All joking aside, a perusal of various studies reminded me just how important fathers are in the lives of their children. These studies come from the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, The National Center for Children in Poverty, university studies, the Cato Institute and numerous others. The results are startling and the implications frightening.
Taking into account minor statistical variances depending on the study, the conclusions present a huge red flag for a society that often sees departure from long-held, traditional beliefs and attitudes on the nuclear family (mother, father and children) as enlightened. As if suddenly, in the last few decades, we have discovered through our superior intelligence something that contradicts the experiences of billions of people in hundreds of societies over thousands of years.
For example, these studies show that children from homes without fathers become juvenile offenders more than twice as often than those with fathers in the home (this rate jumped to 10-times more likely if the child was a male born to an unwed teen mother). The Census Bureau reports that children from father-absent homes are five times more likely to be poor. Children in fatherless homes are also far more likely to engage in risky or destructive behavior as teenagers (4x increase in smoking, increases in rates of alcohol and drug abuse, sexual activity, etc.). The rates of academic failure, emotional development problems, unwed pregnancies and various other societal problems all are increased in homes without fathers. In fact, one glaring similarity in all of these studies is that, after adjusting for race, sex, age, socioeconomic status and other variables, the one thing that ties rates of these societal ills together is fatherless homes.
Unfortunately, our government seems to exacerbate the very problems its policies are supposed to cure. Fathers, in many ways, have been marginalized by government programs. The things that mothers have traditionally depended on fathers for, at least temporally, can now be obtained through government programs. Food, shelter, clothing and other basic needs can all be obtained through government. In 1965 Democrat Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan vehemently criticized LBJ's Great Society programs, warning in a report entitled "The Negro Family: The Case for National Action" that these programs would undo the gains blacks had made through civil rights. At the time he was criticized as being racist, yet his predictions were all too prophetic. Those predictions came to pass not only for black families, but for white families and others that fell into the same patterns. Race was irrelevant. The pattern is destructive.
Of course there are many other factors that contribute to this issue. Abusive husbands, adultery and a lack of commitment during difficult times also contribute to the reasons for fatherlessness, but underlying all of these is the cycle of damage that comes from raising children in fatherless homes.
A man I deeply admire once said that "No other success can compensate for failure in the home." Not success in professional endeavors, civic groups or humanitarian causes. For the optimum chances for success, children need both mothers and fathers in the home. Men and women are biologically, physically and emotionally different. Our brains are wired differently. Each contributes vital information and traits to children. Each is needed to develop and raise children with the highest likelihood of success.
Other than my wife, there is nothing on earth which I cherish more than my children. Nothing in my life gives me greater satisfaction than seeing their positive growth and development. Each success for them is a vicarious success for me. My heart breaks with each disappointment that brings tears, and fills with pride as they overcome obstacles to succeed. To say my own relationship with my father was challenging would be generous. Tumultuous would be a more apt term. Yet my experiences with my own father have driven me to take the good I could find and, even more importantly, to learn from the failures.
The result has not made me a perfect father, but it has made me a better father. My children know that I love them dearly, and that helps to smooth out the rough edges of my fatherly imperfections. Their mother, my wife, helps me remember what is most important with my children, and reminds me that individual instances and circumstances are not nearly as important as the lessons I teach my children, and what they will remember years from now when they are raising their children.
My hope is they will remember that I taught them to be honest in all of their dealings, to be virtuous young men and women that save what is most sacred for marriage. I hope they remember to take responsibility for everything they do and not make excuses or blame others for their actions. I hope they remember to live within their means, to delay gratification for a greater purpose, to always seek the best in others, to be forgiving of others' shortcomings, to show respect for others, to be in a constant state of learning, to love books, to never watch or read or listen to anything that they would be embarrassed to if their Savior was standing beside them. But most of all I hope that they remember that they were and are loved by their fathers; the one that gave them their earthly bodies and the one that placed a spirit inside of it.
I have eight children. Each has a distinct personality, so different from the others. Each has their own strengths and weaknesses. Each has brought me heartache and joy. Each has contributed to my loss of hair and the graying of what remains. Each has made me shout in triumph and quietly shed tears of pain. Each of them has made my life immeasurably richer. Indeed, my quiver is full.
So to every father may I wish you a joyous Father's Day and my hope that you receive this day the things you wished most for. As for me, I received my greatest gifts long before I woke up this morning.
Louis DeBroux is a Taylorsville resident, married, with eight children. He is vice chair of communications of the Bartow County Republican Party. He owns Gatekeeper data backup and recovery. He can be e-mailed at email@example.com.