Take a look in the newspaper under new births, and you are unlikely to find anyone who is born to be a father. Still, we are all born with instincts that form the basis of right and wrong, survival and, I believe, fathering / mothering. One only needs to witness a new born crawling up to a mother’s breast minutes after birth to recognize how powerful our natural instincts really are.
However, despite the natural instincts that men possess to care for and provide safety for their children, there is an epidemic of children growing up without a father to guide them or even a good man to look up to. There are so many factors to consider when trying to pinpoint how or why this is true: divorce rates, out of wedlock pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse, incarceration, poverty, etc. The fact remains that nearly one third of children in the U.S and Hawaii are growing up without a father in their lives.
Arguably the single greatest indicator of a child’s future success is whether or not there is a father present in their lives. Children without a father in the home are ten times more likely to drop out of school, abuse drugs and alcohol, and commit suicide than children with fathers in the home. Boys growing up without a father in the home are twenty times more likely to be incarcerated than boys with a father in the home. In fact, research is now showing that an absentee father can have a bigger impact on a child than even an absentee mother.
The statistics and research regarding fathering requires us to rethink our societies approach to parenting. If we are going to create a safer community for our families, we need to counter the narrative that nurturing our children is the sole domain of mothers. We need to create a culture of support and guidance for fathers to step more fully into their natural, biological imperative to care for and benefit from the absolute joy that comes from being a father. Tapping into the joy that comes from being a father is the best way to counter the sheer terror of being a father.
The Fatherhood Initiative exists to support and empower fathers to remain involved with their children despite the challenges that cause many of them to disappear. There is no greater calling for a man than to be a father, a protector and a provider. The fathers you come in to contact with, particularly the ones going through divorce, incarceration or economic hardship, need to hear how important they are to the lives of their children. Fathers need to hear that their children don’t care how rich or smart or dirty they are, they care that their father loves them and will keep them safe from harm.
When the fathers in our community understand how very important they really are, they will be more open to opportunities like a Fatherhood group to learn the skills for being a more engaged and loving father. This will help them to tune back in to their father instincts to find even better ways to overcome whatever challenges they are facing.