Father’s Day for all

Photo: Wikimedia Commons. Father's Day is this Sunday, June 16.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons. Father’s Day is this Sunday, June 16.

Two parent household? Single parent household? Father’s Day is a holiday for honoring all types of families

Larrie Wanberg

Feature Editor

This Sunday is Father’s Day.

The designation first started in 1910 at a YMCA in Spokane by Sonora Smart Dodd who honored her father, a civil war veteran who was a single parent and raised six children. She organized events to celebrate fatherhood on a day similar to Mother’s Day in May. Sixty years later, the day was proclaimed as a permanent national “Sunday-holiday” in 1972.

In our country, one-third of American children are being raised without a father in the household, according to the Washington Times. For single father households, the role of the father is often complicated by loss, divorce or social ills that are impacting the family on a daily basis.

For me, as a widower since 1975 with four children ages 11-16 at the time, I received annual “gifts” or special kindnesses from my children on both days, a merging of parenthood honoring their Norwegian-born mother and celebrating my dual parenting role. On Mother’s Day, I’d get a gadget for the kitchen and on Father’s Day, a shirt and tie – plus out for family dinner on both days.

When faced with the challenge of managing a household as a single parent, my proposed plan was to hire a housekeeper to handle all the myriad of details, such as shopping, laundry, cooking and so much more. However, my children objected and were opposed to having an unknown woman “running” the household. “We’ll do it!” they said.

So, we arrived at a compromise. As I was immersed as a career in corporatestyle life, but knew little about organized “house work,” I formed a legal family corporation, including my four children in executive positions, to manage the household and all of our assets, including several autos and a lake home in Tahoe.

Several innovations were included – everyone had an area of primary responsibility, no allowances were paid but one member was paid to supervise that all tasks for a day are completed and this role of supervisor is rotated every day, and that cash awards are setup for any time-saving or inventive improvements in household or family functioning.

Some outcomes of this democratic process in family management were unexpected.

For example, I wanted to buy a vintage two-seater sports car, but I was turned down by vote in favor of a five-seat, 4-wheel drive Ram Charger for family skiing trips to Tahoe.

After a time, my kids started calling me by my first name, which took some adjustment from my traditional upbringing, but I ended up liking the equality.

On the upside, the children improved in the school grades, studied in Norway and Germany, plus traveling throughout Europe, and when entering the corporate job market, their awareness and understanding of “corporate culture” moved them to the “short list” ahead of applicants that had higher levels of academic preparations.

Also, I was surprised how many efficiency improvements were implemented by young minds from hands-on experience at different levels of the family organization.

Today, as a great grandfather, I’m observing a new generation of fathers, not only in my grandchildren as parents, but in the multitude of a nation of families, whether they are single-parent fathers or fathers in two-parent households.

Fatherhood has evolved into a more nurturing role, less authoritarian, and much more engaged in the daily activities of family, with spouse, children and even with intergenerational caring of elders.

A democratic family structure, as a grass-root cornerstone to our national values, is an ideal system as a foundation for freedom. To apply a tenant from the seeds of our constitution, a paraphrased premise could read: “You have the freedom to be and become whatever you want, as long as you don’t hurt anyone.”

As an elder, my belief is that a center of wisdom develops within everyone who accumulates understanding and new knowledge over time, but what really counts is the healthy ways that one takes action, invests energy, and what one puts one’s heart into.

This article originally appeared in the June 14, 2013 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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Larrie Wanberg

Larrie Wanberg, 1920–2021, contributed features to The Norwegian American for many years, drawing on eight decades of life experience highlighted by three career recognitions: as a researcher through a Fulbright Scholarship to Norway in 1957; as a health care provider in behavioral science through a 27-year military career and awarded upon retirement in 1981 the highest non-combat medal, the Legion of Merit medal; as an educator, through a 50-year career in college education, culminating in the 2010 Public Scholar award at the UND Center for Community Engagement. Wanberg passed away in May, 2021.