From Where I Sit

By Pat Spilseth, Columnist

The idea of fatherhood has changed partly due to the way society has evolved. No longer do huge numbers of workers toil away in industrial factories while women spend time gardening and canning, dusting, sewing clothing and making meals for the family. The modern role of fathers has changed so that mothers and fathers are partners, each taking more responsibilities with family life.  

Fathers are now seen as significant influences on children. Studies show what happens when a father figure is missing. More kids of fatherless homes may join gangs, get into trouble with the law and drop out of school. Father’s Day helps demonstrate the importance and value of fatherhood and the gifts beyond material goods that a father gives his family.

Father’s Day was not immediately accepted when it was proposed. First came Mother’s Day. Men in the early 1900s associated it as a tribute to women and found the idea of honoring fathers as too effeminate to their liking. Men derided the holiday as a commercial gimmick to sell more products often paid for by the father himself. The first known Father’s Day service occurred in Fairmont, West Virginia, on July 5, 1908, after hundreds of men died in the worst mining accident in U.S. history. Grace Golden Clayton  proposed a service to honor all fathers especially those who had died. Her idea didn’t catch on.  

However, two economic events pushed Father’s Day forward, the Great Depression and World War II. With so many people pinching their pennies, the economy needed reasons for people to spend money. Father’s Day was promoted by struggling stores to get fathers a gift of a tie or shirt, socks or handkerchiefs that he probably would not buy for himself. In the war, men were on the front lines. To support American troops and the war effort, Father’s Day was another reason to support and show appreciation for dads. 

As we age and mature, often our vision of our dads change. When I was a kid, my Dad was my hero, a man I strived to please with good grades and no misbehaving. I was even a bit scared of him. After all, he was the sheriff, used to setting rules and standards for prisoners, and me too. I always wanted to “live up to his expectations. Dad expected the BEST. He worked hard; he wasn’t a slacker; he expected the same from his girls.  

Maybe it was because my dad was raised during the Depression that work always came first for my dad. Though he liked to laugh and have a good time, it always came after the work was done. Good thing he had a wife who loved to have fun as well as his deputy Lynn Krook who told hilarious tales and was always joking.  

We didn’t have “helicopter parents” when I was a kid, parents who hover over each activity their kids participate in. I felt lucky when my Dad got to one of my band concerts or a piano competition. Those instances were rare. First of all, he wasn’t big on music. Mom tried to get him to dance, but he just didn’t have any rhythm! I remember when Dad drove us to Minneapolis where I participated in the Aquatennial piano contest. It felt good; he supported my efforts to do well. I wanted him to be proud of me. He always noticed if I was on the honor roll and asked to see my report card. I knew he felt proud when he visited my gift/gallery stores.  

Dad was always busy with work at the jail. Whether he was transferring prisoners to Fergus or Stillwater, taking them to court, serving legal papers or booking a new prisoner, he was quite removed from my life as a kid. We didn’t have “talks” unless I’d been sent to my room for misbehaving. Then I dreaded Dad’s “I’m disappointed in you; I expected better of you” talk. 

As I got older, Dad had more time. Sick with cancer, he had time to give me advice about living my life. “Get out there and do what you want in life! Don’t wait for things to happen! Make it happen now.” He didn’t have enough time. Dad would have enjoyed my husband, children and grandchildren, whom he never met.

Today’s dads are probably more involved in their kids’ lives than dads were when I was growing up in the Fifties and Sixties. My dad, like many fathers, worked all day and into the evening, but was home to eat breakfast, dinner and supper with the family. Today, many dads coach kids’ soccer, basketball and football games. They practice tennis with their kid and go biking with the family. Dads take their kids fishing, hunting, boating or golfing. At Sunday morning church services, I still see kids sitting by their parents, just like when I was young. It’s great to see today’s young dads pushing baby strollers and changing diapers, getting up at night to soothe a crying baby, giving moms a break. 

Thank heavens for dads who spend time with their kids, giving them expectations, companionship, support and security. There’s no better gift for fathers and mothers than a big hug. Tell them how much you love them now, while they’re still around. Never forget to say “I love you.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

To contact Pat, email: