Father's Day: a role for everyone

Father’s Day recognizes the importance of being a dad. Today 1 out of 3 children lives in a home with no father present on a regular basis. But anyone can lend a hand to kids without a dad in their lives.

A father and child play with pigeons at a park in Wuhan, in Hubei province, China, last April.

This week golfer Phil Mikelson flew all night from San Diego to the Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa., arriving just 90 minutes before his tee time at the US Open golf championship. The reason: He didn’t want to miss his daughter’s eighth-grade graduation ceremony.

His fatherly loyalty didn’t hurt his golf game: He shot a 67, his best opening round ever at a US Open event.

Woody Allen famously said, “80 percent of life is just showing up.” That certainly applies to fathering: A dad may not always be sure what is the right thing to do, but he can always try to be there. That counts for a lot.

Today 1 out of 3 children lives in a home with no father present on a regular basis, the Census Bureau says. Other studies outline the costs: Children in homes without fathers are nearly four times more likely to be poor. They have higher odds of being jailed than those in two-parent families and are more likely to be obese. Girls in these families are more likely to become pregnant before finishing high school.

Yes, kids can and do thrive in a mom-only household. But parenting is a tough task to hand to a single parent. Just ask President Obama.

“You know, one of the biggest challenges – I grew up without a father,” the president said at an event in May. “I always tell people that, as great and heroic a job as moms do, particularly for boys, that’s a hard situation.”

After hearing stories from fathers at Baltimore’s Center for Urban Families, who had struggled to support their families or had been separated from them by a jail term, Mr. Obama added: “For your sons to see you taking this path [to improve yourself], that’s going to make all the difference in the world.”

It’s been said that fatherhood is the most important job a man will ever have. All the other posts – even being president – eventually come to an end. But being a father is a lifetime commitment – and a lifetime joy.

On Father’s Day June 16, children (of all ages) will have an opportunity to tell their dad he’s “the greatest.” For dads, it will be a time to cherish their children.

But even for those men (and women) without children, that opportunity for “fathering” is never absent. The Bible’s book of James speaks of every person’s obligation to lend a helping hand “to the fatherless and widows.”

Fathers protect, provide for, instruct, and, yes, nurture and comfort their children. These roles can be played in children’s lives by all adults – by a grandparent, aunt, and uncle, by a Sunday school teacher, or as a member of a civic group that serves children and youths. And every adult can encourage and assist young fathers as they grow in their important role.

No one need miss out on the joys of fatherhood.

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