Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Fathers Day, Part Two: Appreciating Fathers

Yesterday I posted some articles on the status of fathers in our culture, so today's articles in honor of fathers are more about appreciation and how being a father can change a man.

First up, a look at the origin of the holiday from National Geographic.
An Iraq veteran walks with his son to a homeless shelter on  Father's Day 2008.
Iraq War vet Dave McBee at a Massachusetts homeless shelter
with his son on Father's Day two years ago.

John Roach

for National Geographic News, Updated June 20, 2010

As Father's Day hits its centennial today, sons and daughters around the world are expected to open their wallets wider—slightly—in celebration. Because of the slowly recovering global economy, people are expected to spend about 4 percent more than in 2009 on cards, ties, tools, clothes, and other Father's Day gifts.

But the first Father's Day, a hundred years ago, was decidedly humbler, and refreshingly noncommercial.

(Father's Day Pictures: "Best" Animal Dads.)

Father's Day was only officially made a national holiday in the U.S. in 1972, when President Richard Nixon declared it to be the third Sunday of June. But the holiday actually traces its origins to early 20th-century Washington State.

Inspired by a Mother's Day sermon she heard at church in 1909, Spokane resident Sonora Smart-Dodd—one of six children being raised by a single dad—also wanted to honor her father. She encouraged local churches to institute the first Father's Day observance the following year, and the idea caught on. (Learn more about the beginnings of Father's Day.)

Psychology lecturer Nicole Gilbert Cote at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, who researches Father's Day phenomena, noted that U.S. President Bill Clinton in 1994 launched a gender neutral "Parent's Day" on the last Sunday in July.

"Ultimately, Parent's Day did not take off as people had probably hoped and expected," she said. "And that makes perfect sense to me, because Mother's Day and Father's Day have such commercial appeal."

Some are taking special steps to celebrate the Father's Day centennial. The Coeur d'Alene Brewing Company in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, which is about 40 miles (64 kilometers) east of Spokane, brewed a special Papa's Pale Ale for the occasion, for example.

George Stromberg, the brewing company's president, told the Spokesman Review that the local visitors bureau put him up to the Father's Day task. "They thought there was a natural connection between dads and beer."

Shortchanged on Father's Day

Even though fathers will likely receive more this year, they'll still stay way behind moms, according to the National Retail Federation, a Washington, D.C.-based trade group. For instance, in 2009, Father's Day cost individual consumers an average of $90.89, while Mother's Day spending was $123.89.

The retail group expects gift givers to spend an average of $94.32 on Father's Day today. For moms, shoppers shelled out an average of $126.90.

"Dad is a little more laid-back and easier to shop for," said federation spokesperson Kathy Grannis. "His gifts usually range from a simple tie for work to a new spatula for the grill, all of which can make dad very happy."

(Related: "Father's Day Special: All-Star Animal Dads.")

Mother's Day gifts tend to be more luxurious than Father's Day presents—jewels, flowers, a trip to the spa, or dinner at a restaurant, for example.

Easy to Please on Father's Day

Still, the smiles are likely genuine when millions of fathers across the U.S. open boxes, peel back tissue paper, and admire their new neckties—still among the most popular Father's Day gifts—said Gilbert Cote, the psychology lecturer.

Her research shows that even though dads get less attention on Father's Day than moms do on Mother's Day, fathers are more likely to be satisfied on their holiday. (Read about the five "worst" animal moms.)

Part of the reason seems to be that moms expect to be relieved of stereotypical chores such as cooking and cleaning up on Mother's Day, but that doesn't always happen.

"The bar is lower, and Dad is OK with that," Gilbert Cote said, adding that the way families—even those that espouse egalitarian ideals—celebrate the two holidays reinforces such stereotypes.

Father's Day 2010 Is in the Cards

The most popular gift for Dad—and often the only one he'll get—is a Father's Day card. All told, an estimated 93 million cards are exchanged on Father's Day, according to the Hallmark card company.

This makes Father's Day the fourth largest card-sending holiday in the U.S., behind Mother's Day (141 million), Valentine's Day (152 million), and Christmas (1.8 billion). In total, according to the retail federation, people will ring up about $749 million in cards for this year's Father's Day.

