Popular culture often casts men, including fathers, as bumbling fools. That's not a new thing. In the early days of television, Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton blustered their way into stupid decisions every week, and they generally always were rescued by their wives. The same formula has worked for Bernie Mac, the Simpsons and countless other TV characters through the years.
If you tell people something long enough, they may start to believe it. In this case, while some dads may bumble along, their value in society is far greater than television sitcoms would have you believe, and it's time that story got some attention.
Father's Day often gets short shrift compared with Mother's Day. That's understandable, considering the tradition of making the honored person feel like royalty for a day. Mothers, modern sensibilities not withstanding, remain the chief nurturers in families. When it comes to a day off at home, they typically need it the most.
But it would be a grave mistake to ignore the role of fathers in society. In fact, the growing number of times people have chosen to ignore it provides ample evidence for just how grave a mistake it is.
Consider these study results, compiled by www.fatherhood.org: A child in a home without a father is five times more likely to live in poverty than one with both parents; children whose fathers are absent are more likely to suffer a burn or other serious household accident than those with two parents; fatherless kids are significantly more likely than others to end up in prison (several studies of inmates, from juvenile offenders on up, show that most grew up without a father); and children without engaged fathers are more likely to abuse alcohol and illegal drugs.
Those are only a few of the findings. A father's influence goes far deeper than just keeping kids out of trouble. Some of these are hard to explain. For example, research shows a daughter's percentage of body fat most closely mirrors the body fat of her father, not her mother. Others are more easily understood. Fathers can set a tone for moral and ethical behavior.
And few things are more moral and ethical than living up to the responsibility to care for a life you helped create.
Currently about one-third of all children born in the United States are in single-parent households. Even if the father is in the picture, he has no firm commitment to stay there. The Washington-based Heritage Foundation estimates Americans pay $112 billion each year for the consequences of broken families, either because of out-of-wedlock births or divorce.
This ought to be a day for commitments. If you are a dad who is there for your children, commit to taking that responsibility even more seriously. If you have any influence over a young man, teach him the importance of responsibility and marriage.
The stakes for doing otherwise are far worse than any trouble a sitcom dad could create.