Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Dads, This Holiday Season Give Your Kids What They Long For: Your Presence!

Well, the holiday season is upon us again. My, my time flies does it? Seems like yesterday we were talking about new years resolutions. Now it’s season’s greetings all over again. If you dare drive by a mall anytime over the next few weeks, chances are, you’ll be in bumper to bumper traffic. Holiday shopping is the order of the day – and retailers are counting on a record-breaking shopping season.

All over the world, dads and moms find particular delight in getting the gifts that their kids have longed for. For some, it’s that new techy gadget everybody’s talking about - the iPad, iPhone or Wii. That would really make their Christmas dreams come true! For others, it’s some other hot new thing that is the talk of their school or neighborhood. This is just that time of the year when boys and girls of all ages can hardly sleep at night because they know their moms and dads are going to get them a special gift that they’ve longed for.

With this as the backdrop, I come back to the real world for a moment. You see, in the fantasy world, kids' dreams come true; they not only get the special gifts they've longed for, but they also come from happy homes where they get the love and emotional support that they desire. In the real world, however, more than 50% of all first marriages end in divorce. And when kids come from such marriages, their happy homes become broken homes and more often than not, they spend relatively little time with their dads.

Did you know that in the United States, approximately 24 millions kids live in a home without their biological father? The reasons for this are unique to each situation but the bottomline is that these kids do not enjoy the daily involvement of their dads in their lives.

This Christmas and holiday season, with all the joyful celebrations that abound all over the world, my heart and mind are with these children – the ones who, due to no fault of their own, don’t have their dads. So my Christmas wish for these kids is this: instead of the very costly presents that they are often showered with, I’d love to see them get the present that has lifetime implications – the presence of their father in their lives.
I know the difference that a father’s loving hand makes. My father has always been – and continues to be – a positive influence in my life. Earlier this year, my parents celebrated 47 years of marriage. My father has been an integral part of my development and that of my siblings from our births.

I also know from going through the formal education system that children without fathers in the home just don't perform quite as well as others. And as life progresses, these children become adults and they face a world that, in many ways, is dominated by males, without having the positive influence of the most essential male in the life of a child - their dad.

The repercussions of this can be significant. Did you know that a disproportionate number of prisoners grew up without a father? Did you also know that not having a father present in ones life increases the likelihood of dropping out of school, becoming a teen parent, ending up in poverty? This is just the reality of the situation.

With this post, I appeal to fathers - absentee fathers, in particular - to make it a priority to connect with your kids. Make your present to them this holiday season your presence in their lives. I've written a number of posts on this blog to help. For this topic, read Helping Fathers Connect with Children They've Neglected to learn some tips on establishing that bond.

I also appeal to those who I refer to as the absentee dad living at home. This father is the workaholic type who's always so busy working and getting ahead that his kids grow up under his roof but see him as a stranger. He leaves early in the morning and comes home late at night. The weekends are spent on the golf course or with his buddies. Then when all he cares about is over, he makes time for the kids - whatever little time is left.

I've said repeatedly that we show our kids we love them with the 4 letter word: T-I-M-E. Time spent with them is more precious than any techy gadget. Right now, I can hardly remember any gift I got for Christmas as a child. But you know what I remember? Playing sports with my dad. I remember going for our family Sunday afternoon drives to no place in particular. I remember going to Luby's cafeteria as a family during my teen years. These are the memories that live with me and encourage me to create similar memories with my own kids.

This post would not be complete without acknowledging the role that family law plays in the issue at hand. I believe that the way that the system functions tends to alienate dads from their kids. At least in the United States, courts seem to focus more on the financial support of fathers than the emotional support that bonding with one's child brings. I'm not unfamiliar with the emotional toll that this brings. I've experienced it firsthand and I know it's not easy to deal with.

The environment that the family law system has created, in my view, lends itself to abuse by women who care little about the relationship between father and child. I still insist, however, that despite the innumerable obstacles that are encountered along the way, the love of a father prevails over any legal or other obstacle that might arise. It's love that gives a dad the strength to deal with a biased legal system just so that in the end, he maintains a strong relationship with his kids.

Fatherhood is a wonderful institution. Those of us fortunate enough to be dads should embrace the role wholeheartedly. Kids don't ask to be conceived. They have no choice about the homes they're born into or the circumstances that led to their conception. They come into the world as vulnerable as can be. But with the right guidance by loving parents and others, they can grow to become the best they can be.

If you're a dad and this post has spoken to your heart, starting today, do something to help your kids enjoy a closer, more memorable relationship with you. Get them all the gifts you want this holiday season. But just know that no amount of material presents can equate to your presence in their lives.

I'm rooting for you as you take these steps. And I dare say, the world is rooting for you as well. Loving, actively-engaged dads involved with their kids is something that's welcomed and celebrated the world over.

Let's do the right thing and become the dads that our kids deserve. That would truly make this holiday season the most wonderful time of the year.

Enjoy your day.

The Upbeat Dad