I smiled. Thank heavens for father figures. At one time I thought men were the gentler gender, the nurturers. Now I realize how very lucky I was to have taken good men for granted. And they are becoming even more rare. There are women who abandon their children, certainly, but the families without fathers are everywhere, it seems—my home included.
Adults who remove themselves from their responsibility to others are not only impossible to respect, but in a sense they remove themselves from true meaning in life. In the grandest of schemes, deadbeat parents essentially render themselves nothing more than life’s chaff. The most crucial and elemental priority in parenting is loving the children enough to be there. To abandon a child of any age for purely selfish reasons is one of the most abhorrent of all evils.
Child support payments alone, even when paid on time and in the correct amount, are mere attempts to buy off responsibility. Cheap attempts. Trust me: the percentage that goes for child support—at least in Missouri—doesn’t pay for a fraction of the true costs to rear a child. And that’s only the financial costs. To say that money is all it takes to rear a child is ignorance bordering on imbecility. If that were all it took, we could lock children in a room, shove money under the door, and—voila!—the quality of the adult who emerged would depend solely on the size of the money pile.
And then we hear about the vicious: the ones who imitate kindness in order to abuse.
It’s a shame that the deadbeats and perverts seem to eclipse the genuine men, the men who are willing to help guide the young. And they do exist, of course. They are teachers, coaches, stepfathers, members of the clergy, maybe, sometimes a nice neighbor. Or a school custodian. They are fathers to children who are not their own. They are the kind of men who know that only brutes conquer and cowards control. Real men stand up and lead.
This is because real men have more than muscle: they have minds and hearts and souls as well. These are the kind of men who put a paternal arm around the shoulders of our youth because these men possess the inner strength that matters most in life and the wisdom to know how important it is to pass along. They are strong enough human beings to stand up and take responsibility for what lesser men have deserted. Their gift to young people is their gift to the world. And it is huge.
These are the true unsung heroes of life. Yes, they do save lives. And they save the quality of so many more. As long as these men exist, fatherless boys will glean a real man’s character and enjoy the self respect that comes from being one. Fatherless girls will seek respectable men and enjoy the mutuality that comes from loving one. Because of these men, how many lives are improved? These pieces of Self given conscientiously enough will never die, but grow exponentially. On this path, immortality is a given. These men are fathers in the very best sense.
On this Father’s Day, don’t forget to thank a man who gives his time to young people—a father figure. If they are not his children, thank him all the more. Thank the man who is big enough to see outside of himself. Thank him for being one of the many who strives to do a father’s job when a “real” father won’t.