Sunday, June 15th is Father's Day -- the one day of the year when the mainstream media and much of the public pretend to actually value fatherhood and the role of a father in the modern family. For the remaining 364 days, the role of fathers in the family is discounted, downplayed, taken for granted or seen as optional.
Fathers are attacked by a court system that unfairly and disproportionately refuses them custody of their children. Attacked by the media that all too often, and wildly out of proportion to reality, portrays them as bumbling, villainous or incompetent. Most cruelly, they are attacked by a society trying to render their contributions (aside from those financial) irrelevant in the lives of their own children. Their absence in a home is always their fault, never that of anyone else. Their successes are shared, their failures are orphans.
But on Sunday, June 15, none of that matters. It's Fathers Day, after all. Post a Facebook status, compose a tweet, or ignore the day and spend it in silence. Then, for the remaining 364 days of the year, repeat mantras like, "Children don't need fathers, just a father figure."
Salivate over articles titled, "Do boys need fathers? This woman says no." Delight, reading columns that celebrate single motherhood -- facts be damned on how the children from those homes disproportionately turn out. And any data showing that children raised by single mothers do worse than in homes where a father, married to his wife is present -- well, explain those away with poverty as the underlying cause. Or try discrimination -- that works too. The notion that a father, by his mere physical presence in a home may have any salutary effect on children is an anathema to modern sensibilities.
On the eve of Fathers Day, President Obama (himself the child of a single(ish) mother) in an interview with The Today Show said, "The truth is, is that a lot of young men of color aren't doing well. Partly because they don't have dads in their lives. Partly because they don't have networks of support." The most important "network of support" children possess are their parents -- mom and dad. An enormous part of the reason a lot of young men of color aren't doing well is they are being failed before they are even born by people too careless to ensure their partners are interested in commitment or parenthood.
A 72 per cent out of wedlock birthrate (even higher in some regions of the United States) amongst people of color is absolutely outrageous and goes further in explaining inter-generational poverty than does racism. Amongst white families, one study shows that daughters of single parents are 111 per cent more likely to have children as teen-agers, and 164 percent more likely to have premarital birth. The statistics about children (whatever their ethnic background) raised in these families are as dark as scenes from The Red Wedding on Game of Thrones. But rather than confront or even acknowledge the data, flimsy excuses and explanations are made -- jibber jabber that correlation is being confused with causation. The effusively expressed nonsense I've heard in relation to this argument from otherwise intelligent people is frustrating.
One of the most urgent social challenges in North America as we head into a competitive future is the re-creation of fatherhood as a vital social role for males. Vital not only to men, but even more importantly to women having children with men who express no interest in a long-term commitment to them or don't display qualities that would make them good fathers.
Does every child need a father? The answer from modern society appears to be "not necessarily" or "not really" or "maybe." So long as the answer is this kind of nonsense, our children, facing a competitive future, will be in trouble. Does every child need a father? The answer is an unequivocal "yes", which bizarrely has become a radical thing to say in many circles. You cannot change what you refuse to confront. This Father's Day, let's confront this uncomfortable problem.
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