It’s Time We Understand The Importance of Fatherhood In Our Communities
I was fortunate enough to grow up under the guidance of a man who understood his role as a leader and a father. A man who had a respect for fatherhood. My father understood just how important he was to the well being of our family and his community. Every day I thank him for his time, his patience, and his presence.
I was fortunate enough to grow up under the guidance of a man who understood his role as a leader and a father. My father understood just how important he was to the well being of our family and his community. Every day I thank him for his time, his patience, and his presence.
My father passed away two years ago and I can honestly say that to date, this has to be one of the saddest moments in my life. But after the crying, the mourning, the sorrow, sadness, and pain came a period of reflection. It was during this reflective stage that I discovered how instrumental he was to me and to those he served in his community.
Because of my relationship with my father, I understand how important my role is as a father. He helped me understand fatherhood. Whether it is wrestling with my 3-year old son, working on college financial aid applications with my 21-year old son, helping my 24-year old son with career decisions, or playing a game of “tea cup” with my lovely 5-year old daughter, I get it. I understand how each experience that I have with my children is of equal importance to them and to me. These experiences strengthen the father child bond while helping them to learn something new. A game of “tea cup” teaches my daughter about etiquette, sharing, and helps at building her communication and social skills. A rough and tough wrestling match with my 3-year-old son teaches him about the boundaries, what is and what is not permitted when playing. It also pulls him away from the television and keeps him energetic.
I often wonder about what my life would be like without my father. Who would take me to the baseball games or teach me how to tie a tie? Who would help me with crucial life decisions like buying a car and going to college? Who would be there for me and love me unconditionally?
Unfortunately, life without a father is a reality for many young boys and girls in America. Of the 66.3 million fathers in the United States, the number of single mothers has increased from 393,000 in 1970 to 2.3 million in 2003 (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2003a). In 1960, one in thirteen children in America under the age of 18 lived with their mother and without their father. By 2006, the ratio had changed to one in four (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2007). Although this data represents a broad and general view with respect to fatherlessness in the United States, the data on fatherlessness solely in the African-American community is of special interest as more than half of African-American families are headed by mothers and more than eighty percent of African-American children can expect to spend part of their childhood living apart from their fathers.
As noted in the article, Father Hunger (St Martin’s Press) by David Popenoe, “This lessens the chances for a structured father and child relationship and reduces the amount of fatherly knowledge that a child can benefit from by having a relationship with their father.” From her review of the literature on fatherlessness, Deborah Johnson in her paper, Father Presence Matters, states that the father absence literature predominates in the area of father-child relations and arrives at the conclusion that non-residency of fathers has a negative effect on child development. As noted by Cornel West in his book, The War Against Parents (Houghton Mifflin Company), “fatherhood and fathering is enormously important and when the father is crippled and cast aside, a serious repercussion is felt throughout the nation.” According to Urie Bronfenbrenner in his article, Did You Say Movement? (Lexington Books), “we see this in households in which fathers are absent. Children are at a greater risk for experiencing a variety of educational problems, including extremes of hyperactivity and withdrawal, lack of attentiveness in the classroom, difficulty in deferring gratification, impaired academic achievement, school misbehavior, absenteeism, dropping out, involvement in socially alienated peer groups, and the so-called teenage syndrome of behaviors that tend to hang together such as smoking, drinking, early, and frequent sexual experience, and in more extreme cases, drugs suicide, vandalism, violence, and criminal acts.”
My work as an advocate for fathers and fatherhood is far from done. There are many fathers that are unaware of how significant their role is as a father. Many of these fathers have never had a meaningful relationship with their own fathers so to expect them to understand fatherhood and their significance or to have the fatherly skills necessary to maintain a healthy relationship with their child is unfair. For these fathers, it is unfortunate how society seems to judge them with a flip of the coin. Heads you are a good father, tails you are not. There seems to be a lack of consideration for the father who is on the fathering cusp. This is where the help is most needed. It is here where many fathers can either stray away from their fatherhood responsibilities or transition into being productive fathers.
Many say that the answer to the fatherlessness problem starts with opportunities of employment, education, and training. I agree. These are components that will help men to become better fathers. But the one thing that is of equal importance is getting fathers to take the first step into fatherhood. Signing a birth certificate means that you are acknowledging your child. Giving a child your name tells the world that this child belongs to you and creates an interconnecting bond that will lead you to employment, education and training. Fathers must first step up and acknowledge their children, step into the role of being a sensitive, involved, and responsible father, and educate themselves so that they will always be a step ahead.
David Asbery is a doctoral student at St John Fisher College. Look for David’s book, My Wife, My Kids, My God.
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