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home : opinion : opinion May 29, 2016

8/26/2013 11:45:00 AM
Father-focused events hurt some more than help
Darla Hussey

This year, McFarland Middle School is doing something called "The Million Father March." It's a nationwide movement to get fathers more involved in their kids' education - and I hate it.
I don't hate it because there's anything inherently wrong with the movement. I hate it because it's just one more event that singles out kids whose father is absent. Fathers go AWOL for many reasons, but one universal truth is that it is never, ever the fault of the children. And yet, kids pay the biggest price.
Organizers of father-centric events try to be accommodating by stating it's perfectly appropriate for an uncle, grandfather or other father-substitute to attend, but it's not the same. Yes, I could probably get my boys' uncle who lives 120 miles away to make the trip, but seriously? Just to take the kid to school? It wouldn't fool anybody - my kid would still know his dad isn't there and so would everybody else.
That my son won't be the only one whose father doesn't show is a pretty pathetic consolation. It won't make him feel any better (kids don't generalize like that), it won't make the other kids feel any better and it doesn't really make me feel any better, it's simply the most positive thing I can get out of the situation.
Lest anyone think I'm targeting McFarland in particular, I am not. Locally, Scootney Springs Elementary has a yearly event where dads attend with their kids to read and do other fun, reading-type stuff. Despite the fact my son was at Scootney for most of his elementary career, I have never attended. I offered to go, but he was embarrassed because I'm so obviously not dad. Once, a very dear family friend took him and, while both had fun, it wasn't the same thing. No one was cruel, but nonetheless, my son felt his father's absence that night even more severely than normal as he watched kids whose dads did show up.
School events are not supposed to be painful, so he never did that again.
There are many, many events designed to build the relationship between dads and kids. With the start of school looming, the kids won't believe it, but our district is not the root of all evil.
Lest I fail to acknowledge my single-parent brothers, there are indeed more and more single dads raising kids with nary a mother in sight. I am lucky enough to know a few of these guys and they're simply amazing. However, there is a huge difference - there are very few public events that are exclusively mother-child. Mother's Day is celebrated at home. There is no Million Mother March.
I am most certainly not suggesting an upswing in events focusing solely on the mother - kiddos whose mom is not present do not need public reminders, either. Cutting out father-centered events is not currently a realistic solution (I admit, I selfishly wish for that). For reasons I won't tackle, many dads seem to need coercion to get involved with their kid's lives. The only possible solution I see is for fathers' presence to become so taken for granted that it doesn't have to be singled out and celebrated - or the lack of it mourned, publicly. I don't see that happening any time soon.
It's a complicated situation, but the fact remains - I hate these events. I hate what they do to the kids who had absolutely no role in becoming fatherless. And, personally, I hate that there's just not a darned thing I can do about it.

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