One way or another, Dad pretty special

Saturday, June 17, 2006

There are many activities to keep us busy this weekend, what with a blues festival, fly-in and fishing derby, not to mention the usual summertime sports and recreation.

But let's not let our "busy" ness keep us from remembering one of the most important people in our lives. Whether he's still with us, has passed on, or we never knew him, our father has had one of the biggest impacts on our adult lives -- even if only because we missed having his important influence on our childhoods.

Most of us think our fathers were pretty special, but few more than Sonora Dodd of Spokane, Wash., who helped create the national Father's Day holiday.

Listening to a Mother's Day sermon in 1909, Dodd thought of her father, William Smart, a Civil War veteran who was left to raise his six children on a farm following his wife's death.

Spokane's mayor was persuaded to declare June 19, 1910, as Father's Day, because it was the month of William Smart's birth.

Surprisingly, the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers wasn't issued until 1966, when Lyndon Johnson designated the third Sunday in June as Father's Day. It has been celebrated annually since 1972, when President Richard Nixon signed the public law that made it permanent.

There are some 66.3 million father's across the nation today, but Census Bureau statistics show that the typical stereotypes no longer apply.

* There are 147,000 "stay-at-home" dads -- married fathers with children under 15 who have remained out of the labor force for more than a year, primarily so they can care for the family while their wives work outside the home. These fathers cared for 268,000 children under 15.

* Twenty percent of fathers with employed wives were the primary caregiver for their preschoolers. In contrast, 6 percent of fathers provided the most hours of care for their grade-school-aged child.

* Some 32 percent of fathers regularly work evening or night shifts, and were the primary source of care for their preschoolers during their children's mother's working hours. For fathers working part-time, the proportion was 38 percent. For fathers who were not employed, it was 52 percent.

* There are 26.4 million fathers who are part of married-couple families with their own children under the age of 18. Among those, 22 percent are raising three or more of their own children under 18 years old, and 2 percent live in the home of a relative or a nonrelative.

* Some 2.3 million are single fathers, up from 400,000 in 1970. Among single parents living with their children, 18 percent are men. And, among those fathers, 11 percent are raising three or more of their own children under 18 years old, 42 percent are divorced, 39 percent have never married, 15 percent are separated and 4 percent are widowed. Sixteen percent live in the home of a relative or nonrelative, and 22 percent have an annual family income of $50,000 or more.

Some 4.6 million fathers provide child support, and 84 percent of child-support providers are men, who provide median payments of $3,600 annually.

So enjoy the weekend safely, but take time to visit Dad, send him a card and maybe a gift. One way or another, he's somebody pretty special.

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