Fatherhood | Columnists | smdailyjournal.com
‘If we want to maintain a rich and complex democracy, a major national objective should be to increase the proportion of children who live with and are nurtured by their fathers and decrease the proportion of those who are not.” — Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Cornell West, “The War Against Parents.”
It was recently reported that our country has the highest divorce rate in the world and also leads in the percentage of children born out of wedlock. As a result, more than half of the children in the United States live apart from their biological fathers. Is it important to have dad around the house? Will fathers eventually become redundant? Depends on he father. Depends who you ask.
“In modern America, too many men must deal with the fact that their children are growing up in someone else’s home. Escalating rates of divorce and out-of-wedlock births mean that close to half of all fathers lose contact with their children and this has left a deep emotional void in the souls of men.” — Hewlett and West.
“We can’t lose sight of the essential role fathers play in shaping sons into men of character. Many of the stereotypical traits that our culture associates with boyhood — things like achievement, adventure and risk — are not inherently cultural constructs that should be engineered out. They are, rather, innate characteristics that must be shaped, molded and channeled into virtuous ends. It’s here that a father has an outsize influence — and that influence can radiate beyond the immediate family.” — David French, “Time” magazine.
The consensus by experts in child development is that a child who lives with a wise and caring father is fortunate indeed. Such a father’s contribution goes much farther than economic support. He contributes to the family’s stability, shares in the work of family life and provides another source of love and appreciation for his children. Children benefit when the feminine way of nurturing is balanced by a healthy masculine contribution. Boys, especially need to experience what it is like to be a well-functioning man. Living with a father they can look up to — one who is honest, decent, responsible and compassionate — teaches them what it is in life that makes a man fulfilled and whole.
Her father’s influence on a girl has a lot to do with her self image, her ambition, how she deals with the outside world and what kinds of boys she will be attracted to. Living with a responsible and involved father can promote her confidence, will help her choose a quality partner and even influence how she raises her children.
Over the years, father consciousness has changed for the better. Because of necessity or desire, many of today’s fathers have a different kind of relationship with their children than they had with their own dads. More are able to communicate with their children without letting judgment, arbitrariness, conditions or unrealistic expectations get in the way. More are secure enough in their masculinity to allow themselves to be a bit vulnerable and set aside the mask of machismo. More have come down, at least part of the way, from the traditional pedestal of authoritarianism. But, as some fathers fill the bill more comfortably, there’s another side to the picture.
Much of our culture is not conducive to helping boys develop into responsible and involved fathers. Very often the media depicts and glorifies immature males who never grow up. Watching TV for a while backs this up. You will see much emphasis on crudeness, violence, exploitative sexuality and narcissistic behavior. From the belief that power and control equal success and that “boys will be boys,” a lot of our young men view few examples of mature, connected and mindful men. As Miriam Meizdian wrote in “Boys Will Be Boys”: “We desperately need new heroes for our boys — heroes whose sense of adventure, courage and strength are linked to caring, empathy and altruism.”
“The bottom line seems to be that fatherhood and fathering are enormously important, and when fathers are crippled and cast aside. Serious repercussions are felt throughout the nation.
A withering of the father-child bond devastates children, stunts men and seriously erodes our social capital. For make no mistake about it — fatherlessness is more than a private agony. It creates an open, festering wound that saps the strength of the entire nation.” — Hewlett and West.
During this unprecedented time of “sheltering in place,” with so many parents and children spending more time together, there are bound to be many challenges and changes in family dynamics. Let’s hope they lead to closer, more appreciative connections among family members.
Since 1984, Dorothy Dimitre has written more than 1,000 columns for various local newspapers. Her email address is email@example.com.