My 15-month-old son has taken to running around the house yelling “Taataaa!”, which is Romanian for dad (my wife is Romanian). He screams it whenever he enters a room and I’m there, and I have to wave and smile at him, at which point he smiles back and whispers contentedly, “Tata”.
I know to anyone else seeing this scene, it looks incredibly annoying, but he’s my boy, and it’s pretty much the cutest thing I’ve ever seen, every single time he does it.
June 20, 2021, will technically be my second Father's Day as a father, but on the first one, my boy was more a sleepy bundle we had to feed every couple hours, whereas now he’s a yelling bundle we have to feed every couple hours. Ah, how things change.
The upside is this is the first Father's Day that my boy can actually identify me as his father. Which is sort of nice.
But what is the actual history of Father's Day? Where did it come from?
Turns out Father's Day was inspired by Mother's Day.
The original Mothers Day (I won’t spend much time on this because the day is over) started in the 1860s as “Mother’s Work Day”. It wasn’t until 1910, a full half century later, that someone decided, hey, maybe we should celebrate our fathers too.
Unsurprisingly, it was someone who I can only assume had a great father that drummed up support for the idea. Sonora Smart Dodd and her five siblings were raised by a single father. And yes, if a single dad raising six kids doesn’t deserve a day to himself, I don’t know who does. Oh, wait, yes, a single mum who is raising six kids, of course.
Actually, in my book, anyone raising even one kid deserves a medal. Raising a child is hard. Raising six would be mission impossible for me. But I digress (and also make a case for me not being Father of the Year).
It turns out that Father's Day was initially not embraced as readily as Mother's Day was. And that makes sense. There are a lot of derelict fathers.
But even the fathers themselves didn’t embrace the idea at first. They derided it as a day that “domesticated manliness with flowers and gift giving” and saw it as commercialisation where the gifts they received were often paid for by the fathers themselves.
There was even an attempt in the 1920s and 1930s to roll Mother's and Father's Day into a singular Parents' Day, so both parents could be celebrated at the same time, but when the Great Depression hit at the end of the 1920s, retailers promoted these days as a second Christmas, trying to get more sales. And thus, Mother's Day and Father's Day remained separate because two holidays where you have to buy gifts are better than one for retailers. Commercialism saved Father's Day!
This was all happening in the United States but Father's Day has spread across the globe. In many countries it happens on top of existing days that typically celebrate men like Soldiers Day in Mongolia and Defender of the Fatherland Day in Russia and Belarus. I can’t even imagine my son turning to me on that day and saying “Happy Defender of the Fatherland Day, Dad”. Maybe they use an acronym, “Happy DotFD, Dad”. Yeah, that’s better.
Back to my boy: Recently, I was reading a picture book to him about a boy and his father, and I pointed to the father and said “Tata”, trying to tell him that this was the dad in the book. He turned and looked up at me, then patted my chest with his tiny hand and said “Tata” as if to tell me no, you’re Tata. I choked up.
This Father's Day, I don’t need a new tie or shoes or a new gaming console (although I wouldn’t say no to it). This year all I need is my boy running into the room screaming “TAAAATAAA” at the top of his lungs, because that is almost guaranteed.
Big Smile, No Teeth columnist Jason Godfrey – who once was told to give the camera a ‘big smile, no teeth’ – has worked internationally for two decades in fashion and continues to work in dramas, documentaries, and lifestyle programming. Write to him at email@example.com and check out his stuff at jasongodfrey.co. The views expressed here are entirely the writer's own.
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