We all have many different mentors, caretakers, and loved ones in our lives. However, the father figure has a unique role in the home that serves as one of the most important determinants for the social fabric that holds our country together. Alongside the mother, the father unifies, leads, and protects the family. He promotes moral teachings and upholds education. He provides for his family with the goal of serving his loved ones and community. On June 21st, many Americans will share cards, meals, and gifts to show their appreciation for their fathers.
While Father’s Day is a national holiday recognized by most, many don’t know the origin of Father’s Day. In fact, it was not named a federal holiday until over 50 years after its first celebration. The first Father’s Day has patriotic and religious roots that epitomize the role of a father. A young girl, Sonora Dodd, sought to commemorate her father, William Jackson Smart, who sacrificed for his family and his country as a service-member and a single parent of six children. While the average father today is not a veteran or a widower raising six children on his own, fathers have their own way of serving their country and their family in a manner that is still worthy of recognition.
By 1910, Mother’s Day had been unofficially celebrated for over 25 years, and Sonora felt that her father deserved a similar recognition for his commitment to her family. In an effort to decommercialize the holidays, many activists in places like New York attempted to merge Mother’s Day and Father’s Day into a single “Parent’s Day” in the 1930s. Given the economic distress of the Great Depression, retailers were not opposed to more opportunities for advertising. However, following World War II, Americans acknowledged that each parent served a unique role in the family and community that is worthy of its own day of celebration. After decades of unofficial celebration, it wasn’t until 1972 that Father’s Day became a nationally recognized holiday under the leadership of Richard Nixon.
Despite the consumerism that may surround this holiday, Father’s Day is about more than a new grill. This day is a time to remind families of the precious value of good, honorable male leadership in the home. The home is the basis for who children will become and the role they will play in their country as politicians, doctors, lawyers, or armed services members. Every father has the opportunity to make an impression on his child’s future. His very presence gives him a position of teaching, mentorship, and guidance.
Every Longhorn knows that the University of Texas prides itself on the message that “what starts here changes the world.” But this isn’t unique to UT. What starts in the American home changes America. Building the fabric of our society begins at home under the leadership of the parents. Sonora understood her father’s value to her own life, and she sought to give him the recognition he deserved. To her, being a father involved serving the community and making sacrifices for the family.
Today, the meaning is quite similar. Being a father means making time for family dinners a few times a week. Being a father means supporting his children at sporting events. Being a father means encouraging academic and professional success. A father should set a moral example and fulfill his role and duty to his country and his children, even when he may be left on his own in doing so. Although these duties could be the responsibilities of the mother at times, a father should want his children to be better off than he was, regardless of the financial and personal sacrifices that are sometimes underappreciated.
Too often, many actions of the father are overlooked. Small things may seem insignificant, but the little habits a father develops in his family each day can become a routine. A routine is the basis of the development of a child’s character. The father has a privilege and responsibility of creating the future his children will inherit. Children will remember conversations and activities. They will remember when their dad encouraged them to continue practicing football after being cut from the team. They will remember that he made pancakes every Saturday morning. They will remember walking around the parking lot of Jiffy Lube, waiting for an oil change and hunting for lost coins. The exact context of these memories are unique to each child and their dad. However, these moments are opportunities for a parent to make a lasting impression on their child.
A parent’s direct interactions with their child have a lasting impact, but a child also closely observes a parent’s interactions with others. While teaching moral behavior is good, modeling moral behavior is better. Children emulate their parents’ actions. They will mimic how their parents act, speak, and interact with others. They will learn from how their parents manage emotions and stress. The behaviors that the father develops and reinforces in the family are fundamental to what his children will continue in their own families.
This Father’s Day is particularly special because many American families are at home. There aren’t as many activities to attend to, and if you can manage to keep your television off for a few hours, there aren’t many distractions standing between you and a phone call or dinner with your dad. While this year has brought hardship and trials, Father’s Day is an opportunity to appreciate the family, appreciate leadership, and appreciate the opportunity to grow a family that will one day produce a father worthy of equal honor.