“Son, you know you are a mistake…right? I mean you’re a good kid, but I just didn’t expect you and now you are in my way. So, I need you to chill out and not cause me problems so I can do what I need to do.”
These were the words my father, a prominent pastor, told me when I was just 10 years old. These words stuck with me for years ― and it hurt every single day.
I was blessed with a chance of redemption by having a conversation with my father almost 25 years later. This conversation was tough, but it was a blessing. It wasn’t until having a tough discussion with my father that I could see where those words came from in his fatherhood story and why those words were said to me.
Some people can’t have those tough conversations with their dads, so what are we supposed to do?
When men have seen a generation of fathers being unavailable or not involved in their lives, does that mean we should operate in a new normal of how we view fathers? These questions are real in our society today, but there is an answer to these questions if we just pay attention to what the statistics point us to in serving fathers. Statistics show us that fathers are not just needed but are essential to the growth of a young man and the validation of a young woman.
Here are just a few statistics from reputable sources showing the need for involvement from fathers:
— Children in father-absent homes are almost four times more likely to be poor. (U.S. Census Bureau)
— Children of single mothers show higher levels of aggressive behavior than children born to married mothers. (Journal of Marriage and Family)
— One in five prison inmates had a father in prison. (Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs)
— Teens without fathers are twice as likely to be involved in early sexual activity and young women are seven times more likely to get pregnant as an adolescent. (Child Development Journal)
We see the repeated factors involved when fathers are absent and not positively active in the lives of children. It matters what our children see, hear and, ultimately, do. We see the inactiveness of fathers in the family which cannot be ignored in restoring the importance and value of the father.
In a study published in the Journal of Family Psychology in 2022, researchers examined father involvement with 134 children of adolescent mothers over the first 10 years of life and found that father-child contact was associated with better socio-emotional and academic functioning. The results indicated that children with more involved fathers experienced fewer behavioral problems and scored higher on reading achievement. This study showed the significance of the role of fathers in the lives of at-risk children, even in the case of nonresident fathers.
It’s one thing to read a stat sheet about fatherlessness in our world today, but what is the practical answer to reach fathers and positively affect families and communities?
This is the aim of a local nonprofit I run, Major League Dad. Major League Dad makes this happen through dedicated volunteers as well as through local churches who support by providing resources and by praying for the fathers that we serve. Major League Dad provides fatherhood sessions through actual curriculum but also in relational coaching and presence to give these fathers the confidence of someone walking through the role of being a father together.
Major League Dad also partners with other local organizations and schools to help build a healthy view of fatherhood through different “Let’s Talk Fatherhood” sessions. Major League Dad provides every tool possible to support and walk with fathers to do what God created fathers to do.
We see the negative impact that comes from fathers being absent or not involved. We also see the affirming and overwhelming need for fathers to understand their role and responsibility in raising children, and the positive effects of fathers being present and positively influencing their children. From the time she takes the pregnancy test and says, “Sweetie, we’re pregnant” to the hustling around, packing the hospital bag with nervousness and anticipation to driving to the hospital to see that beautiful baby, the father has a significant role, and that role must be elevated, not diminished.
Gary Freeman lives in southeast Raleigh with his wife and two daughters. You can learn more about Major League Dad at www.majorleaguedad.org