Forty years of faltering fatherhood

When I wake up each morning, chances are it is to the sound of one of my sons. Whether it’s the voice of my 3-year-old or my 4-month-old that breaks my slumber, I find out when I come to. But they’re earlier risers than I am, and more to the point, they live under my roof.

Four decades ago, six in seven kids could say the same thing. Today, it’s five in seven. At current trends, when my boys are my age, perhaps half of American children will live with their dads.

It won’t be only on Father’s Day when they notice.

Sure, many of those future children will see their dads occasionally, as do many of those today who live only with their mothers. But you’ve probably heard the statistics before: Children living with two married parents are less likely to be poor and more likely to be healthy (physically and mentally) and to do well in school than kids who live with single parents or even cohabiting adults.

There’s another obvious but overlooked way boys from two-married-parent households will be better off. They’ll have more of a clue of what it means to be a good dad.

I’ve had few experiences more humbling than fatherhood. (Much of this, and more, I’m sure, applies also to motherhood.)

You learn quickly that babies might drink formula, but they don’t follow formulas. “If X is happening, do Y and you’ll get outcome Z” might work sometimes, but a lot of times it won’t.

You learn quickly that children have their own personalities and, within hours of a second child’s birth, how different they can be. All your practice dealing with one kid’s quirks suddenly looks pretty useless in raising No. 2.

You learn quickly that there’s little you can do about it if Junior doesn’t walk or talk as fast as his peers. If you’re wise, you realize, sooner or later, that you might not have had all that much to do with it if he is one of the fast learners.

And I think you learn, no matter what your relationship was like with your own dad, that there are things to learn from his influence in your life as you try to raise your own child(ren).

Maybe it’s the things he did right, maybe it’s the things he did wrong. My own dad was (is) such a great father, and my own shortcomings as a dad are so apparent to me, it’s all I can do to think about and try to adopt the things he did (does) well.

But even if your dad was a lousy, no-count cuss of an old man, you know why his lousy, no-count, accursed ways were wrong. And why it mattered.

If he was just a no-show, all you know is what absence is like.

Maybe you use his absence as motivation to be present for your own kids, and if so, good for you. But we humans tend to live out the behavior modeled for us, for better or worse. I have to think the rising numbers of children born out of wedlock — 41 percent of all births in 2010 — and/or living without their fathers reflect a pattern of fatherless men letting their own children grow up the same way.

Think of it as compound illegitimacy: The effects of one dad’s absence from his kids’ lives growing and growing, for them and their own children, for years to come.

We don’t talk about these things when we have “national conversations” about topics like inequality. But it’s hard to believe something like tax rates for the 1 percent has as much to do with inequality as a couple of generations of kids growing up with, and passing on, the sins of their fathers.

– By Kyle Wingfield

Find me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter

139 comments Add your comment

This is Mrs. Norman Maine

June 15th, 2012
6:18 pm

Just FYI: Unmarried parents does not mean the kids are growing up without a Dad. Surely you understand that.

jeffrey

June 15th, 2012
6:27 pm

Nice one Kyle. That’s conservatism. Happy fathers day to you.

I Report (-: You Whine )-: mmm, mmmm, mmmmm! Just sayin...

June 15th, 2012
6:35 pm

Yeah and now a lot of them have two dads which is even worse.

ew

catlady

June 15th, 2012
6:38 pm

Married, together parents also do not mean the kids are growing up with a Dad.

Rafe Hollister, suffering through Oblamer's ineptocracy

June 15th, 2012
7:14 pm

Kyle, good column! You are and will be a good Dad, all anyone needs is motivation, and you have that.

There is no higher honor than have some child look up to you and call you Dad.

Someone once said something to the effect of, no man is taller than when he stoops to help a child.
Happy Fathers Day, everyone, even the confused among you that call yourselves Democrats.

Tom(Independent-Viet Vet)

June 15th, 2012
7:20 pm

Happy Fathers Day to all, including you, Barrack Hussein Obama!!! You appear to be a good dad, just not a good leader of our country!!!

Old Timer

June 15th, 2012
7:24 pm

I’ve been a Dad for 57 years to all 4 children and I can say they have learned self sacrific, worked hard and all are successful in theri endeavors. .My wife, ttheir Mother has been there the whole 57 years also. It take team work for success. Revolving door families can create wonderment to young minds.

