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June 21, 2009: “Why Father’s Day is Different Than Mother’s Day”

A woman wrote to a magazine to tell about an event that had occurred in her family when she was about eighteen months old. Her mother was out and her dad was in charge of her and her brother who was four years older. She says that she had just recovered from an accident in which she had received some injuries. Someone had given her a little ‘tea set’ as a get-well gift and it was one of her favorite toys.

Her Dad was in the living room one evening engrossed in the evening news and her brother was playing nearby in the living room when the little girl brought her Dad a little cup of make-believe ‘tea,’ which was just plain water. After several cups of this tea and lots of praise from Dad for making such a yummy concoction, the little girl’s Mom came home. Her Dad made Mom wait in the living room to watch this eighteen-month-old bring him a cup of tea, because it was ‘just the cutest thing!’

Her Mom waited, and sure enough, here the girl came down the hall with a cup of tea for her Daddy. Mom watched Dad drink this special tea, then asked, ‘Did it ever occur to you that the only place that baby can reach to get water is the toilet’? ‘Yuck!’ It’s not easy being a Dad.

The great comedic father, Bill Cosby, once said, ‘Fatherhood is pretending the present you love most is soap-on-a-rope.’

Someone else said that while literature is mostly about having sex and not much about having children, real life is the other way around.

The number one present for Father's day? A card! And a third of those   will be humorous. In fact, no other holiday makes the recipient the   butt of more jokes than Father's day! Not only that, but Americans   will spend $33.00 dollars less than they did last month on Mother's Day!

Our relationship is different with our father than with our mother isn’t it? All our lives. It would stand to reason, therefore, that when we say that God is our Father, we can’t help but project our relationship with our biological father onto our relationship with our theological father, if you will. And of course, it begs the theological question of who, then is our theological mother, for how or why would one have a father without also having a mother?

Well, let’s remain earthbound for now with our human fathers as we celebrate Father’s day in all its complications. Think, for instance, of the way fathers are portrayed on TV. None of them ever captured my dad, of course, though there were parts of him here and there, but boy didn’t I wish he could be more like some of them. There was great article in Saturday’s paper,( 6/20/09) the Plain Dealer titled, ‘Dear Ol’ Dad,’ by Plain Dealer TV Critic. Mark Dawidziak. He divided up some of the dads into categories Father Often Knows Best , Father Sometimes Knows Best, Father Rarely Knows Best, etc. and I found it fascinating, but found that it also brought back memories of watching those shows through different periods of my life, some as a child , and so on through maturity, then as parent and recently as parent with grown children still watching some of them, Like ‘Everybody Loves Raymond,’ for instance. Indeed, scenes from ‘Everybody Loves Raymond,’ have often been used in a class I took on family therapy as discussion starts because they are so obviously showing dysfunctional family dynamics, but using humor! I use these examples because I think we all identify with the fathers in these shows on some level, sometimes because we wish they were our fathers for a variety of reasons, including often the fact that perhaps our fathers might have been absent from our lives because of divorce death or other reasons, or because we were in miserable situations and yearned for the ideal TV Father Knows Best world.

I was blessed with a what I consider a normal happy loving childhood with an intact nuclear family though Dad was usually working and didn’t interact a lot with we kids. But I want us to think of these shows and how they impacted us knowing, of course, that all of us are different ages, so some of them are are before our time, some we will have never heard of, but I think most o them are cultural icons. They are not in chronological or alphabetical order. Think about what kind of father they portrayed. I will say the Father’s TV Character’s name and see if you can guess the show- Under the category:

Father Often Knows Best

-Cliff Huxtable ; Bill Cosby ‘The Cosby Show’ -Ward Cleaver; Hugh Beaumont, ‘Leave It To Beaver -Dan Conner, John Goodman, ‘Roseanne’ -Rob Petrie; Dick Van Dyke, ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’ -Jim Anderson; Robert Young, ‘Father Knows Best’ -James Evans; John Amos, ‘Good Times’ -Charles Ingalls; Michael Landon, ‘Little House on the Prairie’ -John Walton;Ralph Waite, ‘The Waltons’

Father Sometimes Knows Best

Ray Barone;’ Everybody Loves Raymond’ Ozzie Nelson; ‘The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet’ Danny Williams; Danny Thomas, ‘Make Room for Daddy’ Martin Crane; John Mahaoney, ‘Frasier’ Howard Cunningham; Tom Bosley, ‘Happy Days’

