Would you like to celebrate Parents’ Day? That was an idea floated at numerous rallies during the 1920’s and ’30’s . The goal was to honor both parents at once, rather than separately. But it failed to generate enough enthusiasm.
The truth is that although Father’s Day is observed in more than 70 countries, it’s never matched the popularity of Mothers’ Day, despite being originally inspired by it. In 1909 a Seattle woman, Sonora Smart Dodd, wanted to pay tribute to her father, a widower who had single-handedly raised his six children. Hearing about a new observance called Mothers’ Day, Dodd decided fathers should get equal time. She campaigned for this vigorously at local organizations and government offices. The result was the first Father’s Day celebration on June 19, 1910. (She had wanted the date to be June 5, her father’s birthday, but local ministers protested that they needed more time after Mothers’ Day to prepare different sermons!)
Initially, Father’s Day was only observed in Dodd’s home state of Washington. The custom became popular across the country, but not as an official holiday. Then in 1916 President Woodrow Wilson honored the occasion by unfurling a flag in Spokane, with the aid of telegraph signals. But governments can’t be hurried. It was another 56 years before Father’s Day became a federal holiday, via a 1972 proclamation by President Nixon.
The question is, why hasn’t Father’s Day gotten the same recognition and hoopla as the day for Moms? Retailers basking in lucrative candy, perfume and flower sales for Mom, report that profits are billions less from such unromantic items for Dad as socks and ties, or even power tools and golf clubs. (Liquor stores do report substantially more sales for men!)
But I think there’s more to this than the commercial aspect. There’s a sentimental image of Mom as the heart of the family. (Multiply ever-loving Marmee in ”Little Women.”) On the other hand, a majority of men think a day for expressing love to a father isn’t ”macho.” In my own family my mother was unabashed in her expectation and appreciation of the holiday attention, whereas my father scoffed at similar efforts by my sister and me as “ridiculous” – invariably followed by a gruff: “I don’t need presents.”
To be fair, men have had a tougher time being the loving parent because they were
traditionally the breadwinners, so had less time with their children . Of course,
these days the executive dashing off to work is often Mama! With fathers now sharing child-rearing, this shift may ultimately be reflected in a heightened importance given to Father’s Day. Yet I know that if my father were alive he’d still prefer to be ignored (a modesty his daughters didn’t inherit!)
I can’t resist pointing out one other thing: In my previous blog I protested the apostrophe in Mothers’ Day, which makes it look as though the holiday is for all mothers rather than a personal tribute to your own. So I’m glad to see that the apostrophe is right where it belongs in Father’s Day. Dads win that one at least!.
BOOKS: COME and GO – available through BookBaby.com, WIDOW’S WALK –iUniverse.com; TURNING TOWARD TOMORROW –Xlibris.com, TEN WOMEN OF VALOR and ROLE PLAY- available through CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com; also Amazon Kindle.