I can't necessarily say that I grew up without my father, he was there but not there, if that makes sense. Was his priorities a bit off, yes. My parents divorced when I was ten years old. It did not hit me right away, but I describe this experience like weeds that grow in your beautiful garden. They grow roots that you do not see until the actual weed comes out onto the surface and reveals itself - thus ruining the image and beauty of that garden.
To give my father credit, he was an amazing provider to my brother and I. His work ethic is something that I still emulate till this day and for many children and fathers out there, this could be a similar case. As great as it is to provide though, there is one thing that many father's have lacked and forgotten, and that is actually having a RELATIONSHIP – something that takes much more time and investment.
Growing up, I played many baseball and basketball leagues and at each game I would look up to the stands in hopes to see my father there cheering me on, but it never happened. I remember asking myself if my father really even cared about me or what my brother and I enjoyed to do.
Fast forward 15+ years later and I have to say that God always has a plan. I feel like one of the lucky ones that survived this fatherless epidemic, but it took a lot of healing and the power of God's word in my life to remind me that He was my Heavenly father. Many of you can probably relate to my experience, but some of you have had it even worse - being raised with no father figure present in your life.
I was curious to find out some statistics on the fatherless epidemic that has taken over our country for quite sometime now.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24 million children in America -- one out of every three -- live in biological father-absent homes. Nine in ten American parents agree this is a “crisis.” The article goes on to say this, "Consequently, there is a 'father factor' in nearly all of the social issues facing America today. But the hope lies in the fact that children with involved fathers do better across every measure of child well-being than their peers in father-absent homes."
"There is a 'Father-factor in nearly all of the social issues facing America today." What does that mean? It means that this crisis has and is affecting every part of our lives. If that does not speak of the importance of fatherhood, then check out some more statistics that blew my mind.
The Father Factor Crisis in:
Poverty - Children in father-absent homes are almost four times more likely to be poor. In 2011, 12 percent of children in married-couple families were living in poverty, compared to 44 percent of children in mother-only families.
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Children’s Living Arrangements and Characteristics: March 2011, Table C8. Washington D.C.: 2011.
Drug and Alcohol abuse - Even after controlling for community context, there is significantly more drug use among children who do not live with their mother and father.
Source: Hoffmann, John P. “The Community Context of Family Structure and Adolescent Drug Use.” Journal of Marriage and Family 64 (May 2002): 314-330.
Crime - A study of 109 juvenile offenders indicated that family structure significantly predicts delinquency.
Source: Bush, Connee, Ronald L. Mullis, and Ann K. Mullis. “Differences in Empathy Between Offender and Nonoffender Youth.” Journal of Youth and Adolescence 29 (August 2000): 467-478.
Teen Pregnancy and Sexual Activity - Being raised by a single mother raises the risk of teen pregnancy, marrying with less than a high school degree, and forming a marriage where both partners have less than a high school degree.
Source: Teachman, Jay D. “The Childhood Living Arrangements of Children and the Characteristics of Their Marriages.” Journal of Family Issues 25 (January 2004): 86-111.
Other affected areas are:
Mental and Child Health
(The above statistics and information was taken from http://www.fatherhood.org/father-absence-statistics)
I hope that I have not lost you, but my point in this article is not to just bring you statistics, but to shine the light on the importance of Fatherhood – and to encourage every father out there to be the leaders that God has called them to be and family needs them to be.
Whether you know it or not, the value that you hold in your families life is huge. Every decision that you make plays major dividends in the direction your family goes. You are the example to your family and they are looking up to you.
Like I said earlier, I am a product of a divorced home, so I was that child that grew up with questions, confused, lonely and upset. The last thing that I want, is for your child to feel the same. So as I wrap up this article, I wanted to bring a unique twist. I want to give every father a few key practical things that I believe every child longs for. I will be writing this from the perspective of the child. Please read the next portion of this article as if it was your own child writing it yourself.
SPEND TIME WITH ME. Time is the most valuable possession that we all have and if you give that to me willingly and wholeheartedly, that will hold more value than anything else in my life. I know you are busy, but I rather have thirty minutes to an hour of your full, undivided attention then the whole day with you there, but not there.
PRAY WITH FOR ME. Show me your faith. Show me the God that you serve. Show me how to pray. Teach me His ways. You may think that I will not pay attention,. but every word and action will deposit seeds in my heart that will reap in my future. You are my example and my leader, but if I see your love for God, I will want to know Him and also love Him alongside of you. This is so valuable for my future.
SHOW ME YOUR HEART. I don't need you to be perfect. By doing that, you might hinder and take away lessons in my life that I need to learn. Show me your heart. Show me that it is ok to take risks and even if you fail. Don't just show me the good times, show me hard times, but also show me how to get back up and keep going. Let me be a part of your process. Let me be a part of your journey.
TALK WITH ME AND LISTEN TO ME. You might not be the best communicator or sociable person, but a simple, how are you doing today? can go a long way for me. And when we are talking please really listen to me. Sometimes I might not need you to say anything but just listen.
LOVE ME. Don't just say you love me, show me you love me. Support me, correct me when I am wrong, give me proper guidance and don't forget to be affectionate to me once in a while. Real fathers cry, but real father's also express love.
There may be other areas that might need attention, but I hope that this hits home to you, as much as it did to me. By the grace and power of God, I was able to make it. I am still a work in progress, but I can truly say that I live my life with excellence for my family.
My prayer is that this can be an encouragement and a reminder to every father out there. Pursue your relationship with your children with everything you have. Your efforts, time and love will not go unnoticed. Your children are a gift from God to you. Let God lead you to lead them!