While Motherís Day has been a national holiday in the United States since 1914, Fatherís Day didnít gain such status until 1972.

It wasnít that American men felt left out of the holiday picture. In a patriarchal society, which defined the U.S. for so long, males could afford such notions as not wanting or needing a special day set aside to honor them. After all, every day was menís day.

Perhaps it was the push for equal rights during the 1970s and the resulting redistribution of bread-winner status, household chores and child-rearing responsibilities that led to the final push to recognize fathers. It also could have been President Richard Nixonís difficult re-election campaign that spotted an opportunity to reach more voters.

Whatever it was, Fatherís Day is celebrated annually on the third Sunday of June. A National Retail Federation survey suggests more than $12 billion is spent on presents. Thatís just more than half of whatís spent on Motherís Day gifts, but the amount is growing steadily.

U.S. Census data indicates there are more than 70.1 million dads in this country. About a third of them are married with kids younger than 18. Another 2 million fathers are single and not quite one-quarter of a million of them are stay-at-home dads.

For a lot of fathers, the holiday is over-rated. Nonetheless, receiving gifts or getting special treatment on this day is something most every dad welcomes.

Whether your family does much formally with the holiday or not, take the time at least to give your father or father figure a call. If heís passed away, recall a fond memory.

And if you are a father, think of this day as an annual re-commitment to being the best one you can be. You might already have a coffee mug or T-shirt proclaiming youíre the best ó but so do almost all the others.

Take time to demonstrate how much love, compassion, wisdom, fairness or just plain common sense you have to offer to the next generation. Some might roll their eyes, but the lesson will stick.

Happy Fatherís Day.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry, son of the late Thomas Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net