Father’s Day

Unlike Mother’s Day, which has a meaning of its own, Father’s Day is a copycat holiday. Sorry, dads.

It was first introduced in Congress in 1913 after a few isolated attempts to replicate the success of Mother’s Day in the opening years of the 20th century, notably in Spokane, WA and Fairmont, WV. It didn’t pass.

By the 1930’s the New York Associated Men’s Wear Retailers began heavy promotion of it. It was finally recognized with a Presidential proclamation in 1966, and passed into the US national holiday calendar in 1972. But it’s always carried the taint of being merely a commercial promotion.

I can understand the impetus toward “fairness” that would suggest that if mothers have their special day, fathers ought to have a special day, too.

The reality in far too many cases is that fathers haven’t done nearly as much in the direct formation of their children to deserve a special day that carries the emotional weight that Mother’s Day carries.

Sure, historically fathers have been the “breadwinners.” And winning bread is important to a family. But winning bread simply doesn’t carry as much emotional freight as serving bread. All too often, mothers have been left on their own to make and serve the bread. To be fair some fathers have to do this, but it’s relatively rare.

And, while some dads are more involved in their children’s lives than their fathers were in theirs, that generational shift is still relatively small and will take a while to make it’s way into the mainstream of American attitudes. It’s at best a minority report on dads.

My own experience as a dad is that, even when we send both our email addresses as contacts for school news (in a progressive district), they will always send messages to Brooke. At playgrounds (when Silas was small and we lived near playgrounds), I was a third wheel among the parents, 99.44% moms, present with other children. I can’t count the times I’ve been out with Silas on a Saturday and had people say something that implied they were thinking I was living up to my end of the (divorce) agreement to be with my kid every other weekend.

This isn’t to say most people don’t have strong feelings about their fathers. They do. It’s just that the feelings are far more mixed, and aren’t of the kind that as often compel people to set aside a special day and forgo other plans around it.

For Father’s Day this year, Brooke is presiding over a church meeting (that nobody objected to on grounds that “people want to go home to celebrate Father’s Day”). I’ll be taking Silas to his piano lesson. Maybe we’ll grill hamburgers when we all get back home. I’ll mow the lawn.

Happy Father’s Day.