By: Natalie Plumb
On Hallmark Cards, Inc., in this day and age, as a recent Washington Post piece puts it, “Dad will be portrayed as a farting, beer-obsessed, tool-challenged buffoon who would rather hog the TV remote, go fishing or play golf than be with the kids.”
Dad can’t have sunk that low, but that is certainly the stereotype. Such stereotypes seem to have become the reason for a lot of new media actually promoting fatherhood.
I was listening to NPR the other night, and Paul Raeburn came on to talk about his new book, “Do Fathers Matter? What Science Is Telling Us About the Parent We’ve Overlooked.” My first thoughts were that maybe, just maybe the media would allow someone to admit that a father, complementary to a mother, plays a vital role when it comes to raising a child.
At first, I was highly pleased. Raeburn claimed that “fathers and mothers do different things…I don’t think there’s any question about that.” Raeburn mentioned examples — a father’s involvement with his daughter can lead to a reduced risk of early puberty: “The problem with early puberty is that’s also linked to higher risk of risky sexual behavior, higher likelihood…of teenage pregnancy; it just can put daughters on a bad road.”
Raeburn also went on to say that the father is so important that a single mother should find a father figure for her child, whether that be a cousin, a brother, a neighbor or a close friend.
But then, inevitably, the conversation shifted.
After a handful of people had called in to give stories about how their fathers had positively impacted their lives, Raeburn tangentially remarked that gay couples can adapt to the roles of father and mother, and that, therefore, “Those kids do just fine.”
Huh? Isn’t that completely contradictory? What was the whole point of anything else you said in the podcast, Raeburn?: Oh, sure, men and women play vastly different roles that are vital to raising healthy and happy children, but – because I’m too afraid to admit otherwise for fear of not being P.C. – yes, sure, gay couples can do the same thing (sort of).
Let’s say — disregarding any evidence to the contrary — that those children do do “just fine.” Is “okay” truly the model we want to promote? Now, I know the answer to that. So do the many protesters who marched on the National Mall today to stand for traditional marriage. The Catholic Diocese of Arlington had a pretty good showing of Chancery staff and even a few of our seminarians! Click on the photo below to see the full album.
Do fathers matter? The question sounds absurd. Of course they do. Just as family is the building block of society, so are man and woman – together – the building blocks of family. We have flourished this way for centuries. We have filled the earth. Let’s not regress by denying that men and women are biologically set apart to be with one another, and that no other combination is possible. To claim that any distortion of the union of a man and a woman is just, right or even equal is not borne out by common sense, logic or reality.
Fathers are imperative. My father taught me to dress like it’s always winter (insert guffaw). He taught me to go on dates in public places. My father showed me how to use my computer. He taught me how to say no and how to stand up for myself. My father, too, was the tall guy in the back at every one of my ballet recitals.
The role my father played in my life is priceless. He cannot be summed up in those few sentences. What he did is unique. He did things for me that my mom was not equipped to do. He is, just as is my mom, irreplaceable. (Dad, consider this a second “Happy Father’s Day!”)
Tell your positive story. No set of parents is perfect, but each parent gives very unique – female and male – contributions to the raising of their children. Please comment below with your stories. How did your dad change your life? How did your mom influence the way you live? How did having both present in your life make you a better person? Silence on this topic changes nothing. Simply by telling your story to the world, you can change it, too.
Natalie writes on Thursdays about faith, dating, relationships, and the in between. May her non-fiction stories and scenarios challenge you. May they help you laugh, cry, think and wonder.