For Father’s Day this year, I asked one of my parents to guest post… no, not my dad (though he would have sage advice to offer, the thought of writing a blog post would give him hives!). My mom wrote this piece to share with friends of the Women’s Resource Center where she is the director.
My husband Mike, slated to open our Community Group time at church, asked me to share my perspective on Father’s Day this Sunday morning. I responded that I couldn’t think of a less likely candidate for this assignment: From the time I can remember, I have felt awkward at best on the day designated to celebrate dads. While the other kids in my grade school were happily making cards for their fathers (which in the 1960s almost everyone in my neighborhood had), I wondered if one of my grandfathers or uncles in other states would like to receive a crayoned card in the mail.
I was just two, and my brother one week old, when my father piloted a small plane to a ski resort. He took along a friend and one of that man’s friends, excited to enjoy a day of skiing in Connecticut. My dad’s mother from Pittsburgh was at our house, so the women encouraged my dad to be gone while they tended to the kids (things were very different in 1958!). My 25-year-old mom started looking for her husband to be home that evening, but a violent snowstorm had blown in unexpectedly. Hours turned into days, and days into weeks as the Air Force fliers from Mitchell Field near our Long Island home searched for the plane and its passengers. Six months later, on the day before their fifth wedding anniversary, my father’s body washed up on a shore of the Long Island Sound. My mother, who did not remarry, was reshaped by this tragic time in her life and, though she did many things wonderfully well, she did not intentionally find role models for me like she did for my brother. Such were the times.
This doesn’t sound like a very enjoyable story to share during our class on a nice holiday honoring dads, now does it?!!
But my husband persisted. He asked me to challenge our class members like I do our young, single mothers who come looking for practical, emotional, and spiritual help at Women’s Resource Center. As I chat with these women, I encourage them to find healthy and consistent male role models for their children. Often, in our experience at WRC, the father decides to walk away from his “baby-mama” and, because the women themselves were raised by single moms, they don’t see it as a big deal. One told me: “Oh, come on. No one has a father these days. It doesn’t matter.”
But, it does matter. Just because I would no longer be alone in my unease at card-making time, it doesn’t change the fact that every little girl needs a daddy. I saw that lived out later in my life as Mike fathered our five daughters with unconditional love. And I see it in the home of my oldest daughter where her husband is an outstanding daddy to their adored little boy and girl. Though my mother tried her best, a mom is just not a dad. Children need both, to fill the gaps.
So what I will tell our class, and what I tell our single moms at WRC, is this: Dads are important. Kids with dads are four times more likely to avoid poverty, they experience better health as infants, they are less aggressive, and they are significantly less likely to be incarcerated. They are less likely to experience teen pregnancy, marry before graduating from high school, abuse alcohol and other drugs, and to be obese. They are more likely to receive mostly A’s in school (The National Fatherhood Initiative). Moreover, fathers are the representation of a caring and approachable God to their children from an early age.
If you are raising a child who does not have a dad in the home, please do the best you can to find a close substitute. Look to your brother, an uncle, your own dad, a good friend, or a church or agency for a mentor for your daughter (as well as for your son, of course). If you have an intact family, invite those who do not, to participate in life with you. You may be surprised at how what you think is mundane is meaningful to others. I remember the time one of our daughters’ friends sat down for a simple dinner with us. She looked at all the place settings and people at the table and said: “So this is a ‘dinner table.’ I thought this just happened on T.V.”
And I have an early memory of watching a couple resolve a conflict by leaving their kids inside while they walked around the perimeter of their house talking back-and-forth. It was so ordinary to them, she in her pink foam curlers, he just home from his nightly commute from New York City, but it was significant to me as I observed how compromise in marriage worked its way. I was watchful because I honestly did not know how men and women related on a daily basis in a home environment; I wish my mother would have known to be purposeful about inserting me into family situations that included fathers. I wish the books written then would have told her to look for a great, godly man to make her daughter feel significant in the world. Making a girl feel special is special. If it can’t be done by a father, I would encourage others to mimic it to the best of their ability by making sure she is included in the big and small joys of a two-parent home.
So, that’s my unusual Father’s Day charge to those who will be attending the Community Group at my church tomorrow. Not exactly up to Hallmark’s sweet standard, but my hope is that it may cause some to be more aware of all the fatherless girls who would benefit from some men and families in our Christian community stepping up to fill the gap.
And I do wish all of you a most blessed Father’s Day.
Laurie (Sara’s Mom)