Calling All Absent Fathers!

Father’s Day.  For those with loving fathers, it’s a time of gratitude.  For others who don’t know their dads, it hurts.

A single mom told me, “I’ll never get married. I’d rather raise my kids alone.  I don’t need some man making my life miserable.”

I said, “Maybe you feel that way because you’ve never known the love of a good man.”

My friend agreed.  For her, men brought selfish demands, betrayal, and abandonment. She’s not alone, and such women likely view “the love of a good man” to be as mythical as a unicorn.

But just as mythical is the idea that kids don’t need a father.  Daughters learn what love from a man feels like first from their dads.  If a girl never knows a father’s kindness, strength and encouragement, she won’t look for it in a boyfriend.  An absent father makes a lack of commitment feel familiar.

Boys need dads to relate in ways that only a man can to his son by way of role modeling protection, care and commitment.  A father’s love bolster’s a boy’s confidence and his sense of belonging.  A husband who loves his wife well shows his children how it’s done.

Fathers are not dispensable, yet more and more, they are missing in families. A 2012 report by the federal Centers of Disease Control and Prevention show the percentage of single parent families grouped according to ethnicity or race:

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders -17 percent

Non-Hispanic whites – 29 percent

Hispanics – 53 percent

American Indian and Native Alaskans – 66 percent

Non-Hispanic blacks – 73 percent

Perhaps too many men, fatherless themselves, underestimate their own power in their children’s lives.  Maybe their own lack of positive role modeling renders them clueless as to “how it’s done” and they get out, like their M.I.A. fathers before them.  Or maybe a man’s emotional baggage or immaturity causes the mother of his kids to go solo.

For their kids, men should want better than what they had or knew in their own childhoods. That includes a healthy relationship between two parents, which requires kindness, give-and-take, and a desire to serve each other. Some men just don’t know where to begin.  Awareness is a good place to start.

Dysfunction begets dysfunction, and it stops when a man decides to be the last station on the trip to Nowhere.  His kids  deserve a better destination.

To create a two-parent home starts with a willingness to do things differently, and then to follow through.  There are countless fathers who see their kids as a primary legacy, and they stay present to help that vision unfold.  Father’s Day is for sharing such stories.  What will your children say about you?

The love of a good man is transformative, especially for his children. It’s never too late to re-enter your child’s life.

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Suzette Standring

SUZETTE MARTINEZ STANDRING is a nationally syndicated columnist with GateHouse Media. Her two award winning books, The Art of Opinion Writing: Insider Secrets from Top Op-Ed Columnists (2014) and The Art of Column Writing (2008) are used in journalism courses such as Johns Hopkins University. Suzette is a past president of The National Society of Newspaper Columnists, and the host of It’s All Write With Suzette, a cable TV show about writing. Visit www.readsuzette.com or email suzmar@comcast.net
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