Honoring fathers, father figures

Honoring fathers, father figures

June 16th, 2012 in Opinion Times

For decades, it seemed that Father's Day was mostly an afterthought, an observance created to provide balance to Mother's Day a month earlier and to make it possible for greeting card makers to make a few extra bucks. That's no longer the case. The day for dads and other father figures is finally coming of age. It's about time.

Fathers and father figures -- stepfathers, grandfathers, brothers, uncles and the others who nurture and support children in homes where a biological father is not present -- deserve their day Sunday. It allows family and others to acknowledge and praise them for the roles they play in the lives of their children, their families and in society. Too often that role is ignored.

Study after academic study as well as anecdotal evidence indicates that fathers and father figures play a vital and extraordinarily positive role in the lives of their children. Children who live with their fathers have more favorable outcomes in education, income, health and self-esteem than children who do not. Children who live with their fathers are less likely, for the most part, to have crises related to drug use, sexual activity and other societal problems. That should be celebrated.

The positive aspects of fatherhood and the undeniable benefits of having a father figure in a family require celebration. The best way to do so is in private. There's no need for ostentation.

A hug, a kiss, a quiet talk, heartfelt thanks for a word said or deed done or a quiet gathering are sufficient to get the message across. There's nothing wrong, though, with a more public acknowledgment of a father or father figure once those private and precious moments and messages have been shared.

There's certainly plenty of opportunity. Many places in town and around the region offer special menus or festivities for dads and their families. The Chattanooga Market, for instance, honors fathers tomorrow. Then, of course, there are the more commercial aspects of the day devoted to dads.

The most obvious of those in the mailing or delivery of a greeting card. Hallmark researchers report that the greeting card industry will sell about 94 million Father's Day cards this year. The event, in fact, is now the fourth largest occasion for sending a greeting card. Christmas (1.6 billion cards) is first, followed by Valentine's Day (144 million cards) and Mother's Day (133 million cards). Increased card sales are not the only indicator of the rising popularity of Father's Day.

The National Retail Federation reports that the average consumer will spend about $117 on dad this year, up 10 percent from last year. By comparison, consumers spent about $152 for the Mother's Day last month. Father's Day, though, is about more than cards and gifts.

It is about respect, honor and understanding the difficult role fathers and father figures play in the lives of families and children. Take time Sunday to tell them that you love them and appreciate all that they do.