The Good Fathers Do

…time for a Father’s Day Resolution?
(c) 2016, Davd

Father’s Day this year, i plan to be with one of my sons, and his sons… and a few other relatives. One of the grandsons has a birthday this week, and that will get some attention, but the grandson’s “main party” will be on Saturday. It’s not that different, the day i expect, from Father’s Days when i was a grandson and my father and grandfather were honoured.

Sadly, it is much less common than it was 60-70 years ago. When i was the boy rather than the middle generation father or [now] the grandfather, most children had fathers who lived under the same roof with them, who they saw every day, who assigned them chores to do, and often worked with them; he took them to church, out fishing, to the circus or a ballgame… even to libraries and museums.

In those years, Father’s Day was a Sunday when the father in the household got priority, and also put some effort into making the day fun for the rest of the household, especially the children. It was a variation on, not a departure from, normal family life.

Now, too many households are fatherless… and not to be nice where that might conflict with the truth, there will be a significant number where a man who doesn’t get to father the children day-to-day, is put through a “Father’s Day” routine that unlike the Father’s Days i remember, is a departure from rather than a variation on normal family life. It may sometimes be better than nothing; it is much less than fatherhood…

… and fatherhood is where men and their children thrive. Children with fathers do better, achieve more, do and suffer less harm, than fatherless children; and Hancock [2007] gave several statistical specifics, with citations to sources of that and what were then recent years;1 i last accessed his article this week.

Instead of giving women incentives to leave marriages and deny children the benefit of their fathers, “society” should be giving women (and men) incentives to be monogamous and faithful. Separating fathers and children should be ordered only when a wrongdoing2 has been proven3. For that matter, marriage promises should be taken seriously when made! and applications to break them other than “for grievous fault” should not be rewarded financially nor with the care of any children involved.

(For clarification: In stating the case for fatherhood, for fathers living with their children day-to-day, i am not trying to extol the “nuclear family” pattern that was also common in my boyhood years. The ideal family household should have three generations present, sometimes four, and a total of ten or more members. It was the convenience of employers and “labour mobility”, not family well being, that nuclear family housing served.)

A father is a man who rears the children he has sired. In North America and most or all of Europe, those children normally all have the same mother (where “normally” is based on the “normal” promises of lifelong marriage, which were mostly kept in my boyhood years but today, are not kept by even half the couples who say them.)

If a man rears children he did not sire, he is a stepfather. Step-fathering is an honourable, even noble work; and the fact he has less in common genetically with those children than he would have if he had sired them, makes the job a bit more difficult. Being biologically close facilitates understanding one another.

If a man has sired children but does not rear them, he isn’t fathering; and “sire” is probably the best word to use to describe his relationship to those children. It is also the usual word for the male progenitor in animal breeding. Those sires often get for their human owners, a “stud fee,” and never to my knowledge is a bovine, canine, equine, porcine, … sire or its owner required to pay any equivalent of “child support”.

The notion that a human sire should pay “child support” might make sense if that sire married, or promised to marry, the mother, and then wasn’t faithful to his word. It might make sense if a mother’s whole working strength went to caring for and rearing children and their sires could expect to benefit from those children when they are grown. It makes precious little sense when the mother has a good job and the sire has no fatherly relationship to the children.

When the sire’s relationship to the children is limited to having got their mother pregnant, Ian Fleming, in a James Bond story set in Japan, provided a name more accurate than anything implying fatherhood: “cock tax”.  Barbara Kay was more polite in writing about the Marotta case, in which a man who provided sperm to enable one of a Lesbian couple to become pregnant was then ordered to pay support for the resulting child, but she made much the same point: The State, rather than support a single or Lesbian mother, will require the sire to do so, however little of a father he may be.

No fair. Which is to say, “cock tax” is not fair if a man promised a woman no support and provided only sperm.

