By Carol Joseh
Father’s Day 2016 is right around the corner, a day whose history dates all the way back to July 5, 1908 when a West Virginia church sponsored an event to honor the 362 men who’d died in a coal mine explosion-a planned one-time deal only, but then…
The very next year, Sonora Smart Dodd, from Spokane, Washington and raised along with her five siblings by her widowed father, took matters into her own hands. As she said to her priest after a particular Sunday morning mother-praising sermon, “Don’t you think fathers deserve a place in the sun, too?”
Thanks to her efforts in winning local support from shopkeepers, officials, and the YMCA, Washington celebrated the very first-ever Father’s Day on July 19, 1911–but it was almost a non-starter. As you might imagine, many men laughed at the idea of flowers and gifts, and so little progress was made. Indeed, it was not until 1966 that President Lyndon Johnson issued the first proclamation honoring dads, setting the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day. Six years later, President Nixon made it a permanent national holiday.
In those good old days, 87.7% of the Baby Boomer generation grew up with two biological parents who were married to each other. Today that number has dwindled to just 68.1% and is trending downward. And so, no matter how you address him, be it father, dad, pops, or such, count yourself among the fortunate.
That’s because fatherlessness is now said to be the biggest family and social problem we face today. Indeed, fathers.com goes so far as to say that, “If it were classified as a disease, fatherlessness would be an epidemic worthy of attention as a national emergency.”
Don’t doubt it for a minute.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, some 24.7 million of our children don’t live with their biological father. That translates to 57.6% of black children, 31.2% of Hispanic children, and 20.7% of white children. And whereas, back in 1960, only 8% of kids were raised by a single mom, as of 2012, that figure stood at 24.5%.
In other words, about one-fourth of our kids don’t live with a dad.
And so says New York Times best-selling author Michael Gurian, “Without fathers you would have no civilization. Father’s Day is hopefully a time when the culture says, ‘This is our moment to look at who our men and boys are. If we don’t protect fathering, we are going to be really messed up.”
Seems we might be already, since we reportedly spend $160,000 per child on child welfare and education-with most of it spent after the early childhood years. That translated to about $29.4 billion back in fiscal year 2010, and the figure is still rising.
Another result: It’s said that 90% of high school dropouts and 63% of young people who commit suicide come from fatherless homes.
As said, it seems we’re already in trouble, and that’s why a book like Bill Byrne’s How Long Does It Take to Catch a Fish is so important. Dedicated to his dad who passed away at the age of 44, he writes, “… Like a tear in a favorite sweater, the hole his death created in my life only further unraveled with the passing of time.” As he recounts, he often dreamed about his dad who would appear out of nowhere, leaving him always with “the grim acceptance that when the dream ended, he would be gone, and I would be alone.”
An irreparable hole…
Want to help make a dent in that hole? You can with a donation to the National Center for Fathering, which helps improve the lives of children and families by providing them with tools, resources and programs. As the organization reminds us: “Even if you are an involved dad [or are fortunate to have one], until we are successful, your children and grandchildren will be growing up in a culture of absent fathers and unfathered children. They will be affected!“
With thanks, happy Father’s Day.
Carol is a learning specialist who worked with middle school children and their parents at the Methacton School District in Pennsylvania for more than 25 years and now supervises student teachers at Gwynedd-Mercy University and Ursinus College. Along with the booklet, 149 Parenting School-Wise Tips: Intermediate Grades & Up, and numerous articles in such publications as Teaching Pre-K-8 and Curious Parents, she has authored three successful learning guidebooks: Getting School-Wise: A Student Guidebook, Other-Wise and School-Wise: A Parent Guidebook, and ESL Activities for Every Month of the School Year. Carol also writes for examiner.com; find her articles at http://www.examiner.com/wise-parenting-in-philadelphia/carol-josel. For more information, go to http://www.schoolwisebooks.com.