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Happy (Single) Father’s Day!

Celebrating Single FathersTake a stroll down any store’s card aisle, and you will notice the sudden increase of cards with fishing poles, athletic equipment, and La-Z Boy chairs splattered on the covers; you know, manly things. In case you’re really bad with dates, we will tell you why: Sunday, June 16th, is Father’s Day!

Much like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day now seems like a holiday controlled by the stationery stores, but that doesn’t mean its beginnings were money-grubbing. So for all the fathers, especially the single fathers (as you will find), here is a brief history of Father’s Day.

The History of Father’s Day

While Father’s Day doesn’t have as long or rich a history as Mother’s Day, that doesn’t mean the same spirit of love and recognition wasn’t behind it’s creation. In fact, Father’s Day was created to do nothing but give fathers the special recognition they sorely lacked, especially single fathers, according to the Library of Congress article.

In 1910, a little girl from Spokane Washington, named Sonora Dodd, came up with the bright idea of creating a holiday dedicated to fathers while listening to a Mother’s Day sermon. Sonora Dodd is said to have reflected on the care her single father gave her and her siblings since her mother’s untimely death during childbirth. Since Sonora’s father’s birthday was in June, she encouraged neighboring churches to celebrate this new holiday in June.

The Fathering of Father’s Day

By 1910, the idea of Mother’s Day had been in America for 40 years, although it was not recognized as a national holiday until 1914 by President Woodrow Wilson. Although Father’s Day had been gaining popularity, President Wilson was not presented with a Father’s Day holiday proclamation to sign.

President Calvin Coolidge, however, was presented with and signed a Father’s Day proclamation in 1924. Coolidge is quoted as saying (ironically) he wanted Father’s Day  to “establish more intimate relations between fathers and their children and to impress upon fathers the full measure of their obligations.”

Father’s Day for the Modern Man

The world is constantly changing (evolving or devolving, you decide), but holidays and the traditions observed during each holiday have a way of bringing us back to familiar, almost cozy, paradigms. Case in point, the horrific-looking, stereotype-ridden Father’s Day cards.

What father is known only by his love of fish tackle, lounging, and sports? Yes, one or more of these might harken warm thoughts of your own father, but the point is this: Do father’s want to be known solely for these pursuits and pleasures? I’m pretty positive fathers would like to be equally known for the bedtime story telling, hugs, and comforting words.

If this baffles you, chalk it up to the changing times; but there is nothing more telling of changing times than the increasing rate of single fathers. According to the 2002 U.S. Census, about 2.2 million American households were headed by single fathers, which marks an 62% increase of single fatherhood within a decade. These fathers, like Sonora Dodd’s father, are everything to their children, and they probably wouldn’t have it any other way.

So instead of playing into Hallmark’s stereotype-perpetuating hands, choose to celebrate all types of fathers for all their roles, influences, and complexities this Sunday.

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