Hillbilly D

June 15th, 2012
7:58 pm

But we humans tend to live out the behavior modeled for us,

And that’s why it’s so hard to break the cycle. If a child grows up in a dysfunctional household, that’s all they know. It’s hard sometimes to make good choices, if you don’t even know those choices exist. There are those who manage to break the cycle and it’s a wonder that they do.

sandra

June 15th, 2012
8:00 pm

Being a dad does not stop when the children are 18. A dad is for life!!!!

Liz

June 15th, 2012
8:09 pm

Kids are resilient beings, and they will make their own”families” from friends, teachers, parent figures and even within themselves. I know this because I fostered children (and even adopted some).

All of us have some “holes” to fill. Let’s start by recognizing each and every child is special and extremely capable. We all deserve to be happy. We just have to work at it, from within.

Happy Father’s Day, Kyle.

@@

June 15th, 2012
8:12 pm

We live in a society where, all too often, children are disposable or recycled.

Kudos to those fathers who take their paternal role seriously…the Founding Fathers.

Happy Father’s Day!

Hillbilly D

June 15th, 2012
8:36 pm

If Kyle will indulge me, I post this one every year.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4QjZ2q5GyIw

Road Scholar

June 15th, 2012
8:51 pm

Since your column only discussed your role as a father, are you a single parent household?

Former Reagan Republican

June 15th, 2012
9:00 pm

Good column,Kyle. Please understand this is the root cause of so-called failing schools. Schools nor teachers are failing.Our families are vanishing before our eyes. Now let the social democrats start calling me names.

md

June 15th, 2012
9:08 pm

Parenting is the ultimate sacrifice……one’s life is/should be centered around the choice to procreate….the very definition of responsibility (and consequences of choices).

Good luck Kyle with your young ones……best advice I could give would be to enjoy them every minute of every day as you only get them for 1/4 of their life (if lucky) and that 1/4 goes oh so very fast.

md

June 15th, 2012
9:17 pm

And yes, we are a product of our environment…..but we do choose everything we do. And we also provide every child the opportunity to go to school for 12 years “free” of charge……so to say they have no other choice is faulty at best for the vast majority. After all, that school is also part of their environment……(and yes, I’m aware there are some crappy schools, but they aren’t in the majority)

Thomas Heyward Jr.

June 15th, 2012
9:21 pm

Fathers owe it to their children to vote for Ron Paul…or anyone that picks up the torch of liberty.
.
Otherwise…….your enslaved children will curse you for voting for ORomneyBamney when you actually had a chance of nullifying the power of Washington.
.

Dusty

June 15th, 2012
9:59 pm

My father and mother are one of the great blessings in my life. I am always thankful for the unbounded love they gave me.

Just saying..

June 15th, 2012
10:05 pm

Nice column, and well related to concerns at least as important as the size of the national debt.

native

June 15th, 2012
10:17 pm

My condolences, having been there. And my congratulations. You are performing the most important thing you will ever do. My three girls are now all in higher education, and I hope they will make the world a better place. Parenting is important.

brad

June 15th, 2012
10:29 pm

Best. Red. Herring. Ever.

RW-(the original)

June 15th, 2012
11:12 pm

Nice column but a bit of of a simplistic outlook. Every situation is unique and my two were raised by a single father. As many mistakes as I know I made they were still better off than they would have been had they been raised by both of their biological parents and no matter what I do in life being called Dad is my proudest accomplishment.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Unexpectedly Revised Downward--Again)

June 15th, 2012
11:54 pm

Missing fathers and the breakdown of the traditional family–a couple more things that used to keep America strong that libtardism has destroyed.

Thanks, Democrats.

captguitarman

June 16th, 2012
2:35 am

Remember Dan Quayle? Bush Senior’s VP? Not the greatest choice, as everyone noted at the time, but a decent young senator and family man, and Bush handily beat Dukakis and his VP candidate, Lloyd Benson, of Texas even with Quayle on the ticket. Benson delivered line in the VP debate that was, back then, a withering put down of his opponent, Quayle, telling him with great dramatic effect that he was “no John Kennedy.” Tough on Quayle, but he was elected the VP with Bush as Prez.

