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UPS AND DOWNS OF FATHERHOOD
A Brief History of Father’s Day
O f all the challenges I’ve faced in my life, the most difficult — and most rewarding — has been being a dad. Right from the start, being a parent is about doing what’s best for your children, even when it’s hard. My son was actually born at home. Don’t worry, we planned it that way. My wife had a successful water birth, and it was a very rewarding experience. After the stress of going to the hospital when our daughter was born, my wife and I decided to hire a midwife with our son and skip the whole complicated mess. As any parent knows, the birth of your child is usually the least complicated thing you have to do as a parent. At least once a day, you find yourself asking, “Am I doing the right thing? Or have I already ruined my kids forever?” Considering my children are both grown now, having successfully reached adulthood with the tools they need to start the next stage of their lives, I guess I must have done something right. “These days, I often find myself reflecting on all the ups and downs of fatherhood.”
These days, I often find myself reflecting on all the ups and downs of fatherhood. And since fatherhood itself is such a wild ride, it only makes sense that the day we set aside to celebrate fathers has a wild history of its own. Did you know Father’s Day didn’t become a national holiday until 58 years after Mother’s Day? Though Mother’s Day became an official United States holiday in 1914, Father’s Day wouldn’t be recognized as a federal holiday until Richard Nixon signed a proclamation in 1972. All the while, Americans spent 62 years celebrating the holiday after a woman named Sonora Smart Dodd organized the first statewide Father’s Day celebration in 1910. Sonora’s father was William Smart, a Civil War veteran who raised his six children alone after his wife died in childbirth. During a Mother’s Day sermon in Spokane, Washington, Sonora was struck by how strange it was that there was a holiday that celebrated mothers, but not one that celebrated men who cared for and raised their children. She approached local churches, the YMCA, shops, and government officials to encourage them to start the holiday. The idea of Father’s Day spread, and by World War II, though it wasn’t yet a federal holiday, families everywhere were happy to embrace Father’s Day. Keep in mind, people had been celebrating their fathers long before Sonora rallied the troops. Historians claim the oldest known Father’s Day
card is over 4,000 years old. In ancient Babylon, a boy named Elmesu carved a message into a clay tablet, wishing his father good health and a long life. I wonder if Elmesu’s father got a necktie along with that card. I enjoy celebrating Father’s Day, not because of any gifts or free time I might enjoy, but because it’s a reminder of the amazing years I’ve enjoyed being a dad. I’m blessed with two beautiful children and a wonderful wife and partner who was there for me as we faced the trials of parenthood together.
Being a dad isn’t easy, but they’re right when they say it’s rewarding.
Dr. Casey Bearden
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