Playwright Oscar Wilde once said: “Fathers should be neither seen nor heard. That is the only proper basis for family life.”
Wrong. When children remember their fathers with fondness, it is never for their silence or absence. Fathers must be both seen and heard to give their children the best chance to grow into responsible, caring adults. Those fathers provide the love, wisdom, guidance and support children and families need.
Many fathers understand their vital function in their families and live up to their responsibilities. President Bush, in a proclamation acknowledging Father's Day today, took note:
“We honor our nation's fathers for the unconditional love they give to their children and for their selfless dedication to the well-being of their families. Fathers play a unique and irreplaceable part in the lives of their children and pass along values that help children grow into responsible adults. By providing their sons and daughters with a positive example, fathers help give their children the necessary foundation they need to make wise decisions. …”
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It's different being father today than it was at the first celebration of Father's Day in 1910. Fathers now are much more likely to be single than they were then. A growing number – an estimated 159,000 – stay at home to look after their children while their wives go to work.
Sonora Dodd might not find that so unusual. She came up with the idea of Father's Day while thinking of a way to honor her father, William Smart, a Civil War veteran. He was widowed and raising a newborn and five other children by himself on a rural farm in Washington state. After she became an adult she realized the selflessness, courage and love her father had shown in raising his children as a single parent.
President Calvin Coolidge, in 1924, supported the idea of a national Father's Day. But Father's Day wasn't officially signed into law until a 1972 declaration by President Richard Nixon.
These days, it's not easy being a dad. Some are away at war. Some struggle to support their families. Many are divorced, and can't be with their children as often as they'd like.
And good fathers labor under the image of the bad ones. Too often, the word father is linked with “absent,” “abusive” or “deadbeat.”
The bad ones need to clean up their act. But the good ones deserve respect and admiration. Today is Father's Day. Let's give them what they deserve.