But time marches on, and historical facts slowly leak out, and based on what we know today about John Kennedy, the Philanderer in Chief, Benson may have unwittingly given Quayle more of a compliment than a put down.

And then Quayle once again “stepped into it” by saying not nice things about the Murphy Brown character in the popular TV series, Murphy Brown, about a very well off and very liberal single mom eschewing the presence of dad in her home. Quayle opined that kids are much better off with a mom AND a dad at home, and not just with a mom. It created a fire storm of elitist liberal criticism, and elite liberal women (and movie and TV personalities) who could afford to hire 24/7 nannies (like Murphy Brown) to be substitute “dads” excorciated Quayle unmercifully – giving no thought to the reality that 99.9% of single moms could not afford to hire 24/7 nannies as substitute Dads.

Well, funny how things go, isn’t it? Every bit of credible clinincal and professional, and just plain common sense, evidence we have today about raising children tells us that a dad in the home (if possible, and it some times isn’t) is absolutely the best thing for raising kids, and the children that grow up without dads are permanently disadvantaged. Unfortunately, it is not always a choice for single moms to have dad around . . . but many times it is. But putting that discussion aside for the moement, it is not only ironic, but very amusing as you think on the treatment Quayle received from people who would never own up now to their clear and obvious misguided position, that Dan Quayle was right — no doubt about it. Yep. Dan Quayle was absolutely, positively correct in his views! All you have to do today is look around to see how things are in order to see it.

Road Scholar

June 16th, 2012
5:41 am

One caring parent is all you need, although having two would be better. The caring part is the most important!

Lil' Barry Bailout (Unexpectedly Revised Downward--Again)

June 16th, 2012
6:30 am

The evidence proves you wrong, Road.

Quayle was right.

Jms

June 16th, 2012
6:51 am

You work with what you’ve got but I have no doubt that a loving and committed Mom and Dad (and you can add grandparents too) have the best chance of producing great children.

jdl2

June 16th, 2012
7:12 am

Maybe once you’ve REALLY been a father, not just for three years but till they’ve grown and out of the house, when you’ve gone through their teens and college with them, when you’ve helped them through not just the good times but their really tough times, maybe then, and only then, do you get to sound off about what being a FATHER is about. Oh, and you have to stay married that whole time too. Pay your dues before you preach.

Ayn Rant

June 16th, 2012
7:20 am

Nice column, except for the “raised without a dad” baloney! Many children raised with a dad in the household are fortunate, but many are not. Many men are negligent dads, poor examples of responsible adulthood, and bad role models. Some are child abusers. Two million men, including many dads, are in prison, for Christ’s sake!

Children raised in single parent households are more likely to be poor, living on a single or no income, and less likely to be protected from neglect and abuse.

Raising children is a taxing, expensive business best handled by two responsible, intelligent adults. It seems to me that the best parenting arrangement is a household with two moms and no dad. A partnership of two women is more likely to provide loving care for children, and less likely to abuse, or to tolerate abuse, of the children in their care.

DeborahinAthens

June 16th, 2012
7:31 am

I will agree that single parent homes are tough, but we have great examples of stellar individuals that have come from those homes. My sister has been in a committed relationship for 22 years with a woman that is as dear to me as my other sister-in-laws. They have two fabulous kids, both honor students, both active in the community in charitable organizations. My niece was accepted to every college to which she applied. My nephew was in the newspaper because, while in middle school, he scored one of the highest scores on the pre-SAT. He plays football. I know many fractured, bad, bad two parent families. They are led by a father that is often drunk, or high on meth or cocaine, frequently abusive. I have never, ever heard of a gay father abusing his children. EVER! And I am sure that you, Kyle, would ferret it out. The mother in Texas who drowned her six kids was in a two parent home led by a maniac, religious conservative dad. So, conservatives, beat your drums, L’il Barry, cherry pick your “studies”, and Kyle, what a waste of a Father’s Day column. What about focusing on the fathers that get up at five AM to take their kids to swim meets, that work hard so their kids can go to college. Shame on you.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Unexpectedly Revised Downward--Again)

June 16th, 2012
7:48 am

The lefty spinning is quite frantic already this morning.

I guess it must suck for you that Quayle was right and you are wrong.

