As special as fathers are, in terms of holiday notoriety, gifts and revenues, they don’t come close to that of Mother’s Day. We certainly would not be here without a mother.
Today is Father’s Day, and I want to salute and celebrate fathers – with a special emphasis on single fathers.
I had a wonderful dad growing up, and he still is. He was strict, yet firm. He was consistent in his discipline. My three siblings and I knew he loved us. He certainly provided for us. As far as I know, we lacked for nothing.
MY FIRST 16 years were spent mostly outside the United States. We didn’t have the luxury of being around extended family for any length of time during our travels. So to say I love and value the man I call my father is an understatement.
There is a segment of people in our society that does not receive the credit it deserves. That segment is single fathers. I personally know several incredible single fathers, and the circumstances that have them in this situation vary.
One of my friends, a pastor, lost his wife suddenly, and he was left with three children, ages 5 months to 9 years, to rear on his own. Nine years later, he is doing a fabulous job.
A 20-something friend of mine, a single dad of two, vowed to not be a statistic or follow in the footsteps of someone who didn’t do a good job of being a father to him. Although he and the children’s mother were not able to make their relationship work, he is there for his son and daughter, no matter what.
I know of another young man in his 20s who is desperately trying to be the best father he can be. He works two jobs, and leans on the help of his sons’ great-grandparents, grandparents, aunt and others. He has taken the responsibility to raise his son, despite having a sometimes tumultuous relationship with his child’s mother.
I had a friend tell me about a 70-year-old grandfather who has taken the responsibility to raise two of his grandchildren.
These men believe that, with help from God, they are able to be the kind of father God would have them be.
I know there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of success stories like these. If you know of a successful single dad, then I would like to encourage you to show him some love and give him a big hug.
So what are the characteristics of a successful single father?
I believe they include: one who loves their children; tells them he loves them; spends time with them; teaches; and takes responsibility. A successful single father inspires, supports, encourages, disciplines, challenges and empowers. A successful single father also exemplifies a positive, but not perfect, role model for their children to emulate.
THIS YEAR, THE U.S. Census says there are about 70 million fathers. Of those, 2.3 million are single fathers; 9 percent were raising three or more children younger than age 18. About 46 percent were divorced; 30 percent were never married; 19 percent were separated; and 6 percent were widowed.
Single-father households are the fastest-growing family form in the United States. According to the National Center for Fathering, this growth has been evident since the 1970s, when courts became more receptive to recognizing the rights of fathers in divorces. Until then, child custody used to go almost exclusively to the mothers.
Thomas Coleman, executive director of the American Association for Single People,
“attributed the rise in single dads to a variety of reasons, including more judges awarding custody to fathers in divorce cases and more women choosing their jobs over family life,” according to ABC News.
Fathers experience challenges in being a single parent, just as single mothers do. The nature of most men is to be competitive and win. Many of them want to be the breadwinner and head-of-household. Because of those natural instincts, I would venture to say those same men will go over and beyond what is necessary to rear their children the best way they can, if given the opportunity.
I believe we should give this group of men more respect and encouragement.
Society is changing, and despite the negative portrayal of men – in particular, black men – there are infinitely more good men, good single fathers, doing the right things for their children. And to them, I salute and celebrate you.
FATHER’S DAY WAS conceived more than a century ago by Sonora Dodd of Spokane, Wash., while she listened to a Mother’s Day sermon in 1909. Dodd felt compelled to have a special day to honor her father, William Smart, a widowed Civil War veteran who was left to raise his six children on a farm. A day in June was chosen for the first Father’s Day celebration on June 19, 1910, proclaimed by Spokane’s mayor because it was the month of Smart’s birth.
The first presidential proclamation honoring fathers was issued in 1966 when President Lyndon Johnson designated the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day. It’s fabulous to know that Father’s Day has been celebrated annually since 1972 when President Nixon signed the public law that made it permanent.
Happy Father’s Day!
(The writer is a radio talk-show host, published author, life coach and mental-health advocate.)