I believe in the power of involved fathers to affect their children’s lives for the better. Mothers, too, of course, but that goes without saying. It’s our fathers who soldier through life largely unheralded as parents. How many athletes on national television wave and say “Hi dad!” versus those who say, “Hi mom!” when the cameras focus on them? It’s a small thing, but telling. And statistically, Mother’s Day is an event that outshines Father’s Day in every way. Far more Mother’s Day cards are mailed, far more phone calls are made to mothers, far more mothers are taken out to dinner on their special day, etc.
But statistics also tell us that children who grow up without a positive male role model in their lives are far more likely to end up dropping out of school, on drugs, in jail. It’s an alarming trend sociologists are trying to bring to the public’s attention. Absentee fathers, whether or not they pay child support, are contributing to the destruction of our society. I believe this is the single most important crisis facing our country today.
I’m one of the lucky ones. Though it’s been 35 years now, I remember as if it were yesterday my father driving more than 700 miles from Virginia to Michigan just to see me perform in a high school play. He and my mother were separated at the time, but he knew I needed his moral support, and he was there for me on that important day in my life. I would never have asked, but he knew, and he was there.
And later on, when I was struggling in school and suffering emotional upheaval over my parents’ separation, my father agreed to let me live with him and drove the same 700 miles to get me and take me back with him. Only later did I learn he had been living in the back of his office as a way of saving money so he could send enough to my mother to support us. My going to live with him meant he had to rent an apartment, an additional expense he could ill afford. But he never hesitated. Once again, he knew I needed him, and that was that as far as he was concerned.
Was he perfect? No. He had a temper, and he lost it from time to time. And he made mistakes as a parent, perpetuating mistakes his own father made when raising him. But he did his best for us, working three jobs at times, making sacrifices in time and money that in today’s “What’s in it for me?” mentality sound quaint and old-fashioned. He tried hard to be the best father he could be, and that says a lot.
So on this Father’s Day, to acknowledge my father and all the other involved fathers out there, let me take this moment to wave for the cameras and say, “Hi dad!” And, “Thanks for being there. I needed you.”
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