Your anecdotal evidence of two-parent kids gone wrong and single-parent kids doing well is overwhelmed by the studies on this issue. You really ought to get a better grasp of statistics and what they mean. In this case, they tell us that most of the time, kids living in normal two-parent households do better on a whole range of measures.

Isn’t it you libtards who are always claiming that Republicans ignore science? Turns out you were merely projecting.

Quayle: Right.

You: Wrong.

Really?

June 16th, 2012
7:48 am

Anyone can be a father but not everyone is a Dad. Sometimes you have to be a Dad away from your kids. If you stay hooked in … really hooked in, you still can be a great Dad. It takes more effort. I know. But when the chips are down or good things happen, my adult kids first call me, not their Mom because they know they can count on me. My most important job was to make sure they know right from wrong, can live independently and succeed knowing that some day, I won’t be here. Luckily that was accomplished. That was the one thing in life I didn’t screw up somehow in some way and that’s good because it is the most important thing. Although I’m at the top of my field internationally, that means nothing to me compared to being a great Dad. It is a lifetime commitment and it’s the most satisfying thing I’ve ever done. Teaching them to read, hit a ball, ride a bike and especially know right from wrong.. that’s where it’s at. You can do this if you live apart from them and their mother. It’s difficult and difficult for them, but you do it because you are a Dad and they are the most important things in your life…. always, as long as you are alive. Happy Father’s Day Kyle. Next year you might want to tip your cap to their Mother on Mother’s Day as well.

Michael H. Smith

June 16th, 2012
8:17 am

Best to all the fathers who stuck around after their fifteen seconds of infamy. The rest are simply contributors to the human gene pool.

GT

June 16th, 2012
8:50 am

We seldom talk of any sin we are involved in ourselves, it is the other guy’s sin we are concern with. That is what makes gays such a target and now on the eve of father’s day we expound on the negatives of fatherhood since once again our children are under our roof. That guy next door needs to cut his yard.

A lot of things have deteriorated in our life time that is front and center in this family crisis. Divorce is like one of those western forest fires totally out of control. Marriage is just not as important to this generation of people as it was 20 years ago. When you run a Gingrich or Cain as president of the United States you spit in the face of us who hold this institution holly. Cain because he doesn’t respect his wedding vows which is the same as divorce. Sure these kind of people exist but why are they allowed to be leaders when they can’t manage their personal affairs.

The drug war. Go to visiting day at a federal prison. You will see a very different picture from the one painted by the posters on drug dealers. You see mules locked up, young fathers that lived in a crime infested neighborhood became part of their environment. They love their kids as much as we love ours. We separate these families for what? We have lost that war and now we are causing more damage by separating the families. What a great opportunity to correct some of our damage instead of making it worse. Let the fathers go home, let them live with their families and if they don’t then lock em up, like you are doing now. Show ,as a nation, we care about the family unit and that no other thing is more important. You can’t do that running bums for president and holding them up as role models. Show some leadership, some character, stop with the observations of what is wrong that you are not responsible for. It is a cop out and that is exactly what is wrong with this country and we all participate not just the unfortunate you seen to dwell on.

Lil' Barry Bailout (Unexpectedly Revised Downward--Again)

June 16th, 2012
8:53 am

Nice try, GT, but the root cause of the single parent problem is that taxpayers subsidize it.

Thanks, Democrats.

Buzz G

June 16th, 2012
9:05 am

A stable family is incredibly important. Marriage is a commitment of a potential father to a potential mother (and vise versa) and is the foundation for family. That marriage requires a huge commitment for the sake of the children. And that is why the meaning of marriage should not be diluted with homosexual relationships. It is kind of like the military handing out purple heart metals. It has a specific meaning. And to hand out a purple heart to every soldier would dilute its significance. Father’s Day is a good time to remind ourselves why gay marriage is not a good idea and why for thousands of years marriage has been reserved for that relationship between a man and a woman.

GT

June 16th, 2012
9:29 am

Until we start taking the blame of this failure on ourselves and stop looking for someone else to blame it on it will never get better. We do not give marriage as much priority as frame and fortune which have become our religion. Even these new mega churches are all about theatrics and attraction and little about substance. This whole new Republican Party is right there in the middle of this new Hollywood life style. You biggest backer is a casino owner! Look at yourselves and be ashamed.

