by Rachel Biggersatff
The very first Father’s Day was celebrated in Spokane, Wash., on June 19, 1910. Sonora Smart Dodd had the idea to make an official day of celebration with her father in mind, he had raised six children on his own after his wife’s death during the birth of their youngest child. Though Father’s Day celebrations quickly spread throughout the United States, it was not made into a yearly national celebration until 1972 when President Richard Nixon permanently established the observance of Father’s Day as the third Sunday of June.
Now, I don’t know what kinds of gifts were given on that first Father’s Day but I feel certain that there were no $5 Hallmark cards involved or breakfast in bed. And Sonora Dodd’s father certainly was not given the newest Halo game for his Xbox or a “World’s Greatest Dad” coffee mug.
The thing about Father’s Day today is that, until your children are grown (and maybe even later) Father’s Day is a day that the mother of your children arranges to get cards and gifts and tries to keep her children peaceful and happy all day for a few minutes so that Dad can relax and put his feet up. Kids, especially young ones, have no idea that it’s Father’s Day unless prompted by an adult, and they certainly aren’t capable of getting online with their credit cards to buy dear old dad a Kegerator.
Before you get your undergarments in a twist and accuse me of being sexist, I fully admit that Mother’s Day is the exact same scenario except with all of the pressure and responsibility put on the baby daddy. And we mothers tend to have pretty high standards so the expectation for dads to make Mother’s Day magical is pretty big.
Despite the paramount expectations and overt commercialization of these parental celebrations, we get the privilege of honoring the people who do the selfless service of parenthood. Dads are especially amazing and, in my opinion, tend to be under-recognized for the role they play in bringing up kids. Simply because they lack a uterus doesn’t mean that dads are automatically lesser parents. Fathers are the fun-makers, tickle monsters and wagon-pullers. They change nasty diapers, grill the best hotdogs and give the tightest hugs. Dads can make their daughters confident in intelligence, ability and beauty like no other man will ever be able to. Sons can look to their fathers as examples of strength but also learn from them what it means to love tenderly and wholly in a world that still expects men to be emotionless and stoic.
There have been many men in my life who I will think of on this Father’s Day. My dad, Jim, who passed away in 2002 taught me how to be a fiery sports fan, a scientific thinker and an involved parent because he never shied away from giving of his time and talents for the sake of his children. Dad was a geologist and, even though it drove me crazy as a kid, I wish he was here to explain to me and my girls the origins of every single rock formation we pass on the highway when taking a road-trip. Every. Single. One. My step-father of 20 years, Paul, passed away from cancer in 2010. He bought me my first car, a 1977 Bonneville that had orange velour interior and an 8 track tape player. And I thought I was some pretty hot stuff when I drove it. I loved it! Paul was quiet, thoughtful and generous and could tell a joke better than anyone I’ve ever known. He would have loved being a grandfather to my girls. A few months after Paul passed away, we lost my grandfather. When I found out I was pregnant with my first child in 2011, there was a hole, an emptiness knowing that my children wouldn’t know a grandfather in their lives.
Then a few months after I found out that I was pregnant with my second child, my mom met Dave. And suddenly the hole got a little smaller. My oldest daughter took to him quickly, like children tend to do when they meet people who give off that grandparent vibe. It’s as if they can smell all of the candy and new bikes in their future. Mom and Dave decided to tie the knot and Dave became “Pappy” to our children just as he has been to his own grandchildren who live in Denver. Fishing, swimming, playing, dancing … whatever our kids want to do he is a willing participant and a dedicated playmate. When I was in labor with our youngest daughter, he was there in the labor room keeping a close eye on the contraction monitor and asking the nurse questions about what all of the lines meant and how to read the graphs. Dave is also a geologist and I knew that was exactly what my dad would have been doing if he had been there. We are so thankful that Dave has become part of our family and the Pappy that we were missing.
I count myself lucky to have had so many wonderful fathers in my life. My husband is no exception. He puts his whole heart into being a good daddy to our girls, pulling them a million miles around the yard in the wagon, chasing them down as they run around to give them hugs and kisses and shamelessly forcing them to learn about football and root for the Texas Tech Red Raiders. We are all crazy about him.
To all of the fathers, grandfathers, male role-models, single moms who do the work of two parents, foster dads, step-dads, uncles and father-figures of all sorts, I wish you all a Happy Father’s Day.