“Your father still gives you money? It would have been nice if my father had done anything for me,” a friend said a couple of years ago when she found out my father still gave my brother and myself monetary gifts on our birthdays and at Christmas. This article will be a continuation of the tribute to fathers series.
Parts one and two of this series discussed how my father took his role seriously and what his key contributions to my life were. This article will reflect on the importance of fathers, the impressions they can leave on sons and daughters, and the effects on children when they are not around either intentionally or unintentionally.
“In my family my father handled the money. In your mother’s family her father gambled away the money so your grandmother handled it, and so it’s something we regularly fought about,” my father told me as a boy. His statements made me ponder the role of fathers at a young age. If there was truth in what he said, both of their father’s created two different paradigms which needed reconciling in their marriage.
In short, fathers do matter in childhood and well into adulthood. While it is a tremendous feat that mothers can raise children all by themselves, it isn’t ideal and most mothers would like the help of a father. Whether he is there or not, he will leave a lasting impression in the lives of his children good or bad.
Many of my days have been spent reflecting on how my life would have been different had my father been around 100% of the year. If he were, his musical interests would have probably rubbed off on me. It’s also possible that my favorite sport would have been baseball instead of basketball.
In my travels it has amazed me to see fathers spending quality time with their children and exposing them to things such planetarium shows, cub/ boy scout troupes, and financial literacy. Feelings of envy always take over me when a mentor of mine, an entrepreneur himself boasts about how is teenage son had the ability to pick and choose his own stocks for his portfolio, and is already coming up with his own business ideas. Recently in the Financial Peace course at my church, my co-facilitator smiled ear to ear as she affectionately revealed to us that she’s a “Daddy’s” girl.
It’s a two way street though. The opening quote for this article speaks to children who were abandoned by their fathers, leaving their mothers to do everything. Unfortunately there are lots of situations such as this, especially in the African American community, for varying reasons some being lack of education and unplanned pregnancies at very young ages. There can different ramifications for both boys and girls.
In the O’Jays classic song Family Reunion, Eddie Levert comments that boys want to be imitations of their fathers and in a lot of cases this is true. Without fathers or male figures present, boys may not have role models to teach what it means to be a man as described in No More Mr. Nice Guy by Robert A. Glover. On that same vein there are things that only a men can pass on to boys. Fatherless boys often left to become the “man” of the house by default and have to grow up early. Some end up seeking refuge in gangs and other delinquent behaviors.
It has also become clear to me that fathers are equally important if not more important for girls than boys. Girls who are abandoned by their fathers can often develop self-esteem issues, as well as both anger and distrust towards men, well into adulthood making it difficult to form healthy intimate relationships. Their significant others are sometimes unknowingly expected to fill the voids left by their missing fathers. Girls who see their father commit adultery can develop the same issues.
This article was not meant to be a generalization about fathers, just a reflection on their importance. In some cases fathers were taken from their children by death and not negligence. Many children have successfully grown up without their biological father, and part four will discuss that’s it’s possible to find other fathers.