Maybe Mr. Marotta should have collected a Stud Fee. Maybe many readers who think of helping a woman get pregnant, or worry that a woman will make a deliberate contraceptive “mistake” and do so, should say during the process leading up to intercourse, that they charge a Stud Fee. Which is not to approve breeding children as if they were calves or piglets. Maybe calves and piglets grow up well enough without fathers… and maybe we don’t want children treated like cattle and pigs.

Children—even puppies (Mowat, 1963)—do better when they have fathers.

Mere sires are not fathers… and apart from the misuse of Child Support orders, that’s not good for society. Fatherless children don’t do as well, statistically, as children with fathers. Hancock [2007, cf. Millar, 2009] has been mentioned; Brown [2013] concurs.

Fatherhood, what’s more, seems as natural to humans—and wolves (Mowat, 1963)—as motherhood, eating, and sleeping. Fathers separated from their children miss them. Children separated from their fathers miss them. Children who have the benefit—and enjoyment—of fathers in their lives, do better. The safest place for children, in general, is with their natural fathers4.

Fathers are not perfect—nor are mothers, nor children. If the nuclear family left children worse off for lack of grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin and other extended family relationships, the fatherless family leaves them still worse off. Larger families seem to make individual members’ imperfections less damaging. Restoring fatherhood, and for that matter extended family relationships, will do far more good than harm.

The least we should aim to do, is have more children living with their fathers, fewer children fatherless, a year from now.

References:

Brown, Grant A., 2013. Ideology And Dysfunction In Family Law: How Courts Disenfranchise Fathers. Calgary and Winnipeg: Canadian Constitution Foundation and Frontier Centre For Public Policy

Hancock, Kerry Dale, Jr. 2007. “Children Without Fathers: Statistics,”

Kay, Barbara, 2014. “State Supports Mothers Who Want The Child But Not The Costs” National Post.

Kruk, Edward (2008). “Child Custody, Access and Parental Responsibility: The Search for a Just and Equitable Standard.” Father Involvement Research Alliance, University of Guelph.

Millar, Paul, 2009. The Best Interests of Children: An Evidence-Based Approach, University of Toronto Press.

Mowat, Farley, 1963. Never Cry Wolf. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart.

Nathanson, Paul, and Katherine K. Young, 2006. Legalizing Misandry: From Public Shame to Systemic Discrimination against Men. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Notes: follow in most html displays

1. Hancock reports that:
‣ 63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes (US Dept. Of Health/Census) — 5 times the average.
‣ 90% of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes — 32 times the average.
‣ 85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes — 20 times the average. (Center for Disease Control)
‣ 80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes —14 times the average. (Justice & Behavior, Vol 14, p. 403-26)
‣ 71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes — 9 times the average. (National Principals Association Report)
‣ 75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes — 10 times the average. (Rainbows for All God’s Children)
The citations are his, most likely to sources from 2005-2007 or shortly earlier.

2… by the father …

3. Perhaps a further condition for demonstrated risk might be added, if good replicated research showed that risk of serious harm to children could be accurately forecast. Statistics show that men other than fathers, even mothers, are a significantly greater danger to children than their fathers. The say-so of a woman who is vexed with or weary of something in her marriage or cohabitation, should be treated as more likely showing her own inadequacies.

4. There is, one should perhaps admit in anticipation of dispute, a minority of men who aren’t fit to be fathers. Likewise, a minority of women aren’t fit to be mothers. Best if those unfit to be parents, are identified before they reach sexual maturity, and either persuaded to abstain from sex, or if that persuasion is not likely to succeed, perhaps even sterilized. It’s not as if Planet Earth were underpopulated with humans.

 

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About Davd

Davd (PhD, 1966) has been a professor, a single father keeping a small commercial herb garden so as to have flexible time for his sons, and editor of _Ecoforestry_. He is a practicing Christian, and in particular an advocate of ecoforestry, self-sufficiency horticulture, and men of all faiths living together "in peace and brotherhood" for the fellowship, the efficiency, and the goodwill that sharing work so often brings.
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