This week Time Magazine published an article that questions "whether dads — at least as a group — have done a good enough job to deserve the honor" of Father's Day.
The article cites statistics that suggest that the answer may be an unequivocal no. For example, it states, "In the U.S., more than half of divorced fathers lose contact with their kids within a few years."
It further states, "According to a 1994 study by the Children's Defense Fund, men are more likely to default on a child-support payment (49%) than a used-car payment (3%)." Finally, the article notes, "Even fathers in intact families spend a lot less time focused on their kids than they think: in the U.S. fathers average less than an hour a day (up from 20 minutes a few decades ago), usually squeezed in after the workday."
Glenn Sacks, a men's and fathers' issues columnist, calls the article a "hatchet job" and attempts to debunk its disheartening statistics in his latest blog. "The drumbeat continues," laments a passionate and perturbed Sacks, "dads don't care, dads walk out, dads are stingy. All of these canards have been debunked many times, but that doesn't stop the mainstream media's attacks on fathers and fatherhood."
In fact, according to a press release from the University of Maryland, "Fathers have never mattered as much as they do this Father's Day." UM Assistant Professor of Education Natasha J. Cabrera, who has spent the last five years studying fathers, believes, "Fathers today are more involved in the daily routine of children's lives than they were 20 or 30 years ago." She attributes this to "increased maternal labor force participation" and adds that "changing family structures — more single-parent, combined, cohabiting, and divorced families — has helped create a cultural shift that expects more hands-on child rearing from dads."
More dads are getting more involved in their children's lives. But even when fathers become less involved, it is usually not completely by choice. "Research is also unequivocal that few fathers abandon their children voluntarily," says Stephen Baskerville, president of the American Coalition for Fathers of Children. "Most fatherless children result from fathers being forcibly separated from their children by courts."
Regardless of what research indicates, there are still far too many fathers who spend far too little time with their children. And while there are many explanations for this, hardly any of these explanations amount to real excuses. Still, there are enough fathers doing enough to deserve the honor of Father's Day because it only takes one.
Even if only one father is a positive presence in his child's life, his loved ones and friends should pause every now and again to encourage him; for like mom, the difference dad makes in the life of a child can determine the difference he will make in the life of a whole community.
But Father's Day should not be only for those who are good fathers, but also for those who are growing fathers.
Let us observe Father's Day, not just because there are countless (or uncounted!) loving fathers who are intimately involved in the lives of their children, but also because there are a lot of fathers who need to be loved to wholeness.