Wednesday, June 15, 2011



In the United States, Father's Day is a holiday which was created in order to honor fathers. It originated in Spokane, Washington through the efforts of a woman named Sonora Dodd, who came up with the idea while listening to a sermon on Mother’s Day. She wanted to create a similar day in gratitude to her father, a Civil War veteran, who raised her and her five siblings after their mother died in childbirth. Religious leaders supported her idea, and the first Father's Day was celebrated on June 19, 1910, the month of the birthday of Dodd's father. In 1924 President Calvin Coolidge gave his support to the idea, and in 1966 President Lyndon B. Johnson officially proclaimed it a national holiday. Observance on the third Sunday of June was decreed by law in 1972.

The definition of a father has broadened from the strict biological sense to include those who have voluntarily taken on the role of male parent. There have always been absentee and even bad fathers, but a new mutant breed has risen: the "Unfather". This unique male professes love for his child, but lacks emotional investment in his creation. He is the equivalent of the Ronco rotisserie in his "set it and forget it" approach.

Although millions of financially bereft mothers would willingly trade their situation for the father who actually provides financial support, real parenting requires much more than dollars. Most of us have heard and can identify with the frequent female lament of the "loss of self" that occurs after the birth of a child, but have you ever heard anything remotely akin to that from a man? This is not meant as some all-encompassing male-bashing rant. On the contrary, there are many men who are profoundly dedicated dads. They understand that just having a job and supporting their family is not parenting. Through the example of their own fathers (both in emulation of or in reaction against), they have had the right stuff instilled into their character.

Parenting is an afterthought to the Unfather. The constant commitment of communication, spending time together and taking his child’s emotional temperature is unfathomable to him. He is the perfect candidate for the "Dad Phone App":  the program that automatically reminds him of birthdays as well as important events such as first dates, school test results, insights on relationships with girls/boys, etc. Sadly, the human equivalent of such a system is all too often his wife.

A true father works to unfold the uniqueness in his children’s hearts, to teach them the true meaning of discipline so they learn to make affirmative choices on their own. Helping children to see into others' character so they can recognize those who bring out the best in them versus those who intend them harm is not an easy task. Raising children into mature adults who know their strengths and use them to create a life of meaning and fulfillment is one of life’s most rewarding ventures.

Become the best parent and person you can be. If you’re not willing to rise to the challenge, then you don’t deserve that neon, polka-dot tie you just opened.


jennymilch said...

Wise words--I hope some unfathers heed them. I feel profoundly grateful for my own dad (who had worse than an unfather) and to the father of my children. Thank you for this post.

carolyn.carlino said...

I was fortunate enough to have the farthest thing from an "Unfather." My dad's kind, supportive and nurturing example undoubtedly played a role in my choosing a husband who (as I suspected) has turned out to be of the same ilk for my own children. Although this, the 1st Father's Day without my father, will not pass without a heaviness in my heart, I will also celebrate and reflect upon all of the cherished moments and joyful memories which he has given me. I gratefully acknowledge the gift of my father, mindful of it's immeasurable worth.
-Carolyn Barker Carlino

Kathleen Barker said...

Jenny, you are one of the lucky ones.

Carolyn, you did indeed have an extraordinary father and are living proof of his gift. He is certainly one of the reasons you honored him by choosing Jer. Time will ease our pain, but never erase his memory and the fruits of his life.