Happy Father’s Day!
This tribute is meant for all of you out there — traditional fathers, stepfathers, grandfathers and older brothers. Uncles, coaches, relatives, youth pastors and family friends.
In today’s world, it’s easy to see there are lots of needs for fathers, and lots of ways to fill that role.
Whether you’re in a blended family situation — or filling in for a biological father who is out of the picture — consider this a shout-out for stepping up!
Family situations can be stressful — with strained relationships from divorces, long distances between children and their fathers, complications from addictions, estrangement, incarceration and even deaths.
If there’s ever any doubt about the value you’re providing, consider this fact from the U.S. Census Bureau: 19.7 million children — more than one in four — live without a father in the home.
Research from the National Fatherhood Initiative shows when a child is raised in a father-absent home, he or she is affected in the following ways:
- Seven times more likely to become pregnant as a teen
- Four times greater risk of poverty
- Two times greater risk of infant mortality
- Two times more likely to drop out of school
- Two times more likely to suffer obesity
- More likely to have behavioral problems
- More likely to face abuse and neglect
- More likely to abuse alcohol and drugs
- More likely to commit a crime
- More likely to go to prison.
It can be awkward to fill this role, for sure. And lots of situations take time to gel. My research turned up a number of scenarios that are all too familiar.
“Nearly a decade ago, I became a single mom raising three kids,” says writer Dena Johnson Martin. “I remember when I first entered single motherhood, I wondered what man would ever love a middle-aged woman with three kids. I resigned myself to being single forever ... or at least until my kids were grown and out of the house.”
So many children have a void where a dad should be. Whatever the reason, the loss of a dad creates a deep wound that is not easily healed, a wound that often leaves children seeking approval in the wrong places.
But there are the rare heroes, Martin reflects, after finding one of her own. Men who give of themselves to step in and fill that void. Men who love so deeply and so passionately that they willingly assume the role of a father to the fatherless.
“Sometimes the best parent is not the one you’re born with,” explains author Rebecca Appelson. “I’m not the only kid in the world who grew up without a father. The truth is I had one — he just wasn’t around much; and when he was, he wasn’t particularly interested in ‘Dad-type’ things.
“When I was 11, my parents separated. My father’s moving out of the house didn’t have much of an impact on me. It wasn’t until a year or so later that I felt the impact: my mother started to date.
“Not long after, I acquired something new: Jim. Jim was the first guy my mother dated after my dad.”
While Appelson describes this period as extremely stressful, she also acknowledges the following points years later.
“The values I use to guide my life came directly from Jim. The way I look at the world comes from Jim. Even whatever sense of humor I have ... it’s all from Jim.”
While stepping in — and stepping up — to fill a father role may seem like a thankless job at times, just realize what a difference you’re making in the life of a child. It may not become evident until years later.
Here are a few testimonials that sum it up nicely:
- “It’s only when you grow up and step back from him — or leave him for your own home — it’s only then that you can measure his greatness and fully appreciate it.” — Margaret Truman
- “He adopted a role called being a father so that the child would have something mythical and infinitely important: a protector.” — Tom Wolfe
- “I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.” — Dr. Sigmund Freud
To all of you fathers out there — traditional and nontraditional — thank you for your service.