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FIRST-PERSON: The first Father’s Day

McMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)–Contrary to popular belief, Father’s Day was not an invention of Hallmark Cards, Inc. Instead of a marketing ploy to sell more merchandise, most dad day historians believe the annual recognition began as a sincere attempt to honor a well deserving father.

Sonora Dodd, a resident of Spokane, Wash., wanted a special day to honor her father. William Smart reared Dodd and her five siblings as a single parent after his wife died while giving birth to the couple’s sixth child.

While listening to a Mother’s Day sermon in 1909, Dodd reflected on the selfless sacrifice her father exuded while rearing six children solo. The next year she chose to honor his parental commitment during June, the month of his birth. The inaugural Father’s Day took place June 19, 1910.

Each year as I contemplate dad’s day, I board an emotional roller coaster and take a restless ride. When I reflect on my own father, I experience an overwhelming sense of gratitude. However, when I muse my own parenting, my feelings are less positive.

During World War II, my father served on a destroyer in the Pacific Theater. Whenever I hear the Star Spangled Banner, I am proud of the role he played in helping to keep America the land of the free.

My dad worked hard to be a good provider, so hard his health suffered. While my family was anything but rich, all our needs were supplied.

More than material possessions, my father provided virtues that have served me well throughout life. Among the values my father instilled in me, the foremost was a sense of commitment.

“Do what you said you would do,” was his mantra. I was taught that once a commitment was made, no matter the cost or sacrifice, it had to be kept.

There are no perfect fathers. However, each dad’s day I consider myself blessed to have a father whose positive contributions far outweigh any negatives.

When I view Father’s Day from the perspective of the one being honored, my emotions are a bit more unsettled. As a dad, I feel wholly inadequate.

You would think that after almost 14 years on the job, there would be some sense of competency. But when it comes to parenting I still feel like I am in kindergarten.

There are times I feel I am too harsh when meting out discipline. Other times I think I am too soft. I almost always conclude that I am too inconsistent.

When I lose my temper, I wilt. When I find myself over committed, which is often, I am filled with frustration. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to have me for a dad. Do my positives outweigh my negatives?

“If the American father feels bewildered and even defeated, let him take comfort from the fact that whatever he does in any fathering situation has a fifty percent chance of being right,” observed comedian Bill Cosby.

It would be easy to dwell on my shortcomings, but one thing I know is that I love my children more than life itself. As a result, I sincerely try to act in their best interest in all I do. I can only hope that I am right the majority of the time. In the end, that is all any father can do.

I doubt Sonora Dodd was fixating on a dad that was perfect when she planned the first Father’s Day. She simply wanted to honor a dad who did his best and got it right more often than he got it wrong.
Kelly Boggs, whose column appears each Friday in Baptist Press, is pastor of the Portland-area Valley Baptist Church in McMinnville, Ore.

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  • Kelly Boggs