Father’s Day: A timeless bond | Sunday Observer

Father’s Day: A timeless bond

Have you heard the melodious and mesmerizing Sinhala song “Piya Guna Walata Kaw Gee Liyawuna Madi” which essentially means that songs and verses that extol the virtues of the father are few and far between. This is indeed true. As the song points out, a father’s love is not second to that of the mother, who usually gets the attention of songwriters and poets.

Today, Father’s Day, is dedicated for fathers everywhere. In most cultures, fatherhood is second in importance only to motherhood. These are the two closest people to us from childhood all the way up to our youth and even beyond. In an oriental culture such as ours, where mothers and fathers are revered every day, a separate Father’s Day may seem redundant, but it is nevertheless a very important way to honour our fathers, living or departed. It is also an occasion to honour the many “father figures” in our lives, apart from the biological father.

Although Father’s Day originated in the United States (like Mother’s Day), it is now celebrated worldwide on the third Sunday of every June, following on from Mother’s Day which is marked on the third Sunday of every May. Mother’s Day incidentally was the catalyst to the Father’s Day celebration.

Father’s Day has a very interesting history. In May 1909, Sonora Smart Dodd of Spokane, Washington, sat in church listening to a Mother’s Day sermon. She decided she wanted to designate a day for her father, William Jackson Smart. Dodd’s mother had died in childbirth, and Dodd’s father, a Civil War veteran, had taken the responsibility of singlehandedly raising the newborn and his other five children.

The following year, Dodd wanted to celebrate Father’s Day on June 5th, her father’s birthday, and petitioned for the holiday to be recognized in her city. Needing more time to arrange the festivities, Spokane’s mayor pushed the date back by two weeks, and the first Father’s Day was celebrated on June 19, 1910.

At the first Father’s Day celebration, young women handed out red roses to their fathers during a church service, and large baskets full of roses were passed around, with attendees encouraged to pin on a rose in honour of their fathers – red for the living and white in memory of the deceased. Dodd then brought her infant son along on a horse-drawn carriage ride through the city, bringing roses and gifts to home-bound fathers.

While the US Congress was quick to officially declare the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day in 1914, after it was first celebrated on May 10, 1908, it took much longer for Father’s Day to be legally recognized. But thanks to Dodd’s celebration, Father’s Day steadily gained popularity and official recognition was not far behind.

The holiday gained more traction in 1938 when a trade organization, the National Council for the Promotion of Father’s Day, which was formed by men’s clothing retailers in New York City, decided to take up the cause. The event then spread worldwide, driven primarily by the retail industry.

Indeed, Father’s Day has become a highly commercial event, with retailers urging sons and daughters to splurge on gifts for their fathers. In fact, a Google search on Father’s Day will instantly display hundreds of websites where you can buy gifts for your father. While this is indeed a good practice that shows how much you appreciate your father, it is time to look at how we can really bond with our fathers in the years ahead.

The bond between parents and teenagers and youth has become a casualty of commercialism and the rat race to get ahead of everyone else. In many households, both parents work and come home late.

The children too follow classes and courses and come home late. Thus there is very little time to bond – the whole family may take dinner in front of the TV, letting the TV do all the talking. Thereafter everyone gets busy with the phone or tablet until bedtime. This is the tragedy of the modern family. The traditional ties that kept everyone together have become loose.

The lack of parental supervision and bonding could lead youth astray. We have seen many examples of families that have fractured after the sons and daughters went on the wrong path to self-ruin. Many youth feel abandoned by parents and may try to find solace among their peers, only to fall into trouble. It is time for a regular dialogue among parents and their offspring regardless of age. Remember, your father or mother should be your best friend. If you face a difficult situation in life, it is better to get their advice first before going to other parties.

This is however a two way street. There are some fathers who may be addicted to alcohol or may be abusive towards their children. In this case, try to veer your father away from those practices. In Sri Lanka, most youth stay with the parents well into their 30s, at least until they get married.

In fact, most parents will be offended if the children try to stay away from home, sometimes even after getting married. However, if you think you are a burden to your parents, think of the option of getting out. In a recent landmark case in the USA, parents sued a son for staying in their house well after he turned 30 and the parents won. While things certainly are different over here, it is best to use your discretion.

The other side of this coin is that many parents live alone today. Sometimes this is down to only one parent, the other having passed away. The sons and daughters have either moved out to the big city or in most cases, migrated to Canada or Australia. If you father and mother are living alone, ensure that they are well cared for. For example, can they reach medical assistance in an emergency ? Do they have access to nutriotious food ? These are just two factors you have to consider.

Talking of medical assistance, more people are living well into their 80s today, even the 90s. But the biggest concern in this case is that most of them do not have a gainful way of spending time, which causes many social problems. If you father is retired, the best option is keeping him busy by allowing him to do something he likes to do – a hobby such as gardening, perhaps. This will keep him physically and mentally alert and healthy.

Remember, you have only one mother and one father and it is your duty to keep them healthy and happy. Remember that one day, you too could become a mother or father. Then you will realise the difficulties they have gone through. So this Father’s Day, visit your father if you have not gone that way in a few weeks and spend some quality time with him, reminiscing about the good old days.

Buy a gift if you have to, but your presence is the greatest gift. Show him that he is your hero, your protector, your idol. No gift can ever match that magical, timeless bond.