Somebody once said that it’s easier for a father to have children than for children to have a real father. Sadly, that sounds about right. There is no test or final exam to qualify for fatherhood, though it would seem like a good idea if somehow there could be.
Over 24 million children in the United States today live apart from their fathers. That’s one out of every three. It’s even worse for African-American children. Nearly 64% of African-American boys and girls don’t have a dad in the home. The problem has been getting incrementally worse over the years. In 1960, 11% of children lived in father-absent homes, which is still a terribly high figure, especially when you begin to envision the faces of even just a few of those kids with nobody to call daddy.
Fatherlessness is a painful issue that’s near and dear to my heart. My own dad left home when I was five; by twelve he was dead from the poor choices he made. I’ve spent my lifetime thinking about what I never had and moments that I’ve missed, from a hug to a campout to a heart-to-heart talk on the eve of my wedding.
I’ve never been one to ruminate on almost any other aspect of my life. I don’t dwell on misfortune or worry too much about tomorrow. I trust God with the details and believe in His sovereignty. But in this instance, the poet William Wordsworth was right: The child is the father of the man. Like it or not, I’ve been significantly shaped and influenced by those early years, and so have you, for good or bad.
In the past, some progressives have suggested that we get rid of Father’s Day because it’s discriminatory, and besides, it only causes hurt and heartache for the child without a dad or for a father that’s prohibited from spending time with his child. With a third of kids now living without a daddy in the house, why rub salt in the wound and exacerbate their pain? At least that’s the argument.
But the problem with that perspective is this: At its best, Father’s Day doesn’t just celebrate and honor the influence of great men, which it does quite nicely. The spectacle of Father’s Day also serves as a bright beacon, showing children of every family configuration that a father in the home is God’s ideal. Throughout my own chaotic youth, I looked longingly at the good fathers of my friends, and committed myself to one day, Lord willing, becoming the father I never had, and doing the things with my kids that he never did with me.
Bill Cosby used to joke that fatherhood is pretending that the present you love most is soap-on-a-rope. He also said that with a house full of kids, the only place he could shave without getting interrupted was the bathroom down at the gas station. There is, indeed, great humor in fatherhood, but for me, being a dad to Trent and Troy is not just a source of laughs, but of gratitude and wonder. It is the gift that keeps on giving. I thank God for them, as well as the privilege of being called Dad.
But how about you? Let’s swap some stories. Why don’t you honor your dad right here in this space and share with me your memories of him, whether funny, poignant, challenging or instructive. I’d love to read them.