Friday, April 2, 2010

Where are the Dads?

File under:           It is in Our Hands

This post and the link that inspires it, is a carryover from a Facebook discussion in which the original poster emphatically asks, “Where are the dads?” I responded that “fathers sadly are a fast shrinking minority,” to which he responded, “why so Ryan?” The Shortt answer: It is a Progressive plot to destabilize the family unit and create a more malleable society. The Long answer follows, please bear through my short (I swear) rant on criminal justice and society.

I do not know what manner of twisted things had to have happened to the 15 year-old to make her think what she was doing was 'OK.' In trying her as an adult, which she definitely deserves, I hope they do not merely bury her under the prison at the same time. She needs help and rehabilitation.

The 20 year-old on the other hand, his fate is sealed; let us hope he is as much a man about taking it as he thinks he is about dishing it out. Before I get up on my soapbox about the value of fathers, I must beat my "What in the world were all the rational adults doing?" drum. I mean, really. How many times leading up to the point that this 7 year-old was so horribly and irreversibly violated could someone have stepped in and said "no, this far and no farther?" Moreover, not just at the party either. Someone obviously had to report this, did that person figure something terrible had to happen before he or she spoke up. The entire community (and of course the "system") failed this child.

Fathers. I should back off my earlier comment somewhat. In all fairness to most men I know, the vast majority are making earnest attempts to be present in their lives of their children in a meaningful and positive way. That is regardless of status, class, relationship with the mothers, or the circumstances of the conception. I do notice a trend of males who grew up without a real, "good" father trying not to repeat the cycle with children they in turn create. However, society does not seem to be moving back towards a stronger family unit. The ratio of children to fathers still -feels- high. I think that condition exists for the same reasons it always has, many of which are the reasons why some fathers instead choose to be present.

No one teaches you to be a father (or a man for that matter). No one likes to fail, perform poorly, or struggle with something he or she does not know how to handle. I have heard people say that the first time they hold their child it is a scary moment. You realize that the person you created is now so dependent upon you and you hold (literally) a tiny, fragile life in your incapable, inept hands. What are the chances this 20 year-old's father had a college degree, and a job making mid-to-high 5 figures? Slim to nil. What is the probability that his grandfather skipped out on his father? High to certain. That is probably the most damaging 'lesson' about being a man taught over 2 generations: when you cannot handle it cut and run. Being poor and uneducated is no excuse, but it certainly does not aid the decision making process. Then you have the mother, who herself is scared and unlearned in the ways of motherhood. The child is bad enough; he or she cannot form the words to tell you how much you are unprepared for this task. But when you have a scared mother (read: loud, irate, and belligerent) who despite all her protestations of independence really just wants you to step up and be a man (in the traditional, antiquated sense), you don't hear "honey, we need to figure out what we are going to do;" you hear "My GOD!!! Why can't you just act like a man?!?!" As if she, being a woman, knows how a man is supposed to act. That sort of thing messes with a man (or a boy trying to be one). With no direction, no support, no plan, no finance, and "baby mama drama (possibly from multiple baby mamas)" lesser men and boys will take flight rather fight. Outside forces and theories of society manipulating aside, raising a child or children is a daunting responsibility.

Again for anyone preparing to mount their high horse and draw their sword of righteousness, I am not condoning or even defending males (because until you step up to the plate on your responsibilities you are not a man) who abandon their families. Beyond personal moral and logical reasons, many of the above reasons are why men choose to handle their responsibilities rather than run. My father often told me he swore to me when I was a very small child, too little to understand what he was saying, that he would never turn his back on my siblings and I as his father had done to him and his family. Despite everything the world threw at him and our family, or the decisions we made as individuals he never, ever once waivered on that promise – not for a millisecond. Do not let the horribleness of abandoning your family create an illusion in your mind that fulfilling such a promise is a simple task. It takes hard work, integrity, dedication, self-sacrifice, compassion, patience, humility, and no small amount of love. What most males do not realize (and no one tells them) is that what you lack in any of those areas you gain in droves along with knowledge, wisdom – and a beautiful legacy – when you step up and be a father. The road is hard, your life as it was is over, your family will drive you nuts, they will (make no mistake) tell you they hate you, and many times you will feel you are failing; but by being there you are winning. Fathers are the protectors of innocent 7 year-old girls. By you being there, we all are winning.

This post is dedicated to fathers everywhere, you are all our heroes.

Wherever you are dad, thank you and I love you.

UPDATE: The discussion continues in Where are the Dads? The Sequel

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