Father’s role larger today

Tomorrow is Father’s Day. In the natural order of things, children have an automatic attachment to their mothers. The bonds between fathers and children must be consciously forged by time in a crucible of care and concern.

In the days when father went off to work each day and mother stayed home to take care of the household, it was up to the father to define his role in the home. In those days, many fathers were authority figures, setting down rules and meting out punishments. In the best of homes, the father was also a teacher, passing on skills and attitudes necessary for supplying a family with food and shelter.

Today when mothers spend as much time outside the home as fathers earning an income, the role of the father has become more critical and more encompassing. When mothers, as well as fathers, shoulder the responsibilities of providing for a family’s needs, nurturing and teaching must also be shared. Although men caring for small children may be new to many traditional societies, there is a long tradition in the islands of men taking care of babies and young children, and the demands of modern life only strengthen that tradition.

Not so ironically, the very first father honored by Father’s Day was a single parent.

In 1909, Mrs. John B. Dodd – the only way she is identified by historians – was struck by the strength and selflessness of her father in raising six children on a farm in eastern Washington state. Her father, William Smart, was a Civil War veteran who became a single parent after his wife died during the birth of their sixth child.

Due to Mrs. Dodd’s efforts, the very first recorded Father’s Day was observed on June 19, 1910, in Spokane, Wash. In 1924, President Coolidge supported the idea of a national Father’s Day, but it wasn’t until 1966 that President Lyndon Johnson officially proclaimed the third Sunday of June as Father’s Day.

Tomorrow – Father’s Day – is a time for each of us to think about how much we owe our fathers, grandfathers, uncles and the men who were there when we needed them, and then telling those men just how important they are.

(This editorial has appeared previously in The Maui News.)

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.