Our 15-year-old, Anne, ignored my repeated remonstrances, so I
called in the heavy artillery.
Would you please tell your daughter to pick up the dog poop and
mow the lawns?
Our 15-year-old, Anne, ignored my repeated remonstrances, so I called in the heavy artillery.
“Sweetheart'” I said, “Would you please tell your daughter to pick up the dog poop and mow the lawns?”
“Anne'” said my husband in sepulchral tones, several octaves deeper than his usual voice, “go pick up dog poop and mow the lawns.”
With a roll of her eyes, but without audible demurral, Anne did as she was bid. When she returned from her tasks, I asked her, “So, why did you obey your father instantly, when you’ve been putting me off all afternoon?”
“Because he doesn’t tell me things so often, and he would probably get real mad if I didn’t.” Pressed as to what “real mad” might entail, she eventually decided he might give her a time out.
Perhaps I should feel miffed about the differential treatment. In fact, I feel relieved. I have an ally, a partner, a relief pitcher in this decades-long enterprise we call childrearing. He provides for our kids, challenges them, and protects them. I am intuitively quite certain that our children would not be turning out so well without him, and statistics bear out my intuition.
A hundred years ago, divorce was rare and socially unacceptable. This changed: 40 years ago, the experts decided that children were resilient; it was better to divorce than to maintain an unhappy marriage.
Today, bearing children outside of marriage is fairly common, divorce and remarriage even more common. Reams of data have been collated, and the conclusions are inescapable. Children fare best in an intact family.
Divorce is linked to lower grades in school, and to higher incidences of drug use, dropping out, sexual activity, pregnancy, and crime. Children of never-married parents fare worse than children of divorced parents. Children who live with their mother and their mother’s boyfriend are abused 70 times as often as children in an intact home.
The statistics are harrowing; the anecdotes are poignant. A certain prison ministry decided to offer a service for Mother’s Day. They bought cards and stamps, and set up tables, and allowed the inmates to write a few words and send the cards to their mothers.
The activity was wildly successful. Prisoners stood in long lines to write messages to their moms. The ministry had to send out to buy more cards and stamps to meet the demand.
Cheered by this success, they decided to offer the same service for Father’s Day. But not one prisoner took advantage of the free card and stamp. Not one convict had a father he cared to send a card to. Think about it.
We see the effects of fatherlessness in our community, though we do not always label them as such. We see the fence going up around Holden’s Boy’s Ranch. We see the trial for the drive-by gang-related shooting. We see the teen pregnancies, absent fatherhood perpetuating itself through the generations … Fatherlessness is visible, when you look. The effects of fathering are taken for granted, but they are profound.
So I want to thank the involved fathers today, whether you are playing Duplos with your 2-year-old, or teaching your 5-year-old to ride a bike, or playing catch with your 9-year-old, or coaching your 12-year-old’s soccer team, or forbidding your 16-year-old from wearing that skirt, and you don’t care what the other girls are wearing.
(Not everything you do will be appreciated at the moment, but some of the least appreciated things are the most vital in safeguarding your children.)
A father can be involved with his children regardless of his marital status, can provide for them, protect them, and challenge them. But I want to give special recognition to every father who keeps his promises to love, honor, and cherish his wife, forsaking all others.
A woman is not the easiest creature in the world to live with: I know; I am one. Women can be moody and emotionally demanding. But when you and she keep your commitments to each other, you maintain the best possible environment for raising your children. Your strengths complement each other. The consequences will last for generations.
Happy Father’s Day.