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Dad's Matter
by Francesca Biller-Safran
TheSyndicatedNews columnist

Award-winning Investigative Journalist and Columnist with experience reporting breaking news, longer features and op-eds about race, politics, business, socioeconomics, arts and culture, ethics and parenting issues for newspapers, magazines, radio and websites. Awards include The Edward R. Murrow Award, two Society of Professional First Place Journalism Mark of Excellence Awards and two Golden Mike Awards for Excellence in Hard News and Best Series Reporting.

Where would we be without hearing “Because I said so” or “Money doesn’t grow on trees?” Yes, I’m talking about dear dads and all of the great wisdom and advice they give, no sarcasm meant whatsoever.

As politically incorrect and popular as it may sound, fathers do matter, and it might do us all a great deal to reflect on where you might be without so much of the great male influence that your dad has bestowed on your life, including all the times you tried to pretend he didn’t.

Even feminist Gloria Steinem said, “Most American children suffer too much mother and too little father.”

While it’s true that we all need the kind of special love and nurturing only a mother can give, we also need dads more than ever, and more of the old-fashioned kind.

Thank goodness I grew up in an era when men were allowed to be dads without being chastised for being too manly or macho in the best sense.

How many kids today I wonder are missing out on what they need most, a loving, strong father who doesn’t feel the need to apologize for being one.

There are of course all sorts of fathers, some who have not quite earned the title. But for the most part, dads fill a special place in our lives that cannot be matched in quite any other way.

Comedian Jerry Lewis certainly had an interesting dad. Lewis said, “When I was a kid, I said to my father one afternoon, ‘Daddy, will you take me to the zoo?' He answered, 'If the zoo wants you, let them come and get you.”

My dad too carried with him a lot of acerbic wit, and often we couldn’t tell if he was actually being serious or not. I will never forget the feeling in my house when he got home each day. As kids, we were excited by his arrival and also knew that rules applied when he walked through the door.

Call it child abuse, but we were not allowed to talk over him or my mother. When they spoke, it meant they actually had something to say and we should listen up.

Former New York Governor Mario Cuomo said, “I talk and talk and talk, and I haven't taught people in 50 years what my father taught by example in one week.”

Fathers are like that. They show their love and strength largely through action and when they do have something to say, it is usually at least memorable.

When growing up we often don’t realize the important roles they play in our lives because they stay in the background more than our mothers, although they often can be the real backbone of families, giving generation’s strength, character and resilience.

Humorist Mark Twain was quoted in a newspaper as having said, “When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.”

No doubt our appreciation of fathers can take a little while to ferment; as they are more pragmatic and less vocal about how they feel about us, and as children we often mistake this for being not loving as our mothers.

It is indeed this pragmatism dads have that is so necessary for both boys and girls to be able to grow up healthy.For instance, dads often encourage us to try something new, even when moms warn we might get hurt emotionally or physically. It is that perfect mix of caution and grit we need in order to become balanced adults.

For example, dads are usually the ones who encourages us to take the training wheels off our bicycles as well as applying for that job we never thought we could get.

And yet it also often fathers we turn to for that extra emotional support we might need in a non-emotional fashion, assuring us things will work themselves out in the end with hard work and due diligence of course.

I have to admit I was even a little scared of my dad growing up. Although he was usually inspiring and funny, when he got mad we knew he must have a reason and we always listened.

Comedian and father Bill Cosby said, “Always end the name of your child with a vowel, so that when you yell, the name will carry.”
On a more serious note Cosby would be the first to admit that growing up without a father is no laughing matter.

A recent poll shows that more than 70% of the U.S population thinks the most significant social problem in this country is the fact that so many children grow up without fathers.

And statistics for both boys and girls prove this theory to be more fact than conjecture. For example, an adolescent white female growing up in an advantaged background is five times more likely to become a teen mother if she grows up without a father in the home.

The picture is even grimmer for boys, with 80% of all rapists reported to have grown up in fatherless homes. Psychiatrists cite they are motivated with a term they call “displaced anger.”

For both boys and girls, 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes as well as 75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers from homes without fathers.

Sigmund Freud wrote, “I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father's protection.”

Now that we are all seriously depressed about these figures- the good news is that fathers are beginning to get a better rap on a lot of fronts.

The pendulum of public opinion is starting to help rid the culture that suggests fathers are unimportant and valueless, which will prove invaluable to the next generation of would-be fathers, mothers and their children.

Let’s just say the politically incorrect notion that men matter in children’s lives can once again be said out loud without much argument from either the pop-psyche culture or from those who once claimed that dads matter little in the lives of children.

I am holding out hope and determination that the tides will change drastically in this country towards both mothers and fathers giving the role of fatherhood the respect that is so crucial and integral for all of us.

The worst that can happen is that more children will one day be able to wish their own dads a “Happy Fathers Day” throughout all their childhood years and beyond.

Published: Sep 15,2008 21:18
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