June 19, 2016 by Robert Franklin, Esq, Member, National Board of Directors, National Parents Organization
Father’s Day is a day we can’t celebrate enough. That’s not because fathers are more important to children than mothers. They’re not. Children bond the same with fathers and mothers. Within the first weeks of life, they begin seeking out each parent separately and differently. In those same weeks, they begin to identify each parent’s differing characteristics. The loss of one parent is as traumatic to children as the loss of the other.
And that’s why we need to emphasize Father’s Day – not because fathers are better but because, far more than mothers, fathers are absent in their children’s lives. It is the lack of a father that puts so many children in such jeopardy, so we need to make a special effort to support fathers and fatherhood.
Father absence comes from many sources, almost all of them our own conscious doing. Because we create father absence, we can fix the problem of father absence. I’ll go ahead and say it: father absence is the single most serious problem our society faces. No other condition results in such a host of societal problems. Far down at the root of our most serious societal deficits lurks the absent father. He’s there in the educational problems particularly of boys and young men. He’s there in our massive prison population, in our shocking levels of drug and alcohol abuse, in domestic violence, suicide rates, emotional and psychological problems.
Address the problem of fatherlessness and we address all those problems and more.
And yet, against all that’s logical, all that’s healthy, we do the opposite. We promote fatherlessness. We fail to teach family court judges about children’s need for their fathers. Those judges routinely dismiss fathers from their children’s lives by marginalizing them in parenting time and by failing to enforce even the meager time they’re supposedly given. Our child support system, from start to finish, tells fathers that their sole value to their children is whatever money they can provide. Our system of adoption prevents fathers from having any say about losing their child to strangers. The message that sends – that fathers are useless appendages – is driven home all the more forcefully by the fact that we routinely force adoption on children with fit fathers, ready willing and able to care for them. That in turn deprives other children, who truly need to be adopted, of loving adoptive parents. Despite governmental efforts to the contrary, child protective agencies still ignore fathers as appropriate placements for children when they’re taken from their unmarried mother due to her abuse or neglect. Unchanged by the facts of science on the matter, we maintain a system of domestic violence one of whose chief aims is to convince anyone who will listen that fathers are dangerous to their children. The opposite is true, but the DV industry repeats their false claims undeterred.
Then of course there’s the problem of poverty. Many would say “Wait, poverty and financial inequality are society’s worst problems,” and it’s true that they’re significant. But to an enormous degree, the problems of poverty are little but a proxy for fatherlessness. Overwhelmingly, kids without fathers are poorer than those with. It’s no accident that the graph of income inequality so matches that of the increase in fatherless households. We can never begin to fight poverty, particularly child poverty, without putting fathers back into families.
Away from courtrooms and legislatures, fathers get a bad rap from the news media and popular culture. The movies, television, advertising and the like often seem to vie to see who can portray fathers in the least favorable light. My wife and I just finished watching the HBO series True Detective in which the best father was depicted as a powerfully motivated parent, but incompetent, unpredictable, prone to binges of alcohol and drug consumption and utterly unable to do even the basics of parenting. He was the good news.
That the reality of fathers is far, far from their representations in the news and entertainment media has long been a given. That those media routinely denigrate fathers usually goes unmentioned, much less opposed.
And even on those rare occasions when we take a brief, weak stab at acknowledging what fathers do for their kids, even that is demeaned. Does a father work long hours to selflessly provide shelter, food, clothing, an education and medical care for his child? So many dads do exactly that, only to see the effort denigrated as not really parenting, as if in some way kids don’t need those things. No, according to the popular narrative, the only legitimate parenting is that typically done by mothers, “hands-on” parenting. Fathers who don’t do that aren’t parenting at all, you see.
As I said, we can change all of this and doing so should be easy. Why? Because putting fathers back in children’s lives would only require us to admit what we already know to be true – that kids need fathers and the great majority of fathers are fit, loving and caring men. It would only require of courts and legislatures to understand those facts and act on them. It would only demand of Hollywood and Burbank that fathers be depicted realistically and part of that realism would mean admitting that, as surely as there are bad fathers in the world, so are there bad mothers.
The solutions are there before us. They rest squarely in our hands. Fathers are the key to solving societal crisis after societal crisis that have plagued us and sapped our resources for too long. And fathers (and so many others) are urging us to act, to do the simple, known things that, at a single stroke would make everyone’s lives so much better.
That’s why we need to celebrate Father’s Day with more than the usual enthusiasm. The well-being, not just of our kids, but of our society, demands that we stop marginalizing fathers in every way we do.
National Parents Organization is a Shared Parenting Organization
National Parents Organization is a non-profit that educates the public, families, educators, and legislators about the importance of shared parenting and how it can reduce conflict in children, parents, and extended families. Along with Shared Parenting we advocate for fair Child Support and Alimony Legislation. Want to get involved? Here’s how:
Together, we can drive home the family, child development, social and national benefits of shared parenting, and fair child support and alimony. Thank you for your activism.