In the early 1900’s, following the campaign to make Mother’s Day a holiday, Sonora Dodd wanted to honor her widowed father who raised Sonora and her five siblings, including an infant son, following the devastating loss of his wife to childbirth. In Sonora’s eyes, her father, William Smart, was a selfless, loving, and courageous man. Initially, people laughed at Sonora with her dream of honoring fathers, for only mothers were known to be nurturers. But, after relentless efforts for years on end, Father’s Day did indeed become a reality in honor of
William Smart’s June birthday back in 1910.
We traditionally honor our dads with breakfast (or burnt toast!) in bed, “I Love You’s” spelled out in broken crayons, and that famous, #1 Father’s Day gift: The necktie!
Studio 5 Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Liz, is here to get us thinking in the right direction as we dedicate our lives to dad this coming Father’s Day.
Fathers are the biggest source of strength for a child. For daughters, Dad is their protector and the first man they adore, and for sons, Dad is their idol and the strongest man they aspire to emulate. The innocent eyes of a child perceive their father as all-powerful, and the most knowledgeable and important person in the family. He gets the better and larger cut of meat, the fancier chair, the most attention, the greatest respect….or does he? (Maybe not in all families.)
Unlike Mother’s Day, which is celebrated in MANY countries, Father’s Day is almost a uniquely American holiday. While 96% of American consumers take part in some way in Mother’s Day, only 69% of consumers are expected to purchase even a card for Father’s Day. Mother’s Day is the second most gift-giving holiday in the United States (Christmas is the highest), it’s the peak day of the year for long-distance phone calls, and it’s the busiest day of the year for many restaurants. Father’s Day celebrations don’t even come close.
Work pressures and other commitments may make it easy for some men to feel they don’t have the time. However, a recent study revealed that men born after 1965 spent 50% more time per workday with their children than fathers born before 1965. Furthermore, The Society of Human Resource Management discovered that men now rank the need to balance work and home life higher than their female colleagues.
Here are a few suggestions to help fathers do just that:
Conversation is the Crown Jewel
I always say LOVE means T-I-M-E. There really isn’t any other substitute, but time by itself is not enough. Every once in a while you’ll see a dad at a restaurant with one of his children. The child is gazing around the room and Dad has his head buried in the newspaper. No points for that.
Bonds develop with children during real times of conversation, and connection pays dividends. It’s great to read the paper; just share what you’re reading and develop a conversation around the topic at hand. Teach your children and allow them to teach you. I was visiting with a father in my practice recently and he has a son who is home from college for the summer. His biggest complaint was that this young man was ALWAYS on the computer, reading! Dads, instead of criticizing your son, get curious. Say to him, “Tell me what you’re reading there. What are you learning about? Teach me!” It’s along the same lines as, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!” Forget about what you think your son or daughter should be doing; meet them where they are!
Do Something Different – Shake Things Up!
Whether planned or spontaneous, I advice fathers to either plan or have spontaneous dates with their kids. For instance, every child loves it when Dad takes them out for pizza. Something different would be getting a slice at one of the nearby college towns and surprising them with tickets to a game. Or, for a rare event surprise your child with an out-of-town trip. One of my cousins has a darling son who loves the Denver Broncos. He was once able to combine a work trip to Denver with a surprise trip with his young son who was able to accompany him and they saw the Broncos play live. Be willing to think outside the box. Be an example to your employer and other dads at work. One father I know is well-known for interrupting even the most important of meetings to receive a call from home. (This man is a well-known attorney and everyone knows his personal stand on family matters.) The call from home may even be, “Dad, the basketball is flat.” His children know that they come first! How long does it take that man to excuse himself from the conversation, instruct his child on whether the air pump is, and get back to the meeting at hand. I encourage all parents to set such examples for both their children and their professional peers.
Beware of Schedule-Efficiency Mode:
That means, “O.K. Tonight at 7:30, we’re going to have a spontaneous and meaningful interaction, if it kills us!” Be careful not to fall victim to the event trap. Games, performances, and parties are the easiest to schedule, and while they are important, if we don’t schedule time just to “be there,” we end up teaching kids that it takes an event to get dad’s attention. A schedule cannot create quality time; it can only help create the possibility. When we get into efficiency mode, we treat people like things. On the job, it’s ineffective, and at home it’s devastating. If we treat each other, parents and children alike, as one more thing when we need to squeeze into the day, it will never produce love and trust. On-the-job we excuse our short-tempers, or dictatorial style because “business is business.” Worst case scenario, people will go somewhere else. At home, we use the excuse, “Oh, they’ll understand that I didn’t really mean what I said.” And they do….and they, too, go somewhere else. Schedule time just to be together. Have something planned or not; some of the greatest interactions and teaching moments are spontaneous!
Bottom Line: A good father will leave his imprint on his children for the rest of their lives. Be willing to often evaluate what your imprint will be.
Dr. Liz Hale is a Clinical Psychologist and a regular contributor on Studio 5. If you have questions about her weekly segments, or about her private practice,
you may e-mail her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.