In contrast to the reverance with which we celebrate Mother’s Day, Father’s Day has an undertone of benign tolerance for the person who used to be the backbone of the family, but is now usually the target of jokes, often portrayed in the media as lovable but slow-witted goofballs who take the brunt of their family’s criticism. Authority and wisdom morphed into subservience and ignorance. This, however, is the best-case scenario. Even worse is that of children without any father at all. For an increasing number of children, not only in the United States, but around the world, the term father is an abstraction they’ve heard of, but haven’t experienced first-hand.
Fathers play a critical role in their children’s lives, and casting them aside as irrelevant has negative consequences for their children.
David Lammy, a member of Britain’s parliament, remarked that “my father walked out on my mother and her five children when I was 12. I never saw him again. I have always felt that hole in my life – and I am not alone.” It’s interesting to note that although Mr. Lammy has obviously reached a certain level of success in his life, he still feels the void his father created when he left the family. Why is this significant? According to Livestrong.com, the lack of a father in the home contributes significantly to behavior disorders, academic decline, mental illness and poverty in their children’s lives. In a report by Massey University, approximately 85 percent of children diagnosed with behavior disorders and 75 percent of high-school dropouts come from a fatherless home. Additionally, children without a father are often attracted to gangs to provide the sense of security and belonging they’re missing.
While we might automatically assume fathers play a more important role in boys’ lives, research indicates that girls are affected as well, but in different ways. Boys view their fathers as role models (if they treat them well), blueprints for behavior, while girls base their expectations of men on the way their own fathers treated them and their mothers. A girl with an absentee father (whether physically or emotionally) will come to expect nothing more from men in general. Ellen Rondina, MSW, of the University of New Hampshire, notes that professionally and personally successful women usually grow up with a stable and accomplished father.
Sadly, approximately one-third of children in the United States today will never experience the love, support and sense of security provided by a devoted father. Rather than affecting only this generation, though, it will have a negative ripple effect on generations to come, and society in general. While the causes are many and the solutions difficult to find, one thing is certain: fathers are critically important for their children’s emotional, mental and behavioral development.
So for all fathers out there, cherish the role you play in your children’s life, and as difficult as it may be sometimes with the stresses of daily life, make the effort to be loving and supportive. Carefully craft your words and actions to be the kind of role model they deserve.
And if you have a loving father in your home or in your life, be thankful and give him the honor and respect he deserves, not just on Father’s Day, but every day. He’s not just dad; he may well be the architect of your future happiness and success.