A Different World

Father’s Day: Save the scolding of fathers for another day

Published in The Sun News June 9, 2012

A plea for next weekend’s annual Father’s Day observance:

Please, no stories about dead-beat dads; no stories about the disappearance of active fathers, no diatribes about how men need to step up to the plate and father the children they helped bring into the world.

Please, no recitation of statistics about fatherless homes.

I don’t want to hear about the father who left his wife and small children for a 20-year-old co-ed, or how hard single-family homes headed by women have it.

I don’t want to be told any more about the fatherly example set by John Edwards.

Not on the one day set aside to honor fathers, to reaffirm their importance.

For some reason, too many people use the day to scold rather than celebrate fathers.

A few years ago, I sat through a long sermon in a church listening to the preacher list all the sins of the father, demanding that they be better, saying fathers should be ashamed of having neglected their duties.

Even Barack Obama got in on that act before he became president during a speech in which he talked about the dearth of black fathers.

I get the angst about the changing – some would say deteriorating – home.

I get that too many fathers don’t take their responsibilities seriously and need to step up.

I know well the statistics that suggest that fatherless homes are becoming the norm, and in some communities have long been the majority.

I know those changes have implications for just about everything, from poverty rates and educational attainment to the social well being of children.

Discussing such things is important, vital even.

And those discussions have their place – just not on Father’s Day.

We don’t have this problem on Mother’s Day.

Nobody talks about the moms who made poor choices.

Nobody talks about the moms who walk out on their kids or unnecessarily puts them in harm’s way to hold onto a destructive relationship.

Nobody dares to talk about the things moms sometimes get wrong.

For one day, moms are simply celebrated, their importance and sacrifices highlighted and appreciated.

Dads don’t receive the same blanket courtesies on Father’s Day, even though we have 364 other days every year to point out things fathers get wrong.

It took almost six decades after Mother’s Day was recognized to have the United States officially begin acknowledge Father’s Day.

That probably wasn’t by accident. Fathers had for a long time been placed at the head of the household and almost unquestioned. The balance of power clearly tipped in their direction.

Celebrating and honoring mothers became a way to push the pendulum back in the other direction.

But maybe it’s been pushed too far. In ways subtle and not so subtle, we began devaluing fathers in order to uplift mothers, when the triumphs, struggles and importance of both sides of the parenting equation need to be acknowledged.

We already get that when it comes to Mother’s Day.

Maybe one day soon we’ll get that about Father’s Day, too.