Father’s Day is kind of a farce. Not that we shouldn’t celebrate fathers or take it off the calendar completely, but the whole thing is big reach. Similar to grandparent’s day (though no one knows when this actually is), we began honoring dads in the US on the third Sunday in June solely because Mother’s Day became such a big deal. Think about it for a second. Almost assuredly the entire family gets together, and moms are showered with gifts, flowers, cards, chocolates, balloons, etc, and it’s nearly impossible to go to any restaurant on Mother’s Day without having to wait for hours. In stark contrast, dads get big hugs, ugly pajamas, a neck tie they will never wear, or a hammer. There’s no lunch/dinner, balloons, or any such fanfare that is bestowed upon the great mothers of this country. Its men’s own doing that things are this way. Since the beginning of time men have been instructed to work hard, be stoic, keep grinding, take care of the family, and never rest on their laurels. Taking the time and making a big deal about celebrating the things that we are programmed and accustomed to doing isn’t natural for a man. Any man worth a damn appreciates the acknowledgement of the mental and physical toll it takes to be a true patriarch in the family, but he also feels very uncomfortable being lionized for what he believes is his duty. “I don’t get recognition for going to work every day, so why should I receive a trophy for taking care of my children every day?”
By now everyone knows the sobering statistics regarding children raised in a single parent household. The rates of poverty, chemical dependency, teenage pregnancy, incarceration, and suicide are all highly increased in children raised under these conditions. It’s easy to quote the numbers that are a consequence of the situation, what’s substantially more complicated is understanding the mindset of the fathers that cause these families to actually become the statistic. If we know that men by and large are hardwired to desire security for their mate and offspring, what is different about the men who fail to assume responsibility? Some of possibilities that exist are:
- Ill will toward the mother destructively projected towards the child/children
- Became a father at an early age, and is too immature to be responsible
- Completely dysfunctional existence secondary to alcohol and/or drugs
These are some of the most common excuses given for a lack of paternal support; other than incarceration, all of the other reasons are simply choices. On the micro level, life is broken down to a continual state of decision making. All day long we consciously and subconsciously choose how much time/energy/emotion/money we will allocate towards each decision that we make. Being an involved father is also one of those decisions. The man has to decide everyday how much weight he will put towards that decision versus carrying scorn and malice, chasing women, going to a club, or getting high.
Every Father’s Day it has to hurt men that are not close to their children. Contrary to popular belief, men are basically as emotional as women. Men just do a better job of keeping those emotions bottled up, compartmentalizing them, and not discussing them. If there’s something emotionally wrong that keeps these guys from being involved fathers we need to find out the problem and try to support them. For decades America has tried the tough love approach. Perusing Facebook and Google for literally 1 minute I found the following posts (all grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors belong to the initial author):
- Some men need to get it together!!! Paying Child Support does not mean you take care of your kids!!!
- Kyle McKissick Sr. Does not support his children all five of them.
- OMG this dead beat is driving me KRAZZZZZZZZZY right about now…Thank god for giving me the strength not to breakdown
- Some men need to realize how important it is to love your Kids
- Father’s, Please take care of your kids!!!!
- Any man can make a baby, but it takes a real man to be a father
Clearly this doesn’t work, as all it does is promote an adversarial situation, and does nothing to search for or positively modify the root of the dilemma. In addition, most of the men subject to such rhetoric are the ones already deeply invested in their children’s lives. Without question the surest way to make a man shut down emotionally is to strip his manhood. Calling him a deadbeat or saying he’s just like his absentee father certainly qualifies for that characterization. Women who blast the uninvolved guy publically or wish other single mothers a Happy Father’s Day are only adding kerosene to the fire. Men are very competitive, and if these women try to show they don’t need the guy, he’ll basically try to make them prove it by being even less involved. I’m not in any way trying to exonerate or make excuses for fathers that just aren’t doing a good enough job. I think there needs to be a much better strategy for getting them to do what they’ve been programmed to do for centuries. So far all of the current approaches have been unsuccessful, and the kids are the ones suffering because of this ineffectiveness. This somber tale of parenting makes me think of Trayvon Martin’s father, Tracy. Regardless of what happened that unfortunate night, Mr. Martin will be celebrating his first Father’s Day with no son to give him a big hug and an ugly tie. What an inspiration to spend as much time with one’s kids as possible. Thank goodness for the many awesome, doting fathers in this country who help make celebrating the third Sunday in June actually necessary.