Fifty percent of Father's Day cards are purchased for dads and another 15 percent for husbands. The remaining fall into a broad "other" category, which includes grandfathers, sons, brothers, uncles, and other loved ones, according to Deidre Mize, a Hallmark spokesperson.

"It might be someone who served in a father role," she said. "Or it could be a stepdad." (Read about a society that shuns fatherhood.)

Despite all the cards given on Father's Day, Hallmark didn't have anything to do with the origins of the holiday, Mize added.

Hallmark, she said, didn't start printing Father's Day cards until the 1920s.

Psychology Today has a small collection of articles for the day - some more appreciative and some looking at how it is to not have a father on this day celebrating dads (some of them are reprints from years past).

Father's Time

Understanding the challenges of fatherhood.

By Paul Roberts, Bill Moseley

This was supposed to be the Golden Era of Paternity. After decades of domestic aloofness, men came charging into parenthood with an almost religious enthusiasm. We attended Lamaze classes and crowded into birthing rooms. We mastered diapering, spent more time at home with the kids, and wallowed in the flood of "papa" literature unleashed by Bill Cosby's 1986 bestseller Fatherhood.

Yet for all of our fervor, the paternal revolution has had a slightly hollow ring. It's not simply the relentless accounts of fatherhood's dark side--the abuse, the neglect, the abandonment--that make us so self-conscious. Rather, it's the fact that for all our earnest sensitivity, we can't escape questions of our psychological necessity. What is it, precisely, that fathers do? What critical difference do we make in the lives of our children?

Think about it. The modern mother, no matter how many nontraditional duties she assumes, is still seen as the family's primary nurturer and emotional guardian. It's in her genes. It's in her soul. But mainstream Western society accords no corresponding position to the modern father.
Read the rest.

Fathers and Sons

Argues that being a father is life's fullest expression of masculinity, and questions if the current crop of patriarchal fathers will fare any better than the generation of fathers who were defined in terms of making money.

By Frank Pittman

We know that raising children is the central experience of life, the greatest source of self-awareness, the true fountain of pride and joy, the most eternal bond with a partner. We know that being a father is life's fullest expression of masculinity. So why did so many men forgo this for so long, and will the current crop of post-patriarchal fathers fare any better?

FOR A COUPLE OF hundred years now, each generation of fathers has passed on less and less to his sons--not just less power but less wisdom. And less love. We finally reached a point where many fathers were largely irrelevant in the lives of their sons. The baby was thrown out with the bathwater, and the pater dismissed with the patriarchy. Everyone seemed to be floundering around not knowing what to do with men or with their problematic and disoriented masculinity.

In addition, over the same 200 years, each generation of fathers has had less authority than the last. The concept of fatherhood changed drastically after the Industrial Revolution. Economics suddenly dictated that somebody had to go out from the home to work. Men were usually chosen, since they couldn't produce milk. Maybe they would come home at night or just on weekends.

As a result, masculinity ceased to be defined in terms of domestic involvement-that is, skills at fathering and husbanding -and began to be defined in terms of making money. Men stopped doing all the things they used to do. Instead, they became primarily Father the Provider, bringing things home to the family rather than living and working at home within the family.

This gradually led fathers to find other roles to fulfill when they visited home after working somewhere else: Father the Disciplinarian: "Wait till your father comes home!" and Father the Audience: "Tell Daddy what you did today."

Read the rest of the article.

I never knew my father, did it hurt?

The psychological effects of not having a father

If I passed my father on the street, I would not recognize him. I have never seen a photograph of Tom Kenrick, and my only mental photographs are the scratched and dusted memories of a 3 year old boy (whose mental image resolution power has been dimmed by 6 intervening decades). I do vividly remember the sound of him banging on the door of our apartment after he’d been released from prison a few years later. “Please let me in, Irene!” he begged my mother, who refused to allow him even see his two sons, both cringing in the darkness. My mother had once been madly in love with my father, but at that point, with some justification, she regarded him as a madman. “Please go away, Tom, or I’ll have to call the police.” A year or two later, I saw him standing across the street from where my brother and I were playing, but our mother again yelled at him to go away. Again, he left without ever talking to us. A decade after that, my stepfather showed me a brief article from the New York Daily News, about a man named Tom Kenrick who had apprehended for a series of armed robberies of movie houses in Queens.

