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Celebrate dad by doing stuff with the kids

June 16, 2002|by Jo Ellen Barnhart

Father's Day, contrary to popular misconception, was not established as a holiday conjured by greeting card manufacturers to sell more cards. In fact, when a "father's day" was first proposed there were no Father's Day cards.

We all know, of course, Mother's Day was created on Day 1 when God created the earth; and all was good. Mother's Day is more than a celebration. It is an event. Card, candy and flower sales soar while department stores run specials for a sales weekend rivaling Christmas. Restaurants are packed with adoring families on Mother's Day and phone lines are jammed with words of gratitude. And this is how it should be.

But Father's Day is different. It wasn't until 1909 that Sonora Smart Dodd, a devoted daughter from Spokane, Wash., embarked on a campaign to create a day to honor her dad, William Smart, a widowed Civil War veteran and father of six.

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She became the driving force in what became a statewide effort leading to the first official Father's Day proclamation in 1910.

The holiday wasn't officially recognized until 1966 when President Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation. The U.S. Congress eventually recognized Father's Day in 1972.

So dad is finally given his due. A noble idea, but feeble as far as the retail industry is concerned. Take for example, the J.C. Penney Corporation, which conducted a survey several years ago on what customers gave their fathers on Father's Day. The second-place answer was "nothing."

But that is OK. We all know Father's Day is different. Father's Day is really about the children who created fatherhood. It's about being a dad!

Dads (should) spend time with their kids playing ball, having tea parties, reading them stories, barbequing family favorites. And dads love to share their own favorite activities with their children. I know this is when the art of belching gets passed down from generation to generation.

Father's Day has become a day to not only honor your father, but all men who act as a father figure. Stepfathers, uncles, grandfathers and other adult male mentors are all to be honored on Father's Day.

But instead of sitting around basking in the glory of fatherhood, we are supposed to participate in the joys of childhood. In short, get up and go do something with your kids because it's likely you dads won't be spending much time opening presents!

JoEllen Barnhart is assistant to the director for Frostburg State University's Hagerstown Center. She has three sons.

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