A few years ago, I entered my college classroom, laid down my books, and started writing on the white board. A handful of students were already in the classroom. In particular, two young women were sitting at the front of the classroom engaged in a conversation that went something like this.
Student #1: “Yes, she is pregnant.”
Student #2: “Really, and what is she going to do?”
Student #1: “Oh, she is going to live with her father. It’s not that important that the baby has a dad around. These days women are able to do it on their own.”
All I can say is that I am thankful that this happened at the end of the semester and that the students knew me as a calm teacher who did not easily become agitated. Why? Because I went off the “deep end.”
I turned around from the board and gave an incredulous look to the young woman. I asked her if she had understood the ramification of the words she had just uttered. I told her that statistically her friend would probably live a life of economic struggle if she remained a single parent. I also told her that if the child never built a relationship with his/her biological father that it would more than likely affect the child’s social and emotional life.
The above memory came flooding back to me as I sat in my ABCU office this semester interviewing sophomore education students. Of the 11 students that I interviewed that week, three of them told me that their fathers had abandoned them and that they had never had any contact with them. The impact was profound and I remember looking at one young man as tears streamed down his face. He told me that he had several siblings scattered through out Liberia and he didn’t know any of them. On his face, you could see the yearning for a connection with his father and his siblings.
All three of these young men had mothers who had been faithful to them; though they appreciated their mothers it wasn’t enough. I think if I could have talked to their mothers that each mother would have willingly admitted that the choice she had made or the situation she had been forced into had been harmful to her as well as her son.
I am thankful that these women remained steadfast in their son’s lives. However, I also have to recognize that God’s best is for children to have both a strong father and mother in the home.
I have always appreciated the research and writings of sociologist Dr. David Popenoe. He points out, “Fathers are far more than just ‘second adults’ in the home. Involved fathers bring positive benefits to their children that no other person is as likely to bring.” (Rosenburg, 2006) What are some of those positive benefits: improved psychological well-being, social behavior, cognitive ability, and educational accomplishments.
In addition, fathers who treat the mother with respect act as role models and decrease the likelihood of their sons showing aggression toward females. To read a well summarized article about Popenoe’s and other researchers’ findings click on The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children.
The authors of the book Freakonomics also host a website. On their website they point out that past and current research continues to find that fathers are important in children’s lives, especially boys. The website references a working paper by Cobb-Clark and Tekin that found that adolescent boys are less likely to be involved in delinquent behavior if a father is in the household.
WHAT DO WE DO…
I know that none of these findings are a surprise, but it does raise the question, “What does this mean for us as Christian women living in this fallen world?” Here is my thinking. We need to:
- Acknowledge that in God’s perfect plan that the best environment for raising children is when both the father and mother are present.
- Show respect for our husband and let our sons know and see that the role of the father is vital in the home. If you are not married to your children’s father, you still can promote the importance of a father being in the children’s lives. (I am aware that there are times when it is harmful for children to have a relationship with their father, and I am not promoting putting children in harms way.)
- Talk to our teenagers and young adult children about the research findings. They live in a world that offers a lot of alternative choices that are in juxtaposition to God’s plan. We need to help them understand that God is not trying to punish them with the directions for choosing a mate and sexual purity, but to protect them and their future family.
- Help our children interact with positive male role models. If there is a reason for or the father chooses not to be in a child’s life then it is important to find godly men to interact with the child to act as mentors and role models.
- Have a spirit of love and grace toward single parents. It is a difficult task raising children on your own. We need to be there to support and help them.
- Acknowledge that all children are created in the “image of God” and deserve to be loved and treated as special and unique individuals.
My thoughts return to the young man sitting in my office with tears streaming down his face. I know that I would never have the right words to take away his hurt, but I can continue to point him toward God the Father who created him and loves him, and has a special place in his heart for the fatherless.
He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widow, is God in his holy dwelling.
What is a Think Through? it is an idiom that conveys the meaning of carefully considering possibilities and outcomes of a situation.
This week’s Think Through: How has your father influenced your life?