When I was 18, my paternal grandmother died, but my stepfather and mother discouraged me from going to funeral, fearing I’d come in contact with my dread biological father. I don’t remember whether I protested, but I didn’t go, and I never tried too hard to find the fellow, afraid of what he’d be like.

I have two sons of my own, though, and being close to them is probably the most rewarding aspect of my life (as my older son described in his own Psych Today blog, I get to do wonderful things like sit in a theater and watch the latest animated flick with both my sons and my grandson). So, I now regret never having really met my own father, and wonder whether the separation wasn't worse on my old man than it was on me. I recently went onto a website where you could look up people by name, but unfortunately, there were a number of Thomas Kenricks, and none that I could connect to Irene Little or Astoria, Queens.

Read more.

This one comes from the Guardian UK - fathers are important in the mental health of their children, no matter what The Atlantic thinks.

The secret to happiness - speak to your father

Children who regularly talk to their fathers are happier than those who do not, according to new research.

By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent

Father and teenage son having a discussion
Young people who said they talked seriously to their dads most days gave
themselves an 87 per cent score on a happiness scale

Young people who said they talked seriously to their dads "most days" gave themselves an 87 per cent score on a happiness scale compared with 79 per cent for those who said they hardly ever spoke to their fathers in this way.

The findings, from an analysis of research from the British Household Panel survey into 1,200 young people in Britain aged between 11 and 15, were released by the Children's Society to coincide with Father's Day this weekend.

Nearly half of young people - 46 per cent - said they "hardly ever" spoke to their fathers about important topics compared with 28 per cent who hardly ever spoke to their mothers about the things that matter most.

Only 13 per cent confided in their father "most days", according to the analysis.

The study, commissioned by the Children's Society and undertaken by the University of York, showed that young people talk less to their fathers about important issues as they get older.

The data showed 42 per cent of 11-year-olds did so more than once a week compared with 16% of 15-year-olds.

The analysis suggested there has been little change over the years with the same proportion - 30 per cent - of young people talking to their fathers about something that mattered to them more than once a week in 2007-08 as in 2002-03.

Read more.

This one comes from MSNBC.

Dads empower kids to take chances

Roughhousing with Dad can teach life lessons, studies find

Image: Stuart Maeshiro, 45, his 12-year-old son, Garrett, and  9-year-old daughter, Tara
Stuart Maeshiro, 45, says he hopes to teach his 12-year-old son, Garrett, and 9-year-old daughter, Tara, "If you take a little risk, there will be rewards.”

Courtesy of the Maeshiro family

By Linda Carroll contributor
updated 5:24 a.m. MT, Fri., June 18, 2010

In the evenings after work, Mike King can often be found crouched down on all fours in the living room playing bucking bronco with his kids. Squealing with excitement, 5-year-old Wyatt and 3-year-old Ella will claw their way onto his back and hang on for as long as they can while King mimics the movements of a rodeo bull. Once the kids have been bucked off, the game generally dissolves into a raucous bout of wrestling and tickling.

It’s a lot of fun for King and his children. But the 37-year-old truck driver suspects that beyond the roughhousing, they're also learning self-confidence and how to handle their young bodies as they wrestle, tumble and fall. It also helps them learn how to interact with others, to develop empathy and to rein in their aggression, says the Morgan Hill, Calif., dad.

“My son has learned he can’t play as rough with his little sister as he can be with me,” King says. “He’s learned how to calm himself down.”

As it turns out, King is right about dad-power. Over the past decade or so, researchers have begun to focus on the special role dads take in child-rearing. Their role extends far beyond rough-and-tumble play, experts say. Studies have shown that dads empower their kids, giving them the impetus to go out to explore the world, to meet new people and to take chances.

Read more.

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