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Reclaiming Father’s Day

POSTED June 27, 2009 4:54 p.m.
As another Father’s Day comes and goes, there are many who cringe when they see television-perfect children and their dads fishing together or playing catch. The ideal father-child relationship portrayed by Madison Avenue marketing types to sell more ties, lawn mowers and tools is just a reminder to some that a model father is nothing but fiction. But there is a way for the men in our community to reclaim Father’s Day and become the good male role models that fathers should be.
The sad fact is more and more children are growing up in single-parent households (19.3 million or about 21 percent of all children, according to the U.S. Census Bureau). Of those 19.3 million children, 88 percent live with their mother only. The effects of absent fathers are immediate and long-lasting. Separation and divorce are associated with poorer school performance, greater risk of teen pregnancy, higher rates of delinquency, and a worsening of the mental health of both mothers and children. In the U.S., a child raised by his or her mother alone is five times as likely to live below the national poverty line, as defined by the Luxembourg Income Study.
I don’t know why so many men decide they can’t shoulder the responsibility of fatherhood. Some might say it is the fear of being a bad parent that prompts men to take flight when the rabbit dies (or more accurately, a “+” appears in the test stick window). It’s not like most women have any idea how to be a mother when their first child is born. Women have to learn on the job when it comes to child rearing. Whatever the reason, there are too many children who do not have a positive male role model in their lives.
On this Father’s Day, instead of sympathizing with those children without a full-time dad or bemoaning the decline of family values, actually do something about it. There are a variety of organizations who are in need of men willing to volunteer their time and talents working with children.
Big Brothers is the oldest and largest organization in the United States that helps connect children with adult mentors. It all began in 1904 when Ernest Coulter, a New York City court clerk, became concerned with the increasing number of boys coming through his courtroom. He recognized that having an adult who cares could help many of these kids stay out of trouble, and he set out to find volunteers. By 1916, Big Brothers had spread to 96 cities across the country.
If you are a man of good character, then consider volunteering with Big Brothers. You could give a child who may only have bad or violent associations with the men in their life a stable, healthy relationship. For more information about Big Brothers in Stanislaus County, contact the volunteer center of The United Way at 524-1307.
If committing yourself for an hour a week every week doesn’t seem possible with your schedule, you can still make a difference. Westside Ministries, a nonprofit outreach program on the west side of Turlock, has a host of opportunities for caring adults to volunteer their time with local children who need it.
“We have tons and tons of opportunities here to stand beside a child,” said Westside Ministries’ director JoLynn DiGrazia.
DiGrazia said there are volunteer opportunities for adults who can help children with their homework after school, work on 4-H projects or even just come for a work day where children and volunteers work together to paint, clean or repair the Westside Ministries site.
“When (adults) provide a good model and work ethic, it helps the children develop a good work ethic,” DiGrazia said.
For the next four weeks, Westside Ministries is sponsoring a free sports camp for local children. Men who like sports are also welcome to volunteer with this popular program that gives hundreds of local kids something constructive to do while school is out.
For more information about volunteering with Westside Ministries, call 667-8593.
So take time this Father’s Day and think about giving back. If your father really was “World’s Best Dad” then honor him by passing on his love to others who need it. If “dad” was a four letter word for you while growing up, break the cycle of neglect and abuse and become the father figure you never had.
With an attitude of servitude, Father’s Day can be the day of honor it was intended to be.
To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail khacker@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.
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