Leading upto Fathers Day this Sunday, June 16 2013, I had a very interesting discussion with two of my male colleagues about why they think we shouldn’t have a day dedicated to honouring our Fathers. But first, here’s a little bit of interesting history on how and where Father’s Day began…
Father’s Day was founded in Spokane, Washington at the YMCA in 1910 by Sonora Smart Dodd, who was born in Arkansas.Its first celebration was in the Spokane YMCA on June 19, 1910.Her father, the Civil War veteran William Jackson Smart, was a single parent who raised his six children there.After hearing a sermon about Jarvis’ Mother’s Day in 1909, she told her pastor that fathers should have a similar holiday honoring them. Although she initially suggested June 5, her father’s birthday, the pastors did not have enough time to prepare their sermons, and the celebration was deferred to the third Sunday of June.
It did not have much success initially. In the 1920s, Dodd stopped promoting the celebration because she was studying in the Art Institute of Chicago, and it faded into relative obscurity, even in Spokane. In the 1930s Dodd returned to Spokane and started promoting the celebration again, raising awareness at a national level. She had the help of those trade groups that would benefit most from the holiday, for example the manufacturers of ties, tobacco pipes, and any traditional present to fathers. Since 1938 she had the help of the Father’s Day Council, founded by the New York Associated Men’s Wear Retailers to consolidate and systematize the commercial promotion. Americans resisted the holiday during a few decades, perceiving it as just an attempt by merchants to replicate the commercial success of Mother’s Day, and newspapers frequently featured cynical and sarcastic attacks and jokes. But the trade groups did not give up: they kept promoting it and even incorporated the jokes into their adverts, and they eventually succeeded. By the mid 1980s the Father’s Council wrote that “(…) [Father's Day] has become a ‘Second Christmas’ for all the men’s gift-oriented industries.”
So Tshepo, my fabulously talented User Experience Consultant, said something interesting to me this morning. “I don’t need to get cookies for doing something I’m supposed to do anyway.” After having a good laugh, I told him that perhaps when he had children he may feel differently (note: he’s 23). He doesn’t think so. I then asked him if he felt the same way about Mothers Day that he does about Fathers Day. And HE DOES NOT! He says Valentines and Mothers Day are ok by him, because it’s good to spoil women every now and then… !?!?!?!? I then called Michael (UI Visual Designer) over to ask him if he felt the same way… and he AGREED!
Both young men think that it’s a man’s duty to be a provider, a strong influence and a stoic paternal figure rather than a soft and squishy, emotional man who weeps at the arrival of Best and Brightest’s first tooth or solid poo. In their opinions, men should be strong and distant. They shouldn’t be showered with gifts and appreciation. But it’s ok to do that for women, because women are “cool”… hahahahaha! Now before all the feminists get on their high horses (fitted with all sorts of self pleasuring paraphernalia), I think this is merely just a cultural difference.
There’s a (Jewish?) proverb that goes “When a father gives to a son, both laugh. When a son gives to a father, both cry”. Tshepo has interpreted this to mean that it is not a son’s place to give to his father, that this somehow, wounds the father. Where what I take away from the quote, is that it is a beautiful and touching thing when a son can give to his father – be it a gift, or support (financial and/or emotional). Isn’t it interesting and amazing how different we all are? Now, another point I need to make here, is that Tshepo and Michael don’t think that you shouldn’t honor your father, but that you should do it out of your own accord. Not because someone or some holiday told you to. And you should do it in other ways besides buying him gifts or making him “cookies”. Which I am 100% in agreement with.
My father comes from a generation of men who had to leave their families behind, whether it was because they were in the army or they were sent out on contract work to remote areas of the African continent. They did this because it was how they made enough money to be able to afford to clothe and educate us all. We didn’t see him much because he was always working, and although I’m sure we all have our regrets about how distant we were as a family back then, our bond now is stronger than ever. And we are all in contact at least three times daily, sharing experiences, jokes and insults about the ignoramuses we are forced to deal with on a daily basis. I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Since having my own child, I understand the sacrifices a parent makes for their children. Even if it’s the hardest thing in the world to do, if it is for the benefit of your family, you do it. You find a way to make it work. And to be honest, I’m so thankful that this was how I grew up. I got to travel to places and experience things people double my age haven’t and probably will never have the opportunity to. Travel and experience is the ultimate education and lesson in life experience. As you all know (well if you don’t you’ll hear it here), Jeff also didn’t have the easiest introduction to Fatherhood in the world. He was 20 when I announced that I was preggers. I swear to this day, I have never seen a person break out into a total full body sweat faster than the poor boy did that evening. It was immediate green, sweat and weakness at the knees. His parents flew him back home to Uganda post haste, so that he could make a clear headed decision about his future. When he left I was still in my first trimester, when he came back, I was seven months pregnant.
He still had to study, and juggled working as a waiter while trying to pass first year. Obviously this didn’t work, but as soon as he made enough money to be able to afford to buy a cot he handed in his resignation and concentrated on getting his degree. He did not immediately move in with Tyler and I, as he had to focus on his studies and his parents were only going to pay for him to study a degree once. So he only saw the baby and I on Wednesday nights or weekends. He doesn’t remember the nightmare of teething the way I do, because he was only there for half of it. Despite the upside down nature of our little family relationship, Jeff was always a natural at being a father. He instinctively knew what to do with this squirming bag of snakes before I ever did. He was an amazing pillar of support, strength and patience when I needed it most. Because I was used to my dad being away, I wrapped my head around having a part-time partner quite quickly and we slipped into an easy and comfortable routine. Sure it wasn’t always rainbows and unicorn farts, but we knew we wanted to do this thing right. So that’s what we did.
Six (nearly SEVEN!!) years later, we are married, living together and enjoying the mundane life of an ordinary family. Yet he is still the most amazing, patient, loving, joyful and caring Father that I could have ever asked for for my child. He is my hero, just like my Father was before him. And I know my Dad is proud and confident to hand the baton that symbolises the caring and loving of his daughter and grandson over to Jeff. I am proud to call him my husband, and Tyler is blessed to call him Dad.
So on this soppy note, I’d like to say, that whether or not you celebrate or believe in the Hallmark holiday that is Fathers Day, take the time one day to thank that special man. Whether it be your biological/adopted/step father, or even just the first male role model you had in your life. They deserve it, for without them, we would literally not be here today.