The decline of the father in modern family life continues apace. Also, happy father’s day.
According to a new report by the British think tank, the Centre for Social Justice, the rate of single parent families (most of which have a female as the sole parent) are growing by 200,000 a year. Referring to what he termed ‘men deserts,’ Christian Guy, director of the CSJ, said: “For children growing up in some of the poorest parts of the country, men are rarely encountered in the home or in the classroom. This is an ignored form of deprivation that can have profoundly damaging consequences on social and mental development. There are ‘men deserts’ in many parts of our towns and cities and we urgently need to wake up to what is going wrong.” (1.)
The fact that many young children do not have access to a single male role model is alarming. The benefits of a father figure on the well-being of children have been documented for several decades, yet we continue on with the marginalization of men in the home and workplace. The ‘you go grrll’ culture of unbridled female agency and unaccountability, along with a zeitgeist that portrays men as bumbling idiots, anti-social creeps, violent abusers and sexual predators, means that men, everywhere, live under permanent psychological assault. As a result of this cultural warfare, male teachers and mentors are in increasing decline. One only has to look at the ordeal suffered by the science teacher, Christopher Hird, earlier this week, to appreciate the perils facing those who remain. (2.)
Children with little or no fatherly guidance in their homes are being denied male-mediation / intervention (and thus are unable to avail themselves of it’s attendant, restorative healing) in our schools.
This scant access to male energy and wisdom translates into tragedy. The wholeness of the male and female principles, working together, is abated. More pertinently, any of the limit-setting strictures that are traditionally associated with paternalistic concern, completely disappear from children’s worlds as such limits are most needed. Consequently, the rates of adolescent depression, delinquency, sexual promiscuity or substance abuse rise accordingly.
So I am compelled to ask: as Father’s Day approaches, are we going to get yet another malignant tirade; yet another round of projectile-vomit-cum-hatred from the podium in the rose garden? Are we to be regaled with with yet more bile about the spurious ‘epidemic’ of dead-beat dads?
I would ask Mr Obama himself. Have you not already flogged that beast to death? Surely, you can, finally, drop this daddy-is-the-boogeyman rhetoric. Can we not all fast-forward to a more realistic rendering of the truth? Sing a different song, if you will?
One which may actually speak of fathers being kind and loving beings – playful, respectful and even dutiful?
No, no, of course not.
The disposability of the father figure has been underscored, all too trenchantly, in my own life. Like a ‘whack-a-mole,’ it pops up when I am in the park, when a female stranger comes up and asks, inquisitorially, “are these really your children?” It pokes it’s head out of it’s hidey-hole every time I am asked to sign a parental consent form and the only fields printed on the paper are ‘Mother,’ ‘Grandparent’ or ‘Guardian.’ Like many men, I am continually given the covert message from certain quarters, that, as a father, I do not really matter.
However, this father and male human rights activist, knows different. I know that other song, see? I wager that you know it, too: the melody is fast becoming an ear-worm and, in no time at all, we will know all the goddamn words.
To dads everywhere: Happy Father’s Day.