Sunday, April 17, 2011

Kids Without Dads

I've always been a sucker for advice columns. I don't know why. Maybe reading about other people who are so lame they have to write to a stranger to solve their personal problems makes me feel like I'm less of a loser when faced with my own problems. Maybe I'm just nosy. But when I read this question to advice columnist Carolyn Hax, I got angry.
I just found out I'm pregnant. I'm slowly getting to be very happy about this news even though it was not, ahem, planned.

My boyfriend wants to get married before the baby comes. But is a baby the right reason to get married? I've not always been supportive of marriage because I've seen what happens to friends when they divorced, and it wouldn't have been nearly as messy if that slip of paper were not involved and they could have just walked away. If it helps, we're both mid- to late-30s but haven't been together very long.
That question comes up a lot these days, doesn't it? Here is Carolyn Hax' answer:
With a child, do you really think either of you will be able to "walk away"? Would you want that?

The slip of paper can be a nuisance, but it can also be an advantage. The image I have in mind is of a decorative border fence around a garden. A foot-high frill isn't going to keep anyone in or out, but having it there is usually enough to keep adult feet on the sidewalk and out of the flowers (dogs and children will ignore it, which fits the metaphor nicely). While my own view is that it's not necessary for a strong, committed relationship, a marriage can help a couple's mind stay focused on the commitment.
There is more to the answer, but the child is never mentioned again. I was surprised the child was mentioned at all outside of being an inconvenience to the mother and a possible financial drain to the father. I was going to write to her slamming both of the dopes in this situation, but it's none of my business, and there are millions of children born into that exact situation every year. And how many of those fathers walk away? Or run away? One letter from one disgruntled dope (me) won't change anything.

Part of the reason I get angry at people who are so cavalier about bringing a child into the world without any kind of family structure is that, where I teach, I meet many of those children. They don't know their fathers. Or they see their fathers occasionally, if ever. Some of their fathers are in jail. Some are just gone. I don't even know how many children in my school are growing up without fathers, but it is a majority. And it leaves a dad-sized hole in each one of them.

I was speaking to a mother of one of my students just the other day. Dad lives in another state. I assume he has another family. There is a step dad at home. I met Step Dad. He seems like a decent caring guy, but for this little girl, he's not Dad. Her grades are terrible, she's depressed, she misses her father. I've spoken to Father. He too seems like a decent caring guy. But how often does he see his daughter? Not nearly enough. Most of the time, he is a voice on the phone or an image on a computer screen. What will happen to this poor child as her mother panics over her grades and is worried that she will be retained? I don't know. But she's probably lucky in that her mother (and probably her father) care.

One of the other girls in my class reigns as bully supreme. She's not that big, about average sized, but she's willing to push just about anybody around - and then lie about it. With personal responsibility being so totally outmoded in the adult world, think about that lack among fourth graders. Nothing is ever her fault, because she didn't do it. Even the fruit-throwing incident, witnessed by the entire class, she didn't do it. It was somebody else throwing fruit at her.

She's gotten better over the course of the year, but recently has started backsliding. She smacked a first grader who kicked her on the playground after she insulted him. She had to hit him, because, after all, what would happen to her reputation if she let a little first grader get away with kicking her? And yes, that was part of her rationale for striking the kid. Her father is in jail. How long and for what, I don't know. I don't ask any more. In the past, I've gotten answers from kids about how their dads or uncles, or whomever in the family is locked away, was set up and is innocent. Or sometimes the kids just don't know. She's got a Stepdad too. Again, he seems like a caring fellow, but I don't know what goes on at home.

There are others this year. I recently ran into a former student. The last time I saw him, about five years ago, he was out playing with his toddler-sized son. I ran into him again recently. He's married now, with two more kids. To a different woman. She doesn't want him seeing the mother of his first child, so he doesn't. Where I may have respected him a bit for taking time with his son as a toddler, that respect is long gone. He's willing to let his first child become just another statistic.

I don't remember the circumstances he was raised under, but I do remember that he was part of a trio of trouble makers who the gym teacher and I, independently of each other, dubbed "The Three Stooges." Moe, Larry, and Curly were obvious to anyone who watched them interact with each other. This kid was Curly. Last I heard, Larry was in jail. Moe and his family moved to another state after the year he was in my class.

So the cycle continues; single moms, absent dads, kids who walk into the world already emotionally and intellectually damaged. But don't talk about responsibility. That's just plain old-fashioned, and has no place in today's modern world where the government is here to take care of all problems.

Labels: , ,


At 4:58 AM, Blogger MightyMom said...

absolutely and terribly sadly on target.

such hurt has no words.


Post a Comment

<< Home

<< List
Jewish Bloggers
Join >>
War's legitimate object is more perfect peace. Flavius Vegitius Renatus This is an optional footer. If you want text here, place it inside these tags, and remove this comment.