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February 22, 2007

Comments

Little Scoop of Peppermint Ice Cream

Syler, while driving one of the inner city kids home the other day he was telling me what happened to his real dad...He said that he had bone cancer and died right after he was born. The guy who lives with his mom and family now is a drug dealer and has been arrested for abuse a number of times. When I asked the kid about this new guy he replied "He coo', he bring in the money, you know." What struck me about the whole thing is that skewed view of a father. Someone who brings in the money. This kid on several occasions freaks out and beats people up, he takes a lot of pride in all the trouble he gets into at school, he talks while others are talking, and is one of the sorest losers I know. Although, I have fallen into all of those categories at one point or another, it was a concerned father that motivated me out of it. I can't agree more with this guy's article. Somebody's uncle could be one of the best men in the world, but there will always be that looming thought that says "You're not my real dad." It sounds cliche, but in my experience it is absolutely true.

Jennifer

Hi! I saw your comments about "the perfect song for..." on Marko's blog - and I just had to stop by and say that I COMPLETELY agree with you about "Reasons Why" by Nickel Creek! I first heard them live on Prairie Home Companion and immediately ordered their CD. That is an amazing song.

Also, I appreciated the article very much. Though it may not be politically correct, there is much truth in it.

Heather

Sy,

I agree that children need fathers. Or rather I think that children need stable loving environments to be formed, and the easiest way of creating those kinds of environments is to have traditional families. I think your focus on fathers is commendable in that it calls for a balance of male and female influences on children—a balanced notion of value and responsibility between mothers and fathers, but I think that it is far too simply stated. By just throwing out a need for FATHERS, you've completely reduced an incredibly complex layering of issues into a simple matter of one man per every 2.5 children, or however many it is nowadays. So I want to say two things. One: you (and/or that article guy) have reduced an incredible lump of America’s problems including everything from poverty to drug use to teen pregnancy to a lack of fathers. This oversimplification is almost offensive. Sure, having a father in the picture could help children in a lot of ways, but to claim “the child raised without his or her biological father is significantly more likely to live in poverty, etc, etc” is to claim nothing at all. You’re stating a symptom of a broken society as the cause of a slew of its problems. America is ill. We have poverty, atrocious race relations (still), disparity between genders (still), drug problems…and yes, a disintegrating concept of the family. There is far more going on here than “dad in the picture” can fix. If every child born now had a father and a mother, there would still be poverty, drugs, abuse, etc. Reducing the issue to FATHERS NEEDED both belittles the hard work that many untraditional families have done in raising good children and falsely honors the harm that many traditional fathers have done by sticking around. Which brings me to my second point. So: “dad's involvement would seem vital to a child's well-being.” I agree. The thing is though, that having a “dad involved” is far from assumed in traditional—mother, father, children—families all living in one home. The article guy seemed to assume that two attentive, loving women could never compete with a biologically connected father and mother. I know a LOT of biological fathers who live with their children and are neither loving nor attentive. A dad in the house is not a dad involved; emphasizing homes with fathers over healthy, supportive, loving homes seems a bit backwards to me. A home without a loving, involved father lacks a huge influence which would be ideal, but a home with a father who is abusive or even just emotionally absent is far worse off (in my opinion) than a less traditional, but loving and involved, family. Now I’ll stop here because it’s a good a place as any and I could go on for far too long considering the other things I should be doing right now and the attention span of most people including myself. I blame television. And advertising. And any number of other things. When are you coming here?

Syler

Heather: first of all, I'm touched and honored to have you on my blog. Honestly. And thank you for weighing in on what I would call a controversial topic and a complicated one.

The thing that intrigued me so much by this article is who it was written by: this is a pretty liberal, though religious, writer who typically would just hear what someone like James Dobson has to say and would respond: yeah, I think the other way, without even needing to find out what it is. And I didn't get this on some "conservative website"...I just read this in the Trib and was really shocked.

My mom's take on this is it's the first time she's disagreed with Leonard Pitts and thinks his own experience without a father is coloring his view. I don't think it's a completely "thought-through" position exactly. I wouldn't call it bullet-proof by any means.

I also don't think he's blaming all of society's ills on the absence of fathers. I think he was responding somewhat instinctively to something that just went off inside of him when he heard about Mary Cheney having a baby...something that just said: hang on. Families, when possible, should have dads.

In my perfect world that doesn't exist and never will, I would encourage ALL couples that are unable to have children naturally to consider adopting. There are thousands of children that need a loving environment, and I would love to encourage both heterosexual and homosexual couples to provide a loving environment to raise these children. Like I said, it's a world that doesn't exist, but that's what I think.

I agree that an unloving, emotionally absent, or (obviously) abusive father can be a worse environment than a less traditional but loving and involved family. I don't think Leonard Pitts would disagree. We don't just need dads; we need good ones. I think his point is simply that "father figures" aren't the same as fathers.

I'm a great example of someone who came from a "non-traditional family." My dad lived 400 miles away, but he was always emotionally present with me, and I knew he loved me unconditionally, so you can't look at me and say: look, you didn't have a dad that lived with you but you turned out OK...because I FELT like I had my dad in my life.

You are more than welcome to blame advertising and television. But that would be for another article.

Anyway, thanks for this. And I'm coming on March 23rd.

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