A few weeks ago I told you that I had a post mentally prepared about my father and great-grandfather, but I didn’t feel well, so I didn’t post it. Well, I’m still not ready to write that story, but I have been thinking a lot about fathers.
Arlee Bird over at Tossing It Out has been devoting some of his blog space to controversial topics like marriage, divorce, child rearing and violence in America. During some of the discussion the importance of Fathers came up and it started me thinking. Now, I’ve read a lot of the books and seen some of the studies, but I feel a little better telling you about the ‘up close and personal’.
If you come by here regularly you already know that I live on an island in the Caribbean. While there are many aspects of ‘life on de island’ that are absolutely delightful, buy there is a downside. The culture is extreme. Let me explain.
Actually, I’m not going to even try to explain all the extreme circumstances and absurdities of the culture here but for one aspect that has to do with the importance of Fathers. Here, Fathers are almost non-existent in the home. Most children are raised by single women. Marriage is generally not a factor, but even when it is, most of the men don’t stick around or with one woman long enough, to see their children through the toddler years.
Most of these men are proud of their ability to sire offspring. One man even publicly bragged that he had two sons born on the exact same day (not twins). This man also stated that he was the father of nine (9) children. He was about thirty-two (32) at the time. Of those nine children there were eight different mothers involved.
I will be the first person to say that I think mothers are maybe the most important component in making up and taking care of a family on the day to day basis, but fathers are just as important. Families without fathers suffer dramatically. While it is often women who take on the greater share of basic child rearing responsibilities, fathers play an ever important role, especially in the lives of male children. There is not much that can replace the positive role model of a dad to loves and provides for his family. Every child needs to feel a fathers love and devotion not only to them, but to their mothers, also. While I see the need for dad to be a role model of honesty, integrity and strength to a young man, it’s also important for young women to recognize these traits in their fathers as they seek their own relationships with men.
Here in de islands we have an ever increasing problem with gangs and their related violence. We try hard not to scare the tourists, but crime is ever on the rise to the extent that our sister island has held the noteriaty of having the most murders per capita of any area in the US. (They may recently have been outdone by the City of Chicago, who now holds the title “Murder Capitol”, but they are at least a close second and with a much smaller population). Is it any wonder that adolescents who do not have a complete family turn to acceptance within the gang mentality where they are encouraged, strengthened and modeled to become perfect citizens of crime and violence. They feel secure within that ‘gang family’ who celebrate their achievements at stealing, extortion, and even murder. Weapons become hugs and secret signs and colors replace a ‘good’ family name. While gang members come from every demographic those children who reside in a single parent home are more likely to seek the acceptance and approval of ‘the gang’ than those with a more traditional family life.
Bringing this topic home, I need to say that my father was very important in my life. He was a hard man and having to get things by Daddy was never easy. There were many attributes of his that I expressly did not want to replicate in my relationships with the opposite sex and there were many others that I felt requisite. When I was about six or seven years old, my mother took a job outside of the home. This was in an era when most moms were at home and school assemblies where held during the day. My fathers job called for him to work rotating shifts, so two months out of three he was available during the day. When it was my classes turn to make a presentation, you would find all the mothers sitting on the front row in the small folding chairs provided for students and there would be my daddy, folding his six foot two inch frame into that tiny space and clapping louder than anyone else when I gave my part in the assembly. Daddy attended parent teacher meetings and the return signature on my report cards were always his. He taught me to shoot a gun, ride a horse (kind of), how to fish, and be respectful to others, especially my mother. He taught me about honesty, integrity and responsibility. I was never allowed to blame my errors on someone else.
Recently, I watched from the sidelines as my best friend’s son fought through the judicial system for the right to raise his daughter. This little girl’s mother, to whom he was never married, suffers from a multitude of emotional problems and a very intense addiction to alcohol. At one point in his legal battles the mom offered to end the fight for a sum of money (she basically offered to sell his own daughter to him), he declined and spent more than her request to have his daughter legally awarded to him as her primary guardian. The mother has only supervised visitation. This young man is another tough guy, like my daddy, and yet he sees that his daughter has bows I her hair and birthday parties at the beauty shop with her little friends. He mourns the lack of a positive young female role model in her life and constantly makes excuses for her mother who makes less than half of her scheduled visits. This guy knows how to be a father.
Most people who had a good relationship with their fathers can easily see the importance they have played in their lives. Those who did not have such a relationship almost always can see the lack thereof as a deficit that nothing could replace. While mom might seem to be the more important figure on a day to day basis, don’t discount the importance of fathers in the home and lives of their children.
Think about it. How important was your father in your life growing up? How important is he today? How would your life be different if he had not been there? How different could your life be if he had?