a mere 22 minutes every week. Among the most famous (and favorite) television father figures are Homer Simpson, Al Bundy, Howard Cunningham, Mike Brady, Fred Sanford, Peter Griffin, Tim Taylor and Archie Bunker. Icons, all of them.
What makes a good dad? To look at this list, it’s difficult to tell. Their skill sets and personalities are all over the galaxy. Some are “blue collar” fathers who labor in the factory or in the auto parts store. Some have a gruff exterior but are softies on the inside. Some are ardently devoted to their spouses and dote on their children. Many try to instill “teaching moments” in their children in the face of adversity or disappointment. Sadly, some are absentee. And some are parents by choice, and more of a father to kids than the missing biological father.
Fathers protect, provide for, instruct, and, yes, nurture and comfort their children.
Unfortunately, as with most annually celebrated events, Father’s Day is an observance engulfed in a wave of commercialization that threatens to obscure its true significance. Research shows that engaged fathers have a positive influence on their children. Educational success, better social development and higher self-esteem are some of the documented effects on children who have fathers involved in their everyday life.
Yes, kids can and do thrive in a single-parent household, but it can be a tough task. According to the United States Census Bureau, 1 out of 3 children lives in a home with no father present on a regular basis. Other studies have outlined the costs. For example, children in homes without fathers are nearly four times more likely to be poor. They have higher odds of being jailed than those in two-spouse families, and are more likely to be obese. Girls in these families are more likely to become pregnant before finishing high school.
It has been said that fatherhood is the most important job a man will ever have. All the other jobs eventually come to an end. But being a father is a lifetime commitment — and a lifetime joy. Be sure to spend this Sunday with that special father figure in your life.