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All fathers, their love and devotion, deserve recognition on their day

All dads freely place themselves in positions that require them to give constantly of themselves while expecting little or nothing in return.

Vancouver Sun, Saturday, June 14, 2008

The traditional view of parenting roles sees mothers as caregivers and nurturers, and fathers as breadwinners and authority figures.

However, with the changing roles of men and women at home and in the workplace, this traditional view no longer reflects reality. For some families, it never did.

Take, for example, the family of William Jackson Smart. The U.S. Civil War veteran and his wife had six children, but Ellen Victoria Cheek Smart died giving birth to their last child.

Smart could have remarried to provide a caregiver for his children, but he instead chose to play that role himself, to act as both father and mother to them. In the years after his wife's death, Smart gave up many things, and lavished love and devotion upon his children.

One of his children, Sonora Smart Dodd, never forgot the sacrifices her father had made. After hearing a sermon in church one day in 1909, Dodd realized that her father must not be forgotten.

During the sermon, delivered on the second Sunday in May -- Mother's Day -- the pastor spoke at length about how so many mothers had forfeited so much to see their children grow strong and happy.

Dodd could relate to the notion of parents forgoing so much for their children, since she had helped her father to raise the five younger children after her mother died when Sonora was 16.

She also realized that the virtues the pastor attributed to mothers applied to her own father, and she decided it was time society recognized the efforts made by her father, and other fathers throughout the world.

Dodd spread her message throughout her hometown of Spokane, Wash., and enlisted her friends and family members to write to influential people on her behalf.

Only a year later, Spokane celebrated the first Father's Day, on June 19, 1910, just four days after her father's birthday. Shortly after, the third Sunday in June became the recognized day to celebrate Father's Day in Canada, the U.S., and many other countries around the globe.

Not all fathers are thrust by fate into a position that requires of them the enormous efforts made by William Jackson Smart.

But all fathers -- or perhaps we should say all dads -- freely place themselves in positions that require them to give constantly of themselves while expecting little or nothing in return.

That is certainly worthy of recognition, so to all fathers across Canada, we wish you a very happy Father's Day.

© The Vancouver Sun 2008