While writing about Saint Joseph yesterday (and battling an uncooperative computer) I was thinking about fathers and how important they are to the healthy development of their children. For a variety of reasons, many fathers are not in the home with their children. I heard a statistic mentioned recently that 43 percent of US children do not have their father in the home. It is also possible for a father to be in the home but not “present” to his children and that is also damaging. There is enough blame to go around, but it is always the children who suffer when parents fail to fully accept their responsibilities.
There I was yesterday, rebooting this darn machine while watching daytime TV, and up came a story about a teacher who saw a need among the girls in his school and who formed a girls’ softball team to help them with their social skills, self esteem, goal setting and so forth. They took to it like fish to water and adored this man as the father so many of them were missing. The pain of missing their dads was heart wrenching and their gratitude for their coach brought at least this viewer to tears. It was very moving to see how transformative his actions were and their love for him was palpable.
I think we are more inclined to think about the effect of father absence on boys, but girls pay a very high price for it as well. As they go through adolescence especially, girls look for their father’s approval and if they don’t have it… well, they look for it elsewhere. A loving, involved father prepares his daughter for the love she deserves to receive from her future husband. His respect, admiration and love will teach her to expect that from the men she meets as a young woman and not settle for less.
It is often said that the best gift a father can give his children is to love their mother. We all know that children don’t miss a thing and the unconditional love their parents show each other is perhaps their greatest lesson in life. Even those occasional disagreements that they witness are important, provided they see they are resolved in love. Parents who love each other model for their children the successful, happy future they wish for them.
Another aspect of fatherhood that should not be overlooked is our relationship with God the Father. Our experience of human fatherhood shapes our understanding of the fatherhood of God. If we have issues of abandonment or abuse with our fathers, it can make it difficult for us to understand or relate to a loving God. At the same time, His perfect love is exactly what is needed to heal the wounds of human failing.
Fatherhood is going through a difficult time these days. There are many reasons for this far beyond the scope of this little blog post. We can all do our part, however, by praying for our fathers, husbands, and sons and encouraging them in their vocations.
Saint Joseph, pray for us!