E-pistle June 17

Honoring Fatherhood

According to those who keep track of such things, we seem to love our mothers just a little more than our dads.  At least if the cost of a present is any indication of the level of love (but, of course, it isn’t).  This past Mother’s Day the average mom had $140 spend on her while it is expected that the average dad will have $106 spent on him this coming Father’s Day. You can read more here.

I’m all for celebrating our dads, but memo to my kids: you don’t need to spend $106 to tell me you love me. I already know it and cannot begin to describe what an amazing gift your presence in my life is. Thanks, I’ve received my Father’s Day gift and I love it.

Celebrate and honor your dad as best you can this Sunday. If he’s around and you want to spend $106 on a fishing pole or a necktie, please do. We’ll give thanks for dads in worship on Sunday, but quietly so, respecting those whose dads are painfully gone – taken by early death or divorce or desertion – and those whose dads did not come close to what a dad might have been for them.

So we remember and honor our dads and we should.  But maybe, too, we should honor fatherhood; we haven’t been doing a very good job of that lately.

I don’t know how they came up with that $106 per dad Father’s Day number.  What I do know is that there are fewer fathers to receive Father’s Day gifts than mothers to receive Mother’s Day gifts. The statistics are now legend: 64% of African-American kids live in father absent homes, 34% of Hispanic kids and 25% of white kids. The white cohort of father-absent kids is growing the fastest.  And, yes, there are sub-categories to the categories from the not present in the home but very active in their kids’ lives dads to the proverbial deadbeat who has figured out how to sire a child, but has no clue about being a dad.

We also know that “present” doesn’t always mean physically there. Somehow children whose dads are serving in Afghanistan thrive in ways that kids whose dads are too busy dealing drugs on the corner or OTC derivatives on Wall Street simply do not.

A third of all American kids do not have a regular father presence in their lives and the price we all pay is high: poverty, addiction, educational failure, health issues, emotional problems, physical abuse and criminal behavior.

Conservatives blame the social engineering of the Great Society in its unintended consequences, and liberals blame the demise of a working middle class, a consequence of an unbounded free trade and free market economy.  My guess is that there is plenty of blame to go around.

Assign blame where we will, what might we do, we Langhorne Presbyterians, to honor not just our dads but fatherhood itself? Some suggestions:

  • Parents, show your children what healthy fatherhood looks like.
    • Fathers, model godly fatherhood especially to your sons.  Be a caring husband (or honor your children’s mother if you are no longer married to her). Provide for their physical, emotional and, especially, their spiritual well being. Be brave. Listen more than you talk. Help them with their homework and their decision making. Tossing a ball around in the backyard may mean more than serving as their team’s coach.
    • Mothers,  honor your husband (and show respect to your children’s father even if you are no longer married to him). Encourage him (don’t nag) to be, or in the ways he is, engaged in your kids’ lives.
  • Older dads, befriend a younger dad and encourage him in his role as father to his children.
  • LPC members, please encourage and do not stigmatize those in our family of faith who are not parenting or growing up with an engaged, active father present.  Help dads who are not present for their kids to begin to make the sometimes very hard journey back into their children’s lives. Support mothers who courageously invite their children’s father into their children’s lives despite the pain caused by divorce or separation. LPC men, pay special attention to our kids who do not have a dad in their lives.
  • Be faithful and generous in your support of LPC missions, especially our partnership with Hunting Park Christian Academy.  HPCA works on the frontlines with urban families where too many dads are not around and where those who are sometimes struggle against enormous odds.
  • Pray for all fathers.

It’s going to cost more than $106 to honor fatherhood, but it will be well worth the price if we do.