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Father’s Day Without A Father

I celebrate Father’s Day for all the male figures in my life.

I vividly remember in Kindergarten creating mason jar pencil holders as gifts for Father’s Day. Among the many festivities to celebrate fathers in our lives, I remember feeling out of place, as I do not have a father of my own. My mother is a single mother. Although there are many male role models in my life, I have always felt confused about how to celebrate Father’s Day without a father.

When I was younger, I knew my family situation was different, but it did not faze me. I appreciate coming from a different background, and that has shaped my life. As I got older, I sometimes tried to hide the fact that I did not have a father. Whether that was avoiding questions such as “What does your father do?” or just the father topic in general. My constant urge to avoid this subject did not help me, as I later learned there was nothing to be ashamed of. 

I understand the importance of Father’s Day. Although I do not have a father that does not mean I should disregard the day. I have a village of male role models who have shaped my life and deserve celebration and recognition. Father’s Day does not require having a traditional nuclear family. It means you have to have an important male in your life worth remembering and celebrating. For me, those father figures are my grandfather, uncles, coaches and teachers.

The history of the founding of Father’s Day is a story I really relate to. William Jackson Smart, a single dad, and twice widowed Civil War veteran raised 14 children practically on his own. One of his daughters, Sonora Smart Dodd, dedicated 60 years of her life to recognize fathers like her own as they too deserve acclamation. Sonora explained that her father, “was both father and mother to me and my brothers and sisters.” In 1910, Sonora petitioned for the founding of Father’s Day at the Spokane Ministerial Alliance, for June 5, her father’s birthday. The local clergy agreed on the importance of recognizing fathers and dedicated a church sermon on June 19, 1910. By 1972, President Richard Nixon signed a Congressional resolution stating that Father’s Day would be nationally celebrated on the third Sunday of June. Although Sonora’s work took many years to achieve, she made an important difference in recognizing those who leave an impact on our daily life.

Although I have not created Mother’s Day in celebration of my mother, this story is so similar to mine. My mother raises three kids by herself, and never fails to amaze me. She is a warrior just like William Jackson Smart. As Sonora mentioned, my mother as well acts as the mother and father for me and my brothers. I may not spend 60 years lobbying, but I will spend the rest of my life celebrating the mother who has changed my life.

Father’s Day is a day of recognition, celebration, and appreciation. No matter your background, there is always someone in your life to remember. I celebrate Father’s Day because even if I do not have a dad, I have so many other male figures in my life.

Sarah Phillips is a rising sophomore at The Spence School in Manhattan.

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