Tom(Independent-Viet Vet-USAF)

June 16th, 2012
9:34 am

DeborahinAthens@7:31a – Nice try but there are exceptions to every rule. Yes, yours is a nice story but those type situations are very rare, even if you choose not to admit it!!

Oblama

June 16th, 2012
9:43 am

Rant On – There is no such thing as two moms. We all come with one mother and one father – unless they start cloning. It still takes a male and a female to produce a child. N O W is mostly lesbians that hate men and they have been promoting the “alternate” life style for years. Maybe they had bad fathers and therefore hate men. None the less one good parent is not all a child needs. They all need a loving mother and a loving father. That is the way it should be. Drugs, pornography, sex outside of marriage, Godless homes are responsible for the destruction of our families. Now our President is promoting “Same Sex Marriage” …. trying to be stylish I guess but he won’t get my vote.

Just saying..

June 16th, 2012
9:46 am

Contarded To The Core, Hate for no other reason, except..,
June 16th, 2012
8:22 am: “@LBB Can you EVER post on a blog without turning it into a one-political-party-vs-the-other tirade?”

Have read this blog for several months now, I can answer that question.
No.

Oblama

June 16th, 2012
9:47 am

GT – Give it a rest: Everyone knows that Hollyweird funds the Dems and Hollyweird promotes all that is bad in society. After all, Obama is our 1st “Reality Show” President.

Oblama

June 16th, 2012
9:49 am

If you don’t agree with Kyle then you are part of the problem.

the red herring

June 16th, 2012
10:01 am

the all knowing government caused much of this by rewarding people to have children they simply couldn’t afford to pay for and in order to keep the government money flowing the deadbeat dads were sent packing and unfortunately in many cases not required to pay support even if they could. no this is not always the case but it is true in many of the cases. let the deadbeats pay before the taxpayer —as i recall it’s supposed to all be about fairness isn’t it?? For the last 40 to 50 years we have raised generations of new liberals with their hands out for free govt. money, food, healthcare. sad but true and now they all vote the people that promise not to cut the cash cord. happy fathers day to all.

md

June 16th, 2012
10:21 am

“You see mules locked up, young fathers that lived in a crime infested neighborhood became part of their environment.”

I grew up in an area like that. And I was approached on more than one occasion to be a “mule”……and the answer was always “no” even though the dollar signs were dancing in my head.

We choose everything we do…………

AmVet

June 16th, 2012
10:32 am

Everyone knows that Hollyweird funds the Dems and Hollyweird promotes all that is bad in society and that the neocons stand in lines by the hundreds of thousands to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on them.

Given that, is it any wonder that both they and their perverse, philandering “leaders” are the very poster boys for that lifestyle?

Hysterical…

md

June 16th, 2012
10:41 am

Morning Am…..had a chance to look over that chart yet and educate yourself on that “simplistic tripe”?

AmVet

June 16th, 2012
10:46 am

But it’s hard to believe something like tax rates for the 1 percent has as much to do with inequality as a couple of generations of kids growing up with, and passing on, the sins of their fathers.

Absolutely unrelated, conflated nonsense.

The answer is there is too much power and too much wealth in too few hands and the few control our government and the few create the problems and the injustices for the many and have less and less interest in doing anything about it because they can get away with it. ~Ralph Nader 1996

md

June 16th, 2012
10:52 am

Am……the consumer has more power in numbers than any member of the one percent……but herding cats is the difficult part.

AmVet

June 16th, 2012
11:18 am

Tis true, that many in the 99% have been exceedingly content to remain unempowered, uninvolved and uniformed.

To their family’s own needless sacrifice and bleak future.

And even worse, when the first nascent steps to take that power back are met by cowardly self-saboteurs who maliciously lie and make wholesale stereotypes about the movement trying to accomplish that, one realizes the daunting task ahead.

If the neoliberals want to continue to take it on the chin and get economically screwed over – via nonexistent increases in their incomes – for yet another forty years, that is their business.

That they want to take the entire American middle class down with them is mine…

Lil' Barry Bailout (Unexpectedly Revised Downward--Again)

June 16th, 2012
11:55 am

More government = weaker families, more poverty, more crime.

Thanks, Democrats.