by Tedric Gibbs
The roles of fathers are of the upmost importance to the development of children. President Barack Obama says, “It’s the courage to raise a child that makes you a father.” (Obama) Too often there are homes where the father is absent and not involved in the lives of the children. In today’s society, it has become more common to see single mothers raising and providing for their family. Unfortunately, it is common to see just mothers attending parent/teacher conferences, coming to baseball games, and shopping in the grocery store. The presence of a father is unlikely and ultimately, this can be the first setback in a youth’s life.
Looking closer at this topic, one will find that the emotional health of children is at stake as well as social skills when a father is not present in the home. While collecting information about this subject, I was able to find evidence supporting this claim. Childware.gov states, “Even from birth, children who have an involved father are more likely to be emotionally secure, be confident to explore their surroundings, and, as they grow older, have better social connections with peers. These children also are less likely to get in trouble at home, school, or in the neighborhood. Infants who receive high levels of affection from their fathers (e.g., babies whose fathers respond quickly to their cries and who play together) are more securely attached; that is, they can explore their environment comfortably when a parent is nearby and can readily accept comfort from their parent after a brief separation. A number of studies suggest they also are more sociable and popular with other children throughout early childhood.” It is vital for fathers to accept their role in raising their children.
Moving forward, I think about the youth I serve on a daily basis. As a residential counselor working with adjudicated children, they often times will share their experiences concerning their living situation and upbringing. When listening to their life stories and circumstances, there usually is no mention of their father. This troubles me time after time as there is a correlation with them being locked up and the absence of their father. Fatherhood.org states, “Even after controlling for income, youths in father-absent households still had significantly higher odds of incarceration than those in mother-father families. Youths who never had a father in the household experienced the highest odds.” The article also goes on to say that, “A 2002 Department of Justice survey of 7,000 inmates revealed that 39% of jail inmates lived in mother-only households. Approximately forty-six percent of jail inmates in 2002 had a previously incarcerated family member. One-fifth experienced a father in prison or jail.” These statistics are alarming and unfortunate. Fathers must step up to be the driving force in the lives in their children.
Raised in a two parent, middle class, African-American home, I considered myself to be the “last of a dying breed” so to speak. As I grew older and became more aware socially, it was evident to me that I was one of the only one of my peers to have such a luxury. I recall going to athletic events where most of my peers would be happy have mom cheering from the sidelines or in other cases, there would be no one there to cheer them on. Here I am, with not only my mother, but my father by my side. Instead of my situation being the majority, sadly it was the minority. This would ultimately be the consistent observation as I grew older and went through school. This perplexed me as I would begin to observe more closely where the fathers were. I began to inquire to why my family situation is so foreign and why so many others I encountered did not have the same.
This issue has been a driving force in my life. As a father of two sons, it has been my mission to ensure they realize and understand how important the role of their father is to their success. I truly believe coming from a home or environment where not only mother, but father is present and involved can pay dividends in children’s development and upbringing. As a father, I feel it is my role to teach and role model what is appropriate and set the standard. This has brought my work at EMU full circle, simply because I desire for my children to have a better opportunity in life and by completing my work here, this is a small step in doing just that.