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Children need fathers to be in their lives

Freedom New Mexico

Mother’s Day might get more attention, with more elaborate celebration. Fathers often downplay the event themselves, partly due to modesty and perhaps also because they have to pay for any celebration that is made.

It’s a generally accepted truth, however, that children tend to show more affection toward their mothers than their fathers. After all, Mother’s Day has been a national holiday since 1914; and although the first Father’s Day was held 100 years ago in Spokane, Wash., Congress didn’t officially sanction the holiday until 1972.

Part of the reason surely is a matter of proximity; children traditionally have spent more time with their mothers, since the fathers spend much of the day out of the house, working. That was true even in pre-industrial times, when fathers worked the fields or were out hunting or gathering the family meals.

A notorious question arose during the women’s empowerment movement of the 1970s, when millions of women left the kitchen and joined the salary-earning world: Are fathers even necessary?

The answer, we have since found, is quite clear.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that a third of American children — 24 million — live apart from their biological fathers. Data gathered by the National Fatherhood Initiative finds that such children are more likely to use drugs, commit crimes, do poorly in school and suffer health and behavioral problems. They also are more likely to suffer a lifetime of poverty. Children learn just as much from a father’s absence, it seems, as by their presence.

Most mothers do the best they can to instill strong values in their children. But a father’s contributions remain invaluable.

The World Congress of Families convened last August to address urbanization and the breakup in families in developing countries. Drolor Bosso Adamtey, king of the Shai Traditional Area in Ghana, spoke about the growing numbers of African men who leave home in order to find work and feed their families, and how their absence is creating new problems, even as it helps them stay alive.

It’s a situation many migrant families know all too well.

“Education, culture, tradition and faith define and shape the identity of a people,” the king told the conference. “Fathers not only provide love and support for their families, they are also the teachers of faith, history, culture and tradition. They are the leaders, the healers, the protectors, the encouragers of dreams, the counselors, the providers and also the disciplinarians. Fathers play these roles not only for their own children, but for other children and members of the entire community.”

The effects are long-term. Children who grow up without these influences are unable to pass the knowledge on to their own children. Just like the knowledge and values a father passes on to his children in turn are passed along to the children’s children, the deficiencies also are felt for generations to come.

So even if today’s celebration is low-key, show Dad that he’s appreciated. Even if it isn’t obvious, his very presence is worth more than any celebration or gift can compensate.