Tag Archives: father’s day

Yes, A Woman Created Father’s Day!

Father’s Day is June 19, and the hype is underway!  Ads are popping up on traditional and social media, encouraging everyone to find the perfect gift for your perfect Father!  I just received an email prompt to purchase a dad’s holiday in Croatia for my husband.  Whatever happened to crazy ties and comfy socks?

There are so many reminders and suggestions about Father’s Day gifts and gadgets.  Who could possibly forget that Father’s Day is approaching?

But time out!  Let’s consider the impact a mother-in-law had on creating Father’s Day.  The national holiday exists thanks to Sonora Smart Dodd, a passionate daughter, wife, mother — and eventually yes, a mother-in-law.  In addition, she was a student, artist, author, businesswoman and social advocate.

Sonora Smart Dodd
Photo courtesy of the Spokane Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau. Sonora Smart Dodd created Father’s Day.

Dodd was 16 and grief-stricken when her mother, Ellen, died in childbirth.  Dodd overcame her tragic loss and focused her energies on her family — on helping her father and five younger brothers, including a newborn.  At that time in history, many fathers faced with similar circumstances had sent their youngest children away to live with relatives.  Instead, William Smart kept his family intact. Dodd’s love and respect for her dad became the rock-solid foundation for establishing Father’s Day.

Her inspiration blossomed in July 1909, when her minister delivered an impassioned Mother’s Day sermon, more than a year after the first Mother’s Day was celebrated on May 10, 1908.  Dodd decided to advocate for a similar holiday honoring her father and all fathers.  By that time, she was a 27-year-old wife with an infant son.  Despite her youth, Dodd had a seasoned perspective on her father and his challenges as a single parent. She relentlessly championed her Father’s Day effort for more than a year, hoping it would be celebrated on her father’s June 5 birthday.  Finally, local clergy agreed to deliver the first Father’s Day sermon on June 19, 1910 in Spokane, Washington.

Could Dodd have predicted, so early on, that she would spend much of her lifetime spearheading a Father’s Day movement? Controversy and political maneuvering related to Dodd’s efforts and Father’s Day continued for more than half a century.  A movement in the 1920’s and 30’s even proposed scrapping both Mother’s Day and Father’s Day in favor of a Parents Day.  Who could have guessed that Dodd would have to wait until 1972 when President Nixon officially established Father’s Day as a permanent national holiday to be celebrated each third Sunday of June?

Dodd died in 1978, at age 96, knowing she had accomplished her lifetime goal of honoring fathers.  Sonora Smart Dodd was quite the woman.  She was also a mother-in-law, like many of us.  She passed on a powerful message about the persistence and resilience of love — a much more enduring gift than socks, neckties and trendy technology on Father’s Day!

Be Good to Your Mother In Law. It’s Father’s Day!

Lily
It’s Father’s Day . . .

It’s Father’s Day and I’m thinking about my dad. It’s hard to believe that he died so long ago.  It seems like yesterday although 24 years have passed. Back then, I was pregnant with our second child — a daughter.

I received two life-changing phone calls on that memorable day. The first was a long-distance phone call from my mother.  She was crying and said, “Your dad has passed away.” My heart started pounding. I spent several hours pacing, tearfully asking myself the usual questions when a loved one dies. Why did this happen? What exactly happened? How could this possibly have happened?

Then, there was the second phone call. It was the nurse from my doctor’s office. I heard excitement in her voice. “Great news! You’re pregnant!”  I felt a jumble of conflicting emotions – complete joy and utter sadness. I was overjoyed to be pregnant but unhappy that our precious baby would never meet my dad. And, our six-year-old’s journey in getting to know and love his grandpa had ended far too soon.

There would forever be a void. The grandpa-and-grandchildren fishing trips would never be. Maybe my father would have taught his grandson to golf. He had been a caddy as a boy and had a perfect golf stance and swing. Would he have called our daughter, ‘Baby?’ It was his pet name for me. Possibilities for a relationship between my father and my children had vanished.

So, it’s Father’s Day. It’s natural to reminisce about the 45 years of marriage my father and mother shared. I remember a recurring conflict between my parents — the mother-in-law issue. My mom didn’t like my dad’s mother. She pretended to get along in public but complained to my father privately.  My mom also made thoughtless remarks within earshot of her kids. I’d hear her tell my dad, “Your mother wants us over for dinner on your day off! You should be spending your free time with me and the kids — not with your mother!” Or she’d say, “Your mother favors your brother over you.” Another one was, “Your mother spoils your sister’s kids and ignores ours.”  The complaints went on and on, and my dad just listened. He never uttered a retaliatory word. I know it bothered him, and it bothered me. I was a little kid, torn between believing my mother’s nasty comments and trusting my own immature intuition. Did my grandmother deserve such harsh criticism? I had no evidence. She always seemed at ease, often hunched over her stove or wiping her hands on her colorful apron, while a mob of grandkids ran in and out of her house.

Long ago, I realized my mom’s behavior was wrong. For whatever reasons, jealousies or insecurities, she was absolutely wrong in harping about her mother-in-law. It was toxic to our family and hurtful to my dad. He was a good husband and a patient and loving father.  He was a good son. My father didn’t deserve the mother-in-law drama that his wife stirred up.

My mother passed away a few months ago. I am saddened, on this Father’s Day, that she missed an opportunity to make my dad happy by accepting his mother. She missed an opportunity for herself as well. Compassion and communication can heal relationships and misunderstandings. For my parents, there is no going back — no second chances. No more Father’s Days. No more Father’s Day gifts. For the rest of us, there is hope.  The possibilities are endless. We are always a work in progress.

Today is Father’s Day, and I’m remembering my father. Love you, Daddy.