Father Rarely Knows Best

Frank Barone; Peter Boyle, ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ Al Bundy; Ed ONeil, ‘Married…With Children’ Homer Simpson, “The Simpsons’ Archie Bunker; Carrol O’Connor, ‘All in the Family’ Jack Geller; Elliot Gould, ‘Friends’

Father Knows Less

Tim Taylor; Tim Allen, ‘Home Improvement’ Fred Flintsone, ‘The Flintstones’ Charles Riley; William Bendix, ‘The Life of Riley’ Dagwood Bumstead, Arthur Lake, ‘Blondie’

Father Flies Solo

Andy Taylor; Andy Griffith, ‘Andy Griffith Show’ Ben Cartwright, Lorne Greene, ‘Bonanza’ Steve Douglas, Fred MacMurray, ‘My Three Sons’ Lucas McCain, Chuck Connors, ‘The Rifleman’

I’m sure you can think of TV fathers that perhaps you were influenced by, and I wondered as I was writing this if we baby boomers were the first generation to be influenced by TV fathers as much, maybe even more than by biological fathers, because our fathers were busy working in the nebulous office or factory, and not with us in the filed and farm. We were being instructed by the TV father because our own was too busy making a living away from the home, unobserved by us. Even many of the early TV fathers had mysterious jobs- what did Ozzie Nelson do for instance’ or Ward Cleaver’

For different generations, there would be different questions as divorce became more common and single parent households would now become the norm rather than the exception and life without a father would become more prevalent.

The concept of fatherhood has changed, and for the better, I think. When I was born, my father was in the waiting room, and surely was doing the traditional pacing and smoking countless cigarettes. It was not unusual for the doctor to give the mother sedatives so she would in theory, sleep through childbirth. When my three daughters were born, and they are now 31,29, and 25, I was in the delivery room, after attending many classes of the Lamaze natural birth method, with breathing exercises and trying to stay away from drugs. Holding Cathie’s hands and watching the process of birth take place was one of the most spiritual events I have experienced. Though women giving birth has been around since there were women, men usually had nothing to do with it. Now I will have to admit, that I was concerned more about my fainting than a difficult birth. I think that my relationship with both my wife and three daughters was more profound because of this father actually experiencing the miracle of life and my daughters emerging from Cathie’s womb. Yes, I know that’s how it’s been done for millenniums, but perhaps being there when it happened was the beginning for many of us men and fathers to change as well. There are now diaper stations in Men’s rooms as well as women’s rooms! As Cathie and I raised our daughters and life required that she work outside the home, I shared the tasks of getting the girls ready for school and yes, even learned how to do braids! Oh, never as well as Cathie, mind you, but I could do them! And I never really did equal work around the house, I know! But, if you compare it to what my father did, it would be amazing. What a change….

So on Father’s day I am always somewhat conflicted as I deal with the past, with my relationship with my father and with my joy about being a father and my great pride and love for my three daughters. Cristina, Katie, and Elizabeth.

My father’s name Harry Vernal Severance, who was 87 when he died on July 1, 2002. My dad and I were never close; he was a quiet man and had been an only child, so was never big on families or children. I don’t remember him playing with us kids much or teaching me how to play ball, etc. I went hunting with him only once that I can remember, and it was not fun. First of all, you have to be quiet; and that was always hard for me. It was cold and snow was on the ground. We found some deer tracks and my job was to follow them. Other tracks crossed them occasionally and confused me. I ended up following the deer tracks right to a rabbit hole! Dad never let me forget that and it was often brought up at family events.

All that said, my teens were fairly uneventful; We had some arguments, and I was already more liberal and anti-war during the Vietnam conflict. He worked as an insurance salesman and was gone a lot; I think he preferred being alone. I went out of state to college to Pennsylvania, though he wanted me to stay and go to the University of NH. Luckily, I got a scholarship and it wasn’t much more expensive. I felt I need to get away to establish who I was and become independent as long as the college bills were paid, of course. Whenever I called home, I talked to Mom, rarely to Dad.

