Fathers Matter: Where’s My Daddy?
Editor’s Note: From time to time, we at Parents & Kids decide to share some strongly-worded opinion pieces. We do this because we feel it is important to explore all points of an issue that affects many children. This is a first-person story of how one woman feels about her absent father. Whether you agree with the ideas expressed or not, we hope it will encourage you to think more deeply about the vital role fathers play in our children’s lives.
Something about him caught my eye as I cruised the cafeteria of the school where I work. I had been looking for troublemaking, food fights and bullying. He wasn’t involved in any of those. He just looked sad.
As I got closer to his table, our eyes locked, mine and those of the six-year-old boy named Billy.
He looked up at me and said: “I don’t have a daddy.”
I didn’t say anything, just waited to see if he’d say more.
“He doesn’t live with us,” Billy continued.
“But he loves you and he’s still your daddy,” I said, surprising myself with the instant response.
We smiled at each other and talked for a few more minutes. His face lost that worried look; he seemed happy.
Other children sometimes asked the same question: Where’s my daddy? Some of them were only two years old. After I started paying attention, I began noticing similarities in these children.
They were the kids who hung back, who wouldn’t try to throw a ball or color a picture. Some days at daycare, they wouldn’t leave with their grandparents at the end of the day. They seemed angry.
Research backed up my observations. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that 85 percent of children with behavioral disorders have no father at home.
According to Dr. Erin Holmes, an assistant professor at Brigham Young University’s School of Family Life, children in a fatherless home have greater risks of eating disorders and depression. They also show less of a sense of right and wrong.
As I write this, my own memories return. This isn’t new territory. Between the ages of seven and 27, I had no contactwith my dad. There was no phone call on my birthday, no Christmas card. Looking back on the children who have shared their sadness with me, I wonder if they could tell we were kindred spirits.
This is not an easily fixable problem. We can’t stop men from leaving their children, but as the moms who stay and take care of them, there are things we CAN do differently.
For starters, we can talk to our children in a different way. We can acknowledge their pain. Recently, a child shared that her mom told her: “You don’t need a daddy.”
We have to be very careful not to color a child’s perception of his or her father because of our own feelings of bitterness. Mental health professionals tell us a child’s self-esteem seems to rise in proportion to the relationship with dad. Isn’t that reason enough to remind a child that his father does love him?
In my opinion, for very young children, that’s all they need. They just need to know daddy loves them.
This problem has become known as “Fatherless America.” It can happen to anyone. Throughout his eight years in office, former President Barack Obama, raised by a single mother, pleaded with men to step up and father their children.
In closing, it’s more than dad just showing up. Even children whose fathers are away working are at risk. Ideally, fathers THEMSELVES need to realize their importance to their children.
By Judy Holmes