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Fathers of the 21st century face new realities and new challenges, but also new joys. On Sunday, we honor our fathers, recognize their sacrifices, the example they set, the way they toil for their families and the often-thankless job that falls to them of pushing us up and out of the nest.
Fathers teach their children many of the skills necessary to take on the world. This teaching comes, not in grand moments, but in quiet times, and by example.
“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom,” author Umberto Eco wrote in “Foucault’s Pendulum.”
The world portrayed in 1950s TV shows, in which dad is sole provider and dispenser of justice on the home front, is gone, if it ever existed. Today, dad shares child-rearing responsibilities with mom, since both often work. He may be the parent who makes the children’s lunches, drops them off at school with a hug and first hears of the triumphs and tragedies of the day.
The role of a father is to be both a cheerleader and an example, as writer Clarence Budington Kelland put it: “He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.”
And to those fathers who have devolved from Superman to Homer Simpson in the eyes of their children, consider this from Mark Twain and take heart: “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.”
Father’s Day was first celebrated more than 100 years ago, thanks to the efforts of Sonora Smart Dodd, who was inspired by her father, who raised her and her five younger brothers on a remote farm when his wife died when Sonora was just 16.
“His kindness and the sacrifices he made inspired me,” she said in 1936.
So how should you celebrate? The Graham Media Group asked that question to fathers a couple years ago. No surprise, they got a wide range of answers, but some themes emerged: Dad’s want to spend time with family, to grill – or not – and to spend time doing what they enjoy.
“No responsibility, no cooking, no BBQing, no paying the bill, no setting anything (up) — just enjoying my wife and children for a day without worrying about anything that I am responsible for,” Jeff from Florida said.
“Honestly, to be recognized for the hard work and effort I put into raising the kids, and what I do for my family, and of course, some ‘me’ time,” said Chris from Texas
“The simplest answer/gift is time. If at all possible, spend the day with dad,” said Steve from Florida. “That’s what he wants most. … So on the third Sunday in June, hang around dear old dad. That’s the only real thing he wants. Just my two cents as a dad of 29 years.”
This Father’s Day, however you celebrate, remember the sacrifices, lessons and kindness, whether they were imparted yesterday or decades ago.