Monday, June 20, 2005

Fathers deserve more than a day

Kathleen Parker: Fathers deserve more than a day


But none of our personal anecdotes changes the fact that fathers are critical to children's lives, just as mothers are, and that the diminution of Father in our culture may be the single stupidest turn in human history yet. The proof of our folly is all around us as measured in the pathologies afflicting our young, yet we persist in denial lest truth inconvenience our next act of self-affirmation.

That a father revolt is inevitable seems a matter of cultural physics and human nature. Human beings can withstand only so much contravening pressure against what is in their interest or necessary to their survival. Men do not do well without families, as George Gilder wrote as long ago as 1973 in his landmark book, "Sexual Suicide," subsequently expanded to "Men and Marriage."

Gilder argued that men need marriage and the social unit of the traditional family as a means of channeling their inherent aggressiveness toward providing for family. Without it, they are vulnerable to mental and social problems and tend to be less successful. When men through divorce are deprived of their children, they become what in healthier circumstances we would wish them to be: ferocious in trying to gain access and protect them.

A time of reckoning can't be far off given that family courts have made divorced fathers visitors to their children's lives - 40 percent of children live in homes without their fathers - as society has embraced the "deadbeat dad" as a prototype rather than a deviation from the norm. Studies show that women file the majority of divorces, and that fathers (almost 80 percent) who have regular contact with their children pay their child support in full and on time.

To be blunt, raising boys and girls without their fathers is simply another, if mysteriously accepted, form of child neglect. Obviously some parents don't deserve their children; and some children, like me, lose a parent to death. We can't make the world perfect for everyone.

But purposely creating ways to keep fathers from their children - either because personal bitterness makes it preferable or because moving far away makes his participation impossible - is not forgivable. When hurt fathers contact me for advice, knowing my concern about the long-term effects of father absence on children and ultimately society, I urge them to keep to the high road.

To be patient and understanding, to be strong and reliable, to be fatherly - in other words - in the old ways. That so many try in spite of the forces arrayed against them is reason enough to celebrate this day. Even to give ol' dad a call.

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