News and Tribune

June 24, 2013

CUMMINS: Do fathers receive the credit they deserve?

Local columnist

In observance of Mother’s and Father’s Day, inequality exists. Mothers are adored; fathers, endured. Look at the publicity Eve and Mary received; Adam and Joseph were depicted as bystanders. That’s how I’ve felt at times during my long tenure as a patriarch. With Biblical training, I assumed a father was something like a shepherd. He carried a hooked staff and watched over his flock. If a sheep or a child went astray, he brought it back into the fold. I tried bringing them back, too, until some of my children and their children’s children moved far away. Why break away from a tight-knit flock with wolves lurking out there? Many times, I explained to them how I had been gnawed.

My great-grandfather started it all. He came from Germany in 1847, fought in the Civil War and then built the house that I was born and grew up in. Six generations and 166 years later, my great-grandson and his family moved to Germany. I Skyped him this past Father’s Day as I am adjusting to a global flock.

Mothers deserve honor on Mother’s Day, but children usually overdo it. Fathers witness this adoration when bouquets, chocolates and silk overflow. Fathers tag along to the brunch buffet where the mother is the center of attention. The father must listen as the mother explains in detail how she carried each child. And I’m not permitted to interject that during her pregnancies, I carried a heavy load, too. Who painted the nursery three times? Who drove the mother to the hospital, as she kept repeating “hurry” between moans?

Mother’s Day began in Grafton, W.V. in 1908 when Anna Jarvis formally honored her mother. The celebration spread and became highly commercialized by 1920. Today, children borrow money to honor their mothers. I cringe when I see crumpled wrapping paper accumulating at her tired feet. And then when we take her to brunch, my financial savvy son, who learned one thing from me, says, “Dad, you buy your own.”

Father’s Day began in 1910 when Sonora Dodd honored her father in Spokane, Wash., but it didn’t catch on because the public feared commercialization. In the 1920s, President Woodrow Wilson tried to pass a proclamation establishing Father’s Day, but a conservative Congress (mostly fathers) wouldn’t buy it. It wasn’t until the 1960s when President Johnson, promoter of civil rights, convinced Congress to pass a proclamation establishing Father’s Day. Thus discrimination against races, creeds, colors and fathers ended, but only partially for fathers. Government can set aside a day for them, but can’t legislate equality with mothers sitting on a throne. Father’s Day doesn’t get the recognition that Groundhog Day does.

It’s not fair in this age of equality with fathers stuck under a plastic ceiling. All we want is equal honor and equal pay for gifts for us. We want recognition of what we contributed to the family. During the lean days while mother rested up in preparation to give birth, father worked two jobs, his and hers. After birth, he worked three jobs so the mother could sleep.  

Have you noticed that most fathers are leaner than mothers are? There are two reasons for this. One is that pregnancy interrupted the father’s routine, and they couldn’t tell their boss the doctor said to get bed rest before delivery. The other reason is that children don’t know what their fathers want. They want peace and quiet, which money can’t buy. The rowdiness on Mother’s Day disturbs a father’s nerves.  

Alert journalist Michelle Singletary looked into unequal spending on dads, and reported that children planned to spend an average of $168.94 on their moms this past Mother’s Day. Fathers received an average of $119.84, which is outrageous. All I’m saying is that if moms have the right to vote and might receive equal pay in the workplace, then why should dads receive Father’s Day gifts based on minimum wage?

Men, think back to your Father’s Day gifts. Any weird ones? Did you ever receive a tie imprinted with horse tails? I did. How many sets of screwdrivers does a father need in a lifetime? Did you ever get something you’d never seen before? I once received a long-handled feather duster. One compassionate child explained that she didn’t want me on a ladder dusting cobwebs. It took about 40 years to train my kids to give food and love — the best ways to a father’s heart.

— Contact Terry Cummins at