It is getting more attention in media, in journalism, and even by the government – fatherlessness is an injustice. A man’s choice to walk away from his family and the duties owed to it is selfishness in a shell casing of immaturity. The pain and disaster father-absence delivers to children and society is no less villainous than a bullet fired into a body. Even if fatherlessness is not illegal, it is criminal.
Everyone paying attention knows the fallout, even if they haven’t read the research results. Kids from father-absent homes are FAR more likely to fail in school, suffer low esteem, live in poverty, have a child during their teens, use drugs, break the law, or take their own life. “Some fathering advocates would say that almost every social ill faced by America’s children is related to fatherlessness.” www.fathers.com . As it did historically with slavery, and women’s suffrage, our society is again passively allowing a portion of its people to suffer unjustly at the hands of others.
Fatherlessness has reached epidemic proportions. According to a poll of 72.2% of Americans, “Fatherlessness is the most significant family or social problem facing America today.” From what gets attention in media and our coffee hour conversations these days, you’d have thought the threat of nuclear war, terrorism, or the low turn out for the Emmy’s would have been of more concern! Yet, those paying attention say, “If it were classified as a disease, fatherlessness would be an epidemic worthy of attention as a national emergency.” Maybe it would help if fatherlessness were given a name like Katrina or Harvey. Actually, an analogy to these hurricanes has merit. The TOTAL number of people affected by all three of those two horrific hurricanes combined is roughly 21.5 million, while according to the U.S. Census Bureau there are over 24 million children living in homes without their biological father.
When will father-neglect be addressed with the same level of national concern deadly weather systems receive? Without exaggeration, the messes left by those weather events will be cleaned up in a matter of a few months; the messes caused by ten million rogue fathers gain momentum generation by generation. America’s most damaging storm is not on her shores, it is within them.
Not to focus solely on the dark side of things, a look at father-presence is encouraging and eye-opening. Joe White, who operates Kanakuk Kamps, surveyed more than one thousand of his campers and found that 80% of them were AGAINST pre-marital sex and that 92% did NOT use illegal drugs. In fact, the majority of them didn’t even drink alcohol! So, what’s the pivotal difference
in this group and those who flip the chart completely? Joe found that 95% of the boys say their fathers regularly told them, “I love you.” He found that 94% say their fathers attended their athletic events and 97% say they get hugs from their fathers. (pg 24-25 Point Man: How a Man Can Lead His Family by Steve Farrar) The difference is the dad.
While most of you don’t see yourself as one of these failed-father types, you might want to buckle-in for these next few paragraphs. Over my lifetime, I’ve heard well-intentioned fathers talk about ‘quality time’ with their kids. Most of them are thinking of an annual vacation or a weeklong trip with the wife and kids. I certainly agree with the good of vacation time, but there is a problem. The problem is that the rest of their year these guys are primarily investing themselves in work, entertainment, or rest at the expense of time with their children. Quantity of time communicates value, infers interest, or shows priorities. While working to provide finances shows concern, forty hours at the office don’t have the same impact on a child as showing up for sixty minutes at a ballgame, reading stories at night, or spending a Saturday morning in a tree stand. In a very real respect, quantity IS quality. Kids read between the lines. They know when they are truly valued and when they aren’t.
My parents did not take us on family vacations, but it didn’t matter because the occasional invitations to go with my dad to the coffee shop on a Saturday morning or take a ride with him through the country were better to me than a week at the beach. Quality time is showing up. It is time you take to talk with (not at) your kids. It is answering serious questions, and it is also handling the silly ones. Often, the fathers who will gladly lay out thousands of dollars for a family trip will hardly pay the price of ‘their’ day off, ‘their’ time with the guys, or ‘their’ weekend. Men who don’t spend time with their kids pay for it in the long run. Quality time is costly, even if it doesn’t require a dime.
Dad’s who physically leave their families are clearly creating chaos in their kids and society, but present-in-the-home-fathers who emotionally and chronically distance themselves from activity, connection, and meaningful engagement with their children are damaging them as well.
Dads who constantly and chronically belittle, chide, or move the target on boys exasperate their kids. If no one can measure up, why try? Words are powerful and a man who consistently expresses disappointment, dissatisfaction, disinterest, or emotional distance to their sons is destroying his heart. The effects are as damning as those to boys and girls whose fathers abandoned them, but the Scriptures warn dads against exasperating their children. Both are criminal before society and God.
We are on a mission to help men launch a healthy relationship with their sons. We are preparing material in our Manabouts Manual that will guide them step-by-step through that amazing and powerful process. For those who have missed that opportunity, there is still much that can be done to restore and build. In a future blog “Get Out Of Jail Free – Justice and Restoration,” I’ll discuss what a man can do who sees he has failed, but who is willing to do whatever it takes to right the scales of justice between themselves and their children (even if they are now adults).