Father’s Day, as you know, will be celebrated this Sunday, June 19.
For maybe understandable reasons, Father’s Day is not nearly as popular as Mother’s Day, and its observance is much more recent. It was not until 1966 that President Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers, designating the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day. It was six years later that President Nixon signed it into law as a permanent national observance.
In this country Father’s Day was first proposed in 1910, but in the early years, even in the 1920s, there was sometimes laughter when observance of such a day was mentioned. There were several reasons for such a response, but one seems to have been that many fathers were not highly involved in the nurture of their children.
Those who raise cattle or horses are well acquainted with the importance of having a good sire for their calves or colts. For good offspring, they know there must be a good bull (or “he cow” as June’s neighbor used to say) or stallion (studhorse).
In registering animals, information about the sire is listed. But the sire is not usually referred to as the father. According to the dictionary, a father is “a man who has begotten a child.” And it is generally assumed that such a man, along with the child’s mother, has the responsibility for the physical, psychological, and spiritual well-being of the child.
Unfortunately, it seems that many men today have become sires, but not fathers in the full sense of the word.
Former Reagan Education Secretary William J. Bennett was one of the speakers I heard at the conference I wrote about on June 5. He talked about “the man problem in American society,” and he lamented, “Men are not marrying, not making the commitments in the way they used to.”
Later this year Bennett’s new 560-page book, The Book of Man: Who Are Men, What Should Men Be, What Should Men Do? will be published. In it I hope he deals helpfully with the importance of men being good fathers. (I will likely disagree with some of his conservative ideas about the relationship of men and women, though.)
The country needs men who will make commitments to help rear children, beginning with the ones they sire. The number of unwed mothers in the U.S. has risen dramatically in recent decades. Nationwide, now more than 40% of the children born have an unwed mother. Some of these, thankfully, do have a father who helps with the demanding task of rearing them. Sadly, many don’t.
You fathers who read this likely have been, and are, good, nurturing fathers, that is, fathers who nurture your children physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
But all of us, men and women alike, probably need to do more to nurture the young men around us toward becoming more responsible fathers. Unfortunately, in American society now there are too many men who are just sires, not fathers in the true sense of the word.