I know. So many of his policies do so much harm. I wish he would see the full picture. We need a president who does. We need leaders who do. But count me among those who are grateful Barack Obama is talking about the importance of fatherhood.
I grew up without a father around. I have certain memories of him taking me to my first jazz concert and giving me my first basketball as a Christmas present. But he left when I was two years old.
And even though my sister and I were lucky enough to be raised by a wonderful mother and caring grandparents, I always felt his absence and wondered what it would have been like if he had been a greater presence in my life. I still do. It is perhaps for this reason that fatherhood is so important to me, and why I’ve tried so hard to be there for my own children.
That’s not to say I’ve always been a perfect dad. I haven’t. When Malia and Sasha were younger, work kept me away from home more than it should have. At times, the burden of raising our two daughters has fallen too heavily on Michelle. During the campaign, not a day went by that I didn’t wish I could spend more time with the family I love more than anything else in the world.
But through my own experiences, and my continued efforts to be a better father, I have learned something over the years about what children need most from their parents.
They need our time, measured not only in the number of hours we spend with them each day, but what we do with those hours. I’ve learned that children don’t just need us physically present, but emotionally available – willing to listen and pay attention and participate in their daily lives. Children need structure, which includes learning the values of self-discipline and responsibility.
Without a doubt, it is easier to raise children in this kind of caring, attentive atmosphere when both parents are present. Of course, there are plenty of single parents who do a heroic job of raising their kids. I know this because I was fortunate enough to have one-a mother who never allowed my father’s absence to be an excuse for slacking off or not doing my best. But more and more kids are growing up today without their dads. And those young folks are more likely to struggle in school, try drugs, get into trouble and even wind up in jail.
Wade Horn, who, among other things, has served as president of the National Fatherhood Initiative tells me:
Of course the President deserves credit. As does everyone who, over the years, has promoted responsible, committed, and loving fatherhood. The really good news is that the idea that fathers are superfluous to the modern family no longer has currency in our culture. That’s precisely what the National Fatherhood Initiative set out to accomplish nearly two decades ago.
Happy Fathers’ Day!
Again, I know (and I have said such talk can be cheap). But it is a crisis out there and if his testimony kicks a man into this responsibility he was skirting … this is something good. So, thank you, Mr. President.