LENA MITCHELL: Honor the importance of fathers with help, encouragement

By NEMS Daily Journal

“The idea for creating a day for children to honor their fathers began in Spokane, Washington. A woman by the name of Sonora Smart Dodd thought of the idea for Father’s Day while listening to a Mother’s Day sermon in 1909.
“Having been raised by her father, William Jackson Smart, after her mother died, Sonora wanted her father to know how special he was to her. It was her father that made all the parental sacrifices and was, in the eyes of his daughter, a courageous, selfless, and loving man. Sonora’s father was born in June, so she chose to hold the first Father’s Day celebration in Spokane, Washington on the 19th of June, 1910.
“In 1926, a National Father’s Day Committee was formed in New York City. Father’s Day was recognized by a Joint Resolution of Congress in 1956. In 1972, President Richard Nixon established a permanent national observance of Father’s Day to be held on the third Sunday of June.”
– From the Web site www.morning-glory.com
Today is Father’s Day.
Even if research hadn’t quantified and documented it, intuitive understanding would point to the absence of a father as a life-altering aspect of a child’s upbringing.
The impact of a father in a child’s life – or his absence – was brought home to me in an unexpected way several years ago.
I was a Junior Achievement volunteer in Lee County and was assigned to Mooreville Middle School to present the Junior Achievement curriculum in the fall of 2001. I made it a practice to arrive a bit early for the period I was assigned and was able to listen in on the class period discussion that preceded my presentation.
On one of those days the students were asked to read essays they and written. Although I don’t remember exactly what they were asked to write about, when one a 15-year-old girl read her essay it squeezed my heart.
She told of her parents’ divorce when she was a toddler, and the years since then when she had been ignored by her dad. She told of the various ways she had tried to reach him, to gain his attention, his love, his interest.
Her essay ended with the poignant wish that she could have a relationship with her dad, that he would take an interest in her.
To think about how young she was, how long she had wrestled with this hole in her life, and how the need she felt was making her the woman she would become, was heart-wrenching.
Stories like this are the reason organizations that seek to train, support and appreciate fathers are so important.
When my nephew became a father as a 17-year-old high school junior, he was fortunate that a child development center had just opened at Tishomingo County High School.
He and his daughter’s mother were able continue their education while their child was cared for nearby.
Additionally, the high school curriculum included a parenting class in which my nephew and several friends from his baseball team enrolled during his senior year. Not only did the class prepare him for his practical, everyday responsibilities as a hands-on dad, but it taught him how to be a more involved parent to the three other children born to him and his wife later.
The school still offers a child care class for students. The two-hour class includes one hour of classroom learning about child development, with a second hour of lab that takes place at the now independently-operated child care center on the campus.
Additionally, the high school is the site of Tishomingo County’s Families First Resource Center, which offers parenting classes for the entire community and many more community resources and services.
Northeast Mississippi also has the resources of the Healthy Marriage Initiative based at Booneville High School to call upon.
The group regularly sponsors parenting classes and other programs in several counties, including programs developed by the Fatherhood Initiative.
Since 1994 the National Fatherhood Initiative has worked to further four basic principles:
– Fathers make unique and irreplaceable contributions to the lives of children.
– Father absence produces negative outcomes for their children.
– Societies which fail to reinforce a cultural ideal of responsible fatherhood get increasing amounts of father absence.
– Widespread fatherhood absence is the most socially consequential problem of our time.
On this Father’s Day let us be grateful for the many groups in our midst to help and support fathers, and commit to helping more fathers -particularly new fathers and young fathers – take advantage of these valuable resources.
Lena Mitchell is the Daily Journal’s Corinth Bureau reporter. Contact her at 287-9822 or lena.mitchell@djournal.com

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