By Marie Fricker

I gave up my bicycle’s training wheels at age six in 1959. I was scared, but I knew my Dad’s hand was keeping me balanced while my shaky legs wobbled. Then he said, “Let’s go, kid, this is it,” and he pushed my bike hard on the driveway and I just kept going. Victory was ours.

The small acts and the larger contributions of fathers, grandfathers, stepdads, and parental figures are being honored this year on Father’s Day, June 16, 2024.

While moms have been feted with an official Mother’s Day since 1914, fathers have waited much longer for their 24 hours of fame. In 1908, Sonora Smart Dodd, 27, of Spokane Washington, proposed the idea of having an annual celebration honoring fathers, but she was well into her 90s before Father’s Day was proclaimed a national holiday in 1972.

“We always bought my grandfather a carton of Chesterfield cigarettes for Father’s Day,” said Grace Davis of Norton. “I can still remember wrapping that gift and grandpa pretending he had no idea what it was. But today it’s more competition among the fathers to get the most technological thing on the market. My Dad was content with some pipe tobacco, but now it’s a smart phone.”

According to a survey by the National Retail Federation, “On average, people said they were planning on spending $174 on Father’s Day gifts, nearly double what they were spending more than 10 years ago.”

The U.S. Census Bureau reports there are currently 121 million men over the age of 15 in the United States. Among them, 75 million are fathers to biological, step or adopted children. Hallmark sales show that Father’s Day is the fourth largest holiday (behind Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and Christmas) for sending greeting cards.

Ward Cleaver of “Leave it To Beaver” fame was the stereotypical corporate, briefcase-toting, suit-and-tie-wearing father who kissed his boys on the head and left for work until suppertime, when Wally and the Beaver would help wash the dishes, saying things like, “Yes sir, we already took our baths, sir.”

Fathers today are definitely more hands-on, and the family footprint is not always as traditional. A longtime single mother, Susan Berns of Chelmsford has been both father and mother to her two children.

“We are incredibly proud of our Mom,” said her elder daughter, who has two grown children of her own. “She deserves kudos on both of those holidays, and my sister and I were both thrilled to have her walk us down the aisle.”

The way each generation parents its children is usually in keeping with the culture, not necessarily how they were raised themselves.

“Growing up in the ’50s and ’60s, I had a pretty traditional family life for our neighborhood,” said Donna R. of Arlington. “My Dad was a milkman, and my mother never worked, nor did most of the women on the street. When my father came home at night, he liked to have a few beers and usually fell asleep right after supper. My friends’ Dads were all the same way – they left for work in the morning and were home after 6. But we had some nice playground time every day just hanging out with other kids. It was a great way to grow up and we all loved our Dads.”

The internet wasn’t even a dream, nor were cordless phones or iPads when the Greatest Generation (babies born between 1901 and 1927) were raising their children. The critical events in their lives were the Great Depression, World War II, and the stock market crash of 1929, but they also enjoyed the Roaring ’20s and the Golden Age of Hollywood.

“My family and childhood friends had a very happy life, despite some hardships,” said Duncan Bates, 100, of Scituate. “Our fathers had suffered such business losses that they were always stressing the value of hard work, and most of them had very large families to support. There wasn’t too much time for coddling but they were good Dads.”

The Silent Generation (born in the years 1928-1945) witnessed the fall of the Nazis, the fear of the nuclear bomb, the Cold War, and communism. According to a recent article by Charise Rohm Nulsen on, “This generation didn’t want to buck the system in any way. Many of the ‘Silents’ raised their children to be seen and not heard.”

The demographic of the Baby Boomers, who are the parents of the late Gen Xers and Millennials, couldn’t be more different from the Silent Generation. They were the outspoken, Vietnam War-protesting, more financially stable, and more educated group that, as parents, truly cared about their children’s viewpoints and wanted to hear them.

“I do have to say that we kind of spoiled our two kids,” said Dick Farrell, 78, of Danvers. “I came from a very poor family with a lot of siblings, and I wanted them to have a better life than we had. I made sure I went to college on the GI bill, so I’d get a good job and my kids would have so much more than I had. And they have both done very well and are raising wonderful teenagers. My wife and I are proud of that.”

The culture of today’s young families – the late Gen Xers and the Millennials – is far different from their Baby Boomer parents. No longer do you see Dad and Mom piling the kids into the station wagon for a leisurely road trip on the weekends. Most children are fully scheduled with organized sports activities – soccer, basketball, lacrosse, baseball, horseback riding, swim team, and much more.

Millennial Dads come home from work, change into their coaching uniforms, and drive one or more children to sports practices multiple times a week. And then there’s the homework, snacks, and screen time each child has been allotted before bed.

“Don’t get me wrong,” said Jeremy Kieffner of Norwell, who coached his eldest son’s basketball teams every year until high school. “My wife is Wonder Woman when it comes to juggling all of the kids’ needs. But the fathers of today are much more ‘in the trenches’ than our Baby Boomer dads ever were. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Mark your calendars: Father’s Day is June 16, 2024.