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Opinion | Voice of The Southern

Voice of The Southern: Celebrate fathers everywhere
Voice of The Southern

Voice of The Southern: Celebrate fathers everywhere

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The following editorial represents the collective opinion of editorial boards of the following papers owned by Lee Enterprises: The Southern Illinoisan, Carbondale; The Pantagraph, Bloomington; Herald & Review, Decatur; and Journal-Gazette & Times-Courier, Mattoon.

Is it possible Father's Day is more important to fathers than to their children?

The jaws of sensitive adult children just simultaneously dropped. How can we suggest such a thing, given how much they care about their father? How can dad feel more for the day than they do?

If you feel that way about your father, be sure to reach out to him. Odds are that's the thing he desires most -- time with the family.

When we say "father," we can be referring to any number of individuals. Father's Day celebrates fatherhood and honors fathers, paternal bonds, and the influence of fathers and father figures in society.

Fathers come in different type, shapes and styles. The families baby boomers watched in television situation comedies may have never really existed. Even if they did, they're far less common now. Families and fatherhoods are defined by many different factors rather that just one.

The word “father” gets wrapped up in all sorts of imagery — “father of our country,” “Father Time,” for starters — and our view of that role is unquestionably shaped by iconic dads of television.

There’s Ward Cleaver providing a life lesson to Beaver. The dad on the show “The Goldbergs,” played by comedian Jeff Garlin, plays up the “grumpy” cliché.

Papa Q. Bear, the patriarch of Berenstain Bears fame, takes on the clumsy stereotype (which is alarming given that he’s a carpenter). Carl Winslow on “Family Matters” is exasperated. Homer Simpson is bombastic. Ray Barone is long-suffering.

But the role that is assumed by a father or father figure is possibly as important as it's been in history. As much as life has turned easier since our fathers and father figures were children, today's youngsters face things their elders could never have imagined facing as kids. That stabilizing hand, the well-considered advice, and the simple wisdom fathers are able to provide to their children are vital to our society.

Our relationships with our fathers are as unique as we are from one another. For every loving father-son relationship about which we hear, there are inevitably others decidedly less than ideal. That's part of the reason we recognize father figures as well on this day. However independent any of us are or want to feel we are, we are better people when we have that adult influence we require.

That's reason enough to honor dad.

The tradition of Father's Day is believed to have been started in an attempt to comfort suddenly fatherless children. Believe it or not, the reaction was not for children left fatherless because of war casualties. The first recognition came during a memorial service held after in excess of 360 men died in a 1907 mining accident in Monongah, W. Va., the worst mining disaster United States history. In 1909, Sonota Dodd of Spokane, Wash., began a unsuccessful decades-long campaign for national recognition of the day.

The resistance largely came from a prescient public concerned that the push was commercialization, although Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Calvin Coolidge both actively campaigned to make the holiday a national one. Commentators and social scientists of the day argued that men were primarily breadwinners, with a limited domestic role.

But merchants fought back, haberdasheries advertising stereotypically masculine items as the perfect gift for dad on his yet-to-be-official day. About that time, newspapers stopped running sarcastic columns and cartoons mocking the day. By World War II, the day was marketed as one to honor those sering in the armed forces, and as one history of Father's Day reports, by the end of that war, Father's Day may not have been official, but it was certainly tradition.

In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers, designating the third Sunday in June as Father's Day. Six years later, the day was made a permanent national holiday when President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1972.

The day is still seen by many merchants as an opportunity to market traditionally masculine toys and accoutrements to those buying for men. Grills and power tools might be high-end gifts from a spouse or any number of children who are confident in their ability to accede to dad's wishes. From the younger and less-adventurous, dad is likely to receive a necktie (even if he never wears one to church, let alone to work) or after-shave (even for those with full beards.)

Father's Day may suffer from Flag Day Syndrome. In the same way that Flag Day is overshone by being nestled between Memorial Day and July 4, Father's Day comes after Mother's Day, a day that's been recognized for a longer time and one that serves to honor those we elevate to another level.

Think about it: You tend to get into a lot more trouble insulting someone's mother than their father.

The designation of the day has also in recent years prompted discussion about the roles of fathers in families, how families bond, child custody and child support. Those are always important conversations to have.

The best make us better. While fatherhood is a gift, it also has no instruction book. Those choices made by father figures are carried with us forever. The impact is deep.

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