Father’s Day may arrive with less fanfare than the more popular Mother’s Day, but the paternal parent has made many changes to deserve a day that belongs to Dads.
Unlike the stoic, hard-working father of a century ago who seemed more concerned about putting food on the table than spending time with his children, many of today’s fathers have transcended the traditional role of strict disciplinarian to take an active interest in the lives of their children.
From changing diapers, feeding and attending school activities to providing leadership, guidance and offering emotional support, an increasing number of fathers are taking parenthood to a new level of priority in child rearing.
Don Ledford said, “Being a father to my three daughters is probably the most important role I’ll ever have. They are all three beautiful and different in their own special way. I love them. My girls mean the world to me! Out of all the things I’ve done or accomplished in life, my family is the thing that I am most proud of. Through the thick and the thin we are a family and one thing I’ve tried to instill is stick together no matter what!”
Even stepfathers, adoptive fathers, father figures and single mothers fulfilling the paternal role in the absence of a biological father have something to celebrate on Father’s Day. Bob Grayson, vice president of Life Care’s Media Center, is the father of six adopted children. Grayson, a large-hearted father, said his kids hold no stigma about adoption and his role as a father has been a godsend.
“My kids are my life’s mission,” he said. “They are gifts from God and I know He has high expectations of me as a father. It took the energy, wisdom and love of so many people to raise our kids. Our church family, psychologists, various doctors, nurses, counselors, psychiatrists, educators, family, friends — the list is endless — they all played a huge part in our lives.”
Grayson opened up about the life of his first four children — all siblings — dwelling in foster homes for seven years, often split up and unable to visit each other for months at a time.
“That was the tragedy for Casey, Phillip, Sonya and Christopher,” he said. “They were put up for adoption but most people want babies and rarely are willing or able to take four children into their home and raise them as their own.”
Bob, whose heart was touched by these siblings, told his wife, Leslie, “The worst that can happen is that this kills us. At least we will go down trying to fulfill God’s will.”
When Grayson and his wife told the kids that they were going to take them to their own home with their own bedrooms and their own pets to raise, Casey, the oldest and most skeptical, said, “All of us? Really?”
As Bob nodded to her, tears filled her eyes and she said, “You’ll just send us back.”
Bob said he then realized there were mountains of problems to be conquered, not the least of which was skepticism. In time, however, the Graysons earned their children’s trust, love and respect. Two years later, the unselfish couple adopted Rebecca, a beautiful 14-month-old blue-eyed blonde baby who suffered from strabismus, a condition in which the eyes do not point in the same direction. She also had learning disabilities that affect her to this day.
“When we first took Becky home, she was sitting snugly in the car seat behind me,” Grayson recalled. “All the way to our home she repeated, ‘Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.’ She’s been ‘Daddy’s girl’ ever since.”
A year later, the Graysons were blessed with Zachary, Becky’s newborn brother, who was only 3 days old when they picked him up from UT Medical Center and returned home with their sixth child.
“All of the kids, as well as our family and friends were thrilled and made a huge fuss over him,” Grayson said. “It turned out that Becky and Zack were both born with an identical heart condition. The doctors told us that, unless it was corrected, they would probably not live past 17 or 18 years. We took them to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital and the condition was corrected through surgery.”
Even though all six of Grayson’s children are adopted, he said there is no stigma in their minds about adoption, adding, “As the youngest, Zack, says, ‘I KNOW I am wanted and loved. They CHOSE me.’” Today, Becky, 18, and Zack, 17, are Grayson’s youngest and the only two still living at home.
“The others have earned their wings,” Grayson said. “They have taken the hands they were dealt and found their own missions in life.”
His two oldest daughters, Casey, 31, and Sonya, 28, have made Bob and Leslie the gushing grandparents of seven.
“Grandkids are the icing on the cake. They are also my way of paying my kids back for testing me when they were youngsters,” Grayson says laughingly.
The oldest sons, Phillip, 30, and Christopher, 27, are both “still hanging on for dear life to their bachelorhood — but it’s just a matter of time,” according to Grayson, who said he is thankful for the life he has lived and the love he has shared over the years.
“God chose these kids for us, and, together, we have all learned that love truly has no bounds,” he said.
Although Father’s Day may have a lower profile than Mother’s Day, many families who appreciate what a difference the paternal parent makes said they will be celebrating the day with gift-giving, special dinners, cards, phone calls and family-oriented activities. Some will visit the graves of their dead fathers to pay respect and leave flowers.
In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson issued the first presidential proclamation honoring fathers, designating the third Sunday in June as Father’s Day. Six years later, the day was made a permanent national holiday when President Richard Nixon signed it into law in 1972.
While ancient Romans honored their dead fathers during most of the month of February, ancient Christians were known to honor their mother and father every day as a preferred lifestyle and a way of pleasing their Lord.