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June 21st, 2009

A Father Matters

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Written by: The Iowa Republican

father-and-sonWritten by Brent Hoffman

“It is much easier to become a father than to be one.” ~Kent Nerburn

Where have all the fathers gone? If you happen upon one of the “family-friendly” shows on the Disney Channel, you might notice the father is “missing in action” from most plotlines. When present, the father is portrayed as uninvolved, embarrassing or a bumbling fool whose entrance is greeted with a roll of the eyes. It often seems as if “Father knows Best” has been replaced by a single mother and her dysfunctional boyfriend.

These media portrayals of “fatherhood” may seem sad or laughable, but too often they are based on reality for many children. While we all know fathers good and bad, the plain truth is that many fathers spend little time in the love and nurturing of their own children. While we may say we “put family and kids first,” the statistics say something else. According to a national study, teenagers spend about 35 minutes each week talking with their fathers…and 735 minutes each week watching television. A father is more likely to watch baseball on TV than play catch in the backyard. Some fathers can recount dizzying statistics on race car drivers or golf courses, but can’t tell you their son’s favorite subject, sport or movie. And these are the “lucky ones” who actually have a father. More than 20 million children are being raised in America without a father at all. The consequences of this lack of “fatherhood” are staggering, as studies show that children with absent or uninvolved fathers are more likely to struggle in academics. They are more likely to be obese, develop behavior problems or even get divorced. Make no mistake, a father, or the absence thereof, makes a big difference in the life of a child.

It’s unfortunate that message is not often heard…that a father matters…whether through the media or from our Nation’s leaders. Too seldom we see positive images of fathers, or hear that fatherhood is important. Too often men are judged by the content of their wallet rather than the content of their character. The irony is that the things American culture tells us are important…power, fame or money…are the least-likely to have a lasting impact on the world around us. Few remember the billionaires, movie stars or athletes of yesteryear, but the impact of a nurturing father can be felt across the generations. We should judge “success” not by ambition, achievement or possessions, perhaps described best in Scripture as “chasing after the wind.” Instead, we should champion that which matters most…the love and nurturing of our own children. As it’s been said, “A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove…but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.” That’s a timeless perspective, and it’s one we should applaud and perpetuate. We should encourage fathers who put family first, and challenge our leaders to champion fatherhood. President Obama should be applauded for his challenge to “get involved in children’s lives.” He’s right-on that it’s “a privilege to be a father.” On the other hand, he’s off target when he says “I think [my strength] actually comes, in my case, from the absence of a father.” No, Mr. President, whatever strength you have is not because of the absence of a father, but in spite of it.

For the fathers who may read this message, please know its purpose is not to convict or condemn, but to encourage and challenge. This message is for the father who feels the pressure of competing priorities, who wants to do better, to be better. This Father’s Day, and every day after, just spend some time with your children. Share an ice cream sundae, ask them about their hopes and dreams, or just their favorite Pixar movie. There’s no better way to spend your day than with your children. A father matters. Just ask a child.

Brent Hoffman lives in Sioux City, IA with his wife, Mary Jo, and their two children: Silas and Lydia. Silas enjoys soccer, swimming and ice cream. Lydia enjoys Barbies, “A Bug’s Life,” and aspires to be just like her Mom

About the Author

The Iowa Republican

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