During my senior year in college in 1971, he suffered a stroke which left him permanently brain damaged. He was physically all right, but his behavior was like someone with a frontal lobotomy-flat affect, lack of short term memory,-which left him unable to work and eventually unable to even drive. So for the next 31 years he was a different man than my father though he inhabited my father’s body. My mother had to take care of him, and that was difficult for her as well. Since my family and I lived in either Pennsylvania, then San Antonio, I didn’t see him much. We would usually visit for a week or two over the summer, but during the rest of they year, I talked mainly to my mother when I called to see how things were. he mainly watched TV game shows and enjoyed eating.

I tell you this to explain some my conflicted feelings on father’s day. I am very proud to be a father to my three wonderful girls and perhaps it was because my father didn’t spend much time with me or was very caring towards me, I have tried to be with my children. Perhaps the father I became was despite my father, not because he taught me how to be a good father. Maybe men today are becoming much more active with the raising of their children because their fathers weren’t either.

The fathers of the baby boomers were caught in that tremendous   generation gap; and baby boomer fathers became very different. Our   fathers went through the depression and W.W.II, some the Korean war.   Each generation, of course, is different, but the population surge of   we baby boomers changed everything! Many of us were the first in the   family to go to college and especially to go away to college! Many of   us were the first in the family to fly in a jet!

So for many of us, Father’s Day is more difficult than Mother’s Day. I have always loved, cherished, and often saved the handmade gifts and cards from my girls. I think that I am the father I wish my father had been. You’d really have to ask my girls, I guess, to find out. Oh I look back now and wish I had spent more time with them, gone on more family outings; I wish I had been less selfish with my time.

I am hopeful for humanity when I see the changing face of fatherhood and men in general, though there is still too much domestic abuse. We are making progress.

We are discovering with same gender parenting, sacred unions, etc., that there is really more than just two genders, male and female; instead we are discovering a continuum of gender. In other words there may be female fathers! Male mothers!

This new generation is much more open and accepting about homosexuality, and I like to think that our denominations support has helped change minds and attitudes as well.

I wish my father had been different, I wish he'd been more loving,   more fun, but I hold no grudges. He, like me, was shaped by his world,   his family, especially his father, and I believe that he did the best   he could. Sometimes we have to let the past go, and learn from it so   that even the mistakes of our fathers may be helpful in our decision   to be different. Let me share a poem I wrote for him.

Father has Died

God the Father and Father, the God
Abbas, Daddy, Dad, finally Pop
The father figure, cut down like a mighty oak
to the grim reaper’s scythe.
It is the stuff of ancient myths and Bible stories
that we live right now.
Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,
forgive me.
Like the myths and Bible stories,
we all seek our all too human father’s blessing.
and don’t always receive it.
We are all prodigal sons and daughters,
always coming home after screwing up somehow.
But is important to say-our father was not God,
nor does God only need a male figure.
We once had a mother goddess, after all.
We live in relation to family through
our Shakespearean time upon the stage, so do fathers.
Once they were babies
and had their own fathers and grandfathers,
and we can never know the half of it.
Part of our father is in us,
whether he be alive or dead,
but while we are alive
we have the chance to change,
the chance to love fully and without reserve.
And on every father’s day
Grieve the death
But look forward to your life and to your love.
Dear Dad,
thanks you for the good you did,
the love you gave
the hard work you put in to raise your family
the best way that you knew how
for your part in my creation, after all.
You had a hard life
and you were shaped by it.
I forgive you your faults
as I hope my children
will forgive mine.
Happy father’s day.

A Father’s Day Prayer
Rev. Kirk Loadman-Copeland

Let us praise those fathers who have striven to balance the demands of work, marriage, and children with an honest awareness of both joy and sacrifice. Let us praise those fathers who, lacking a good model for a father, have worked to become a good father.

Let us praise those fathers who by their own account were not always there for their children, but who continue to offer those children, now grown, their love and support.

Let us pray for those fathers who have been wounded by the neglect and hostility of their children.

Let us praise those fathers who, despite divorce, have remained in their children’s lives.

Let us praise those fathers whose children are adopted, and whose love and support has offered healing.

Let us praise those fathers who, as stepfathers, freely choose the obligation of fatherhood and earned their stepchildren’s love and respect.

Let us praise those fathers who have lost a child to death, and continue to hold the child in their heart.

Let us praise those men who have no children, but cherish the next generation as if they were their own.

Let us praise those men who have ‘fathered’ us in their role as mentors and guides.

Let us praise those men who are about to become fathers; may they openly delight in their children.

And let us praise those fathers who have died, but live on in our memory and whose love continues to nurture us.