I didn’t know where I was going to go with the post, but it ended up being a weird combination of a rant and a dedication all wrapped up into one. My apologies for both the length and seriousness. Never fear, I will soon be back to my lighthearted, short winded self soon. But this all started as I was dwelling on Father’s Day. My hubby was insisting that we not get him anything. I had a problem with that, as I felt it was important for the kids to celebrate daddy. (Sasquatch made him a card, and insisted we buy him a football. So that’s what he got.) This got me pondering about the fact that Father’s Day isn’t advertised for as much, have as many displays, or as much attention as Mother’s Day.
But fathers are just as important. A father needs to be involved in his children’s lives. Here is a list of statistics I got from Dad’s World. I’ve only included a few, but I recommend reading the whole list. (the site has references which I have not included here…check out the Dad’s World site for a more detailed list that includes annotations)
-63% of teen suicides come from fatherless homes. That’s 5 times the national average.
-85% of children with behavioral problems come from fatherless homes. 20 times the national average.
-71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes. 9 times the national average.
-Daughters of single parents without a Father involved are 53% more likely to marry as teenagers, 711% more likely to have children as teenagers, 164% more likely to have a pre-marital birth and 92% more likely to get divorced themselves.
-Even in high crime neighborhoods, 90% of children from stable 2 parent homes where the Father is involved do not become delinquents.
This is how important a father is. We downplay it because we don’t want single parents to feel bad. This doesn’t mean that kids who come from a single parent household will grow up to be delinquents or dropouts. There are plenty of successful single parent families out there. But an absent father does put children at higher risk. When there isn’t a dad, something is missing. There are a lot of problems in our society that would start to heal if Dads would step up and do their job (and Dads need not be biological…father figures in general are what we’re missing).
Maybe it’s just me, but society as a whole treats dads as less than moms. We look at it as progress when we see Dad’s more involved…but only if they’re more involved in ways we approve of. Whether it’s baby wearing, going on play dates, staying home while the mom works, supportive in the natural birth process, etc. which are all fantastic. I’m not saying that these are not signs of progress. But when we see a dad coaching a baseball team, or playing catch, or giving his baby a bottle with formula we’re not impressed. Not only that, but have you watched a sitcom in the last twenty years? Often the dads portrayed as bumbling idiots who would be lost if it weren’t for the mother. Most of the show is spent watching the father first ignore the sage wisdom of the mother and try to do it his way…only to realize he’s wrong (as usual) and comes around to the “right” way of thinking. The mother’s way of thinking. (Now, take this with a grain of salt as I don’t have cable and haven’t watched any of the more recent family shows. So please, if you know of some that break this mold then tell me cause I will add them to my list! ) I find all this troubling.
So my question is this, what message are we sending our children and our fathers? We’ll only accept you if you do things Mommy’s way? But this is completely skewed. My husband does things differently then me. But we’re a team. HIS OPINION MATTERS! Mothers need to get over this mentality that it’s “my kid” and we’re doing it “my way”. We insist men bow to our wishes, that if we disagree it’s the mothers opinion that is the default setting. Daddy doesn’t like cosleeping? Too bad. Daddy wants to rock the baby to sleep but Mommy read that one article about self soothing so she insists they use Cry It Out. It’s not that these are bad or good, but it’s insane to take the legs out from underneath fathers, deny them the right to voice an opinion or make decisions, and then bemoan the fact that father’s are not involved.
Step back and watch a father at work with his kids. That’s what I do, and do you know what I see? Magic. Absolute magic. Our kids react to him in a way that is completely different from me. He sees things in a way I never would and if I had been so busy trying to fit him into my mold I never would have been able to witness it. Those times he made me step back and let my kids do something on their own, I got to see them light up with pride in the success of achieving something difficult. The tough choices where we may have disagreed but I trusted him to know and want what’s best for our family. In those moments I have a choice, support my husband and demonstrate the respect for him I want our kids to have, or undermine him and show my kids that his opinion doesn’t actually matter. There is no better way to gut a father then that. Those moments where we disagree and I step back and at least compromise with him…not demand he do it my way…those are moments I want it clear to him and our children that I trust him. That he is essential to this family and we need him.
How about my own dad? I have always had a great respect for my dad, and that was instilled in me by my mom. She showed great respect for him in how she spoke to him and about him. No jokes at his expense, no insisting we do it all her way. They worked together and it made our home one that was deeper and fuller. My most cherished memories ever (not just with my dad, but out of all of my memories) came after I had been “camping” with my grandma at some campground in a tent trailer. I came home and my dad basically told me that he’d show me what real camping was. He then took me to the boundary waters in northern Minnesota. No motorized vehicles allowed, only a canoe, our gear, and a hole in the woods to poop in…and it was amazing. I saw a moose from only a few feet away…while in a canoe. I went down some small rapids to avoid a portage. I was eaten alive by Mosquitos. I saw bears, memorized every kind of bird, and didn’t brush my teeth for days. To this day, they are my favorite memories.
I love my mom, and I think I’m pretty awesome too. But we can’t be dads to our kids. She would never have taken me camping (she still hates it to this day), or let me go down the rapids. She would have fretted about my safety and comfort. I do the same thing. I say to my kids a lot, “That’s a daddy activity” which they know really means, “I’m having a small heart attack and picturing your imminent death as you climb that two foot rock. Daddy will handle this much more objectively”. Our family needs him.
So this is my very long winded dedication to the dads out there. Who are stepping up and leading the way. Who teach their daughters what it means to be truly loved so they don’t fall for the first trashy pick up line thrown at them. Who give their sons strength to stay true to who they are and not bend under pressure. Thanks Dad for all you did to make me the person I am today, and thanks Hubby for all the magic you do with our three kids. I am truly blessed by all the men in my family.