By Margaret Miller, a longtime Creston Valley resident
Sunday is Father’s Day; a day Canadians have celebrated since 1910 to honour fathers and father-figures and to reflect on their role in society.
Father’s Day is celebrated in about 80 countries, though not always on the same date. Sonora Smart Dodd, daughter of an American Civil War vet, is often credited with founding Father’s Day in Spokane in 1910, though European churches and other cultures honoured fatherhood long before that.
Since Canadians began celebrating this day over a century ago, our view of family has changed. Generations ago, fathers were often considered the breadwinners and disciplinarians: “Wait til your father gets home!” Nurturing was often delegated to the maternal figures in a family unit.
During my youth, fathers generally didn’t witness the birth of their children. Many knew little about practicalities like changing diapers or preparing toddler food. Some proudly pushed baby carriages, but none were seen carrying infants in cloth carriers or slings, a practical item used in nomadic and traditional societies widely marketed in the new millennium. Dads of the 50s and 60s knew nothing of paternity leave. If any spoke of the possibility of stay-at-home parenting so their wives could enter the workforce, I imagine they would have been met with bewildered consternation.
In the so-called good old days, many fathers worked long hours so were absent for much of their children’s lives. Victims of cultural norms and economics, they missed many of the daily joys of parenting.
Thankfully, more fathers are now actively involved in their kids’ lives. They are present at the birth and during the first hectic days or weeks of their child’s life. They support partners and dive into routines of diaper changes, meals, baths, and story time. And when the weather is right and nature beckons, many introduce their little ones to the wonderful outdoors.
One afternoon last January, I snowshoed to Telemark Basin at the Summit with family. My seven-month-old grandson came along, nestled against his dad’s chest in a warm carrier. During our descent, we passed a Creston couple skiing to Lightning Strike Cabin. The father pulled a sled tethered to his waist, the face of his nine-month-old peeking out of warm layers. Ten minutes from the car park, we greeted a third dad enjoying a day in the mountains with his daughter. Both wore snowshoes and chatted away as they slowly ascended a wide, well-packed trail. The dad appeared to be in his thirties, and his daughter was four years old. (I asked as I smiled and waved!)
Fathers’ roles and rights have changed over the years, and so too has the stereotypical image of a good father-figure. Father Knows Best, a US television series that ran for 6 seasons from 1954, depicts an outdated version of the North American family: a family of five, all white. Dad in a business suit. Mom in an attractive house frock and crisp apron. Three well-adjusted kids, all with perfect teeth and excellent manners.
In Canada’s multicultural and evolving society, families are changing. These days, there are all kinds of wonderful dads. Dads of all ethnicities. Dads in multiracial families who know that matching skin colour isn’t a prerequisite for happy family life. Married, single, and common-law dads. Adoptive dads and foster dads who open their hearts to kids who need them. Step-dads who bring love and commitment to blended families. And in our LGBTQ+ communities, two Dad families, where loved children learn first-hand the value of tolerance.
Sadly, Father’s Day isn’t a happy event for everyone. Not everyone enjoys a “happily ever after” life. Some yearn for an absent or lost father. Others recall a father who was never close, or who caused harm. June 20th will be difficult for some.
Still, I remain optimistic and convinced that most of us are on the right track. Most dads – like most moms and guardians – want the best for their kids. This Sunday we honour all good father-figures. Those who are present in the lives of children; those who foster self-esteem, tolerance, and a love of life.
Father-figures who make our world a better place.