Men’s stories are powerful. In my role as the founder of Dads4Kids, a harm prevention charity, I have the privilege of speaking to men all over Australia. Their stories are often moving.
I remember speaking to a man in Toowoomba, Queensland, at a men’s breakfast on the topic of the importance of fathers. He came up to me hesitantly to tell me a story of when he was a young boy playing baseball. He had asked his dad to come and watch him play for his school team in the competition on Saturdays as his dad hadn’t come all year. His dad said yes, so when the game started the young boy was watching the grandstand closely, in between fielding, for a sign of his dad in the crowd.
About halfway through the game, he saw his dad take a seat with a friend at the top of the grand stand. He could see that his dad would occasionally glance down at the game, but most of the time he was occupied in a conversation with his friend instead of watching his son play ball. When his turn came to bat, he thought things would change. He stepped up to the plate and hammered a home run. While he ran around the bases, he looked up over his shoulder for a sight of his dad. Imagine his disappointment when he realised his dad had left the game early and he was on his own in more ways than one.
I can still remember the sad and wistful look on that man’s face as he recounted this story. What struck me as strange at the time was that this mature man, over 50 years of age, with a grown up family, was still feeling the effects of his father’s indifference to his baseball game some 40 years later. Fathers are important. The pain of their indifference or absence can haunt a man for a lifetime. The pain from the “father wound” can be passed on unresolved to the next generation.
As I have talked to men and listened to them, these stories keep coming up time and time again. Each story is different but the themes are always the same: the painful effect of fatherlessness in its many shapes and forms. Whether it is the story of a father who ran off with another woman, a Family Law Court injustice or a more subtle story like the one I have just recounted of a boy who just wanted his dad to see him hit a home run, the pain and the question remain the same, “Where was dad when I needed him?”
I can remember the sad story of a 17-year-old young man I spoke to after a father and son’s event run by Dads4Kids at a school. “You know,” the young man said, “My dad goes to church every Sunday. He has read all the parenting books, but he still doesn’t spend any time with me and I don’t understand.” I didn’t have an answer for him either. Fatherlessness is no respecter of persons. It is an equal opportunity toxin. Statistics from the social sciences have quantified the results of fatherlessness. They are not good:
- 63 per cent of teen suicides come from fatherless homes. That’s five times the national average. Source: US Dept of Justice;
- 80 per cent of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes. Fourteen times the national average. Source: Justice and Behaviour;
- 85 per cent of children with behavioural problems come from fatherless homes. Twenty times the national average. Source: Centre for Disease Control;
- 71 per cent of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes. Nine times the national average. Source: National Principals Association Report;
- 75 per cent of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centres come from fatherless homes. Ten times the national average. Source: Rainbows for all God’s Children;
- 85 per cent of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes. Twenty times the national average. Source: US Dept of Justice.
I am not alone in my observations on the pain brought about by fatherlessness in our culture. Robert Bly in his best-selling book Iron John says, “As I have participated in men’s gatherings since the early 1980s I’ve heard one statement over and over from American males, which has been phrased in a hundred different ways - ‘There is not enough father’”. Author David Blankenhorn, speaking as a social scientist, said, “Fatherlessness is the most harmful demographic trend of this generation”.
It seems that parliaments around Australia, both at a federal and state level are hell bent to legalise fatherlessness. There was a vote yesterday in the Lower House of the New South Wales Parliament to support Clover Moore’s homosexual adoption bill. This bill was, by default, an active promotion of fatherlessness and is bad policy for our children and a bad example to Australia. It is treating children as goods and chattels. It is all about adults rights and has absolutely nothing to do with children’s rights.
To quote Ed Dabrowski, founder of MensVote.com, “Children’s biological ties to their mother and father are paramount. When a child loses their mother or father we grieve and acknowledge the tragedy. Adoption has allowed children a second chance to have a mum and a dad, yet disturbingly the Bill before the NSW parliament seeks to ensure that children can be raised motherless or fatherless and in operation would preference homosexual partners ahead of the queue of married couples waiting to adopt children.”
Sadly it was the premier’s, Kristina Keneally, vote that pushed this bill over the line. The newspaper headlines in Thursday’s newspapers in NSW told the story well. The Sydney Morning Herald front page headline read, “The State of Shame: Can it Really Get any Worse”. The Fairfax stable mate in Wollongong, the Illawarra Mercury screamed, “Enough is Enough. The NSW government must go, either by its own sword or by intervention of the Governor”. The Daily Telegraph called the NSW Parliament “The House of Shame”. All papers were talking about the scandal-prone inept state government led by Premier Kristina Keneally but they could well have been talking about the passage of this shameful anti-father and anti-child bill.
Peter Walker, a friend of mine and Aboriginal Elder of the Bundjulung tribe, spoke to a capacity crowd at a meeting of public concern on Tuesday in Parliament House in Sydney to protest against the proposed Bill. Mr Walker said, “Children need a mum and dad. Aboriginal culture is built around the family. Indigenous culture would never endorse such injustice because within our culture children are greatly loved and appreciated. This law is likely to create another stolen generation and this is simply unacceptable. Fatherlessness brings a curse to our children.”
Conversely the opposite is true - when fathers are involved, committed loving and caring, children do better in school, have better socialisation skills, are healthier, less likely to be overweight, less likely to engage in risky behaviour, have less risk of teen pregnancy and are less likely to use drugs or get involved with crime. These same children who have higher father involvement are more popular with their peers, have a higher self-esteem, have better self-control, treat girls better, are more empathetic and are happier as well.
Men’s stories are powerful. The social sciences agree that fathers are important. There is no substitute for love. Lao Tzu said, “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength while, loving someone deeply gives you courage”. So I encourage you to take Lao Tzu’s advice. Be a courageous father and love your children deeply. You will help your children hit a home run not only in their sport but in their life as well.