Upbringing: For Your Father, With Love

Published: June 18, 2014

A little over a month ago, I visited the Looney Bazaar here in Toronto to purchase a Mother’s Day card for my mother. The store here always has the right merchandise to echo my sentiments. Although my parents are fairly tech-savvy, judging from their avid presence on various social media websites and applications, I much prefer mailing them a card back home to India the old fashioned way.

Last week, I went back to the store in search of a Father’s Day card that would effectively convey my love from across the world. Instead, what I got was heaps and heaps of graduation and prom-related paraphernalia, with just two small rows dedicated to fatherhood. The attendant there must have gauged my confusion as she went on to tell me the store had purposely reduced its inventory as few people celebrated Father’s Day nowadays. I paid for my card and walked out, wondering what wrong the fathers of the world had done to deserve this. Is it just that there are fewer fathers out there or are they simply not appreciated anymore?

“It’s another Sunday brunch for us,” says homemaker, Maheen Karim of her family traditions. “We have never really celebrated it much. My husband and I go out for brunch on Sundays anyway and on Father’s Day, we just let our children tag along.”

Such nonchalance towards Father’s Day is unsettling, especially considering the troubles its founder Sonora Smart Dodd underwent for its establishment. Having lost her mother at the tender age of 16, Sonora – the eldest of five siblings – realised early on the continuous struggle and hardship her widowed father had to face to raise their family. Watching him play the role of both mother and father and making endless sacrifices made Sonora appreciate the important role father’s play in the lives of their children. Perhaps that is why she felt so strongly about the lack of a special day dedicated to honouring fatherhood.

It was a Mother’s Day sermon that Sonora attended in 1909 which encouraged her to propose the idea of Father’s Day. As the mature and loving daughter of a devoted father, she wondered why no one paid much heed to paternal love while mothers were celebrated across the world. Thereafter, she began her campaign to get all fathers their due respect in society. With the help of local pastors, Sonora conveyed her idea to the local Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). Fortunately, the locals in her homes state of Washington were quick to endorse the idea. Although Sonora had suggested her father’s birthday, June 5, for the celebrations, local pastors deferred it to the third Sunday of June to get ample time to prepare their sermons. Thereafter, Father’s Day gradually spread across America, beating national hesitation and ridicule regarding the concept. It wasn’t until 1966 when former US president Lyndon Johnson declared Father’s Day an official celebration.

It is a pity that even now, over a century later, things haven’t changed much. Stories of great mothers are not hard to find, whether it is single moms raising their children alone or a career-oriented women giving up their ambitions to care for their families. Celebrations of maternal love are everywhere, in contrast to Father’s Day which translates into little more than two corner shelves with a few shabby greeting cards and ‘Best Daddy’ mugs on display. Granted that no love is greater than maternal love, it just seems like society has somewhat accepted fathers are secondary and so, fatherhood isn’t heralded with the same vigour. I wonder, does paternal love not warrant celebration? Do our fathers not deserve the same appreciation as our mothers?

Perhaps Father’s Day ought to be less celebrating and more about understanding the vital role a father figure plays in a child’s life. Research indicates that children with involved fathers are much more successful academically as well as in the professional world as paternal love encourages drive and ambition. Additionally, higher self-esteem and better social development are some of the qualities found in children with fathers who are engaged in their daily lives, as opposed to those who grow up without fathers. Considering this, it is safe to say that there is much more to fatherhood than simply providing financial support and shelter to the family.

“I think the problem is that Mother’s Day and Father’s Day – any special day, for that matter – are typically emotional in nature, something which isn’t usually associated with the male gender,” says Asim Waheed, a father of two. “Men don’t care much for gifts and flowers, etc so people don’t usually bother. My own children go all out for their mother on Mother’s Day but often forget about Father’s Day completely. I don’t mind though. And I don’t think other fathers do either.”

Fortunately, there are still plenty like Mehreen Bhaijiwala for whom Father’s Day remains special; a celebration of fatherhood that comes  from the heart. Last year, Mehreen constructed a photo album with pictures of her husband playing with their 2-year-old son Mikail as a Father’s Day gift. “After presenting the album, we drove to my father’s house for a delicious family brunch.” After all, this is what such holidays are all about: family bonding and celebration.

Published in The Express Tribune, Ms T, June 15th, 2014.

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