[Below is an article that was published in a few Southern California newspapers a couple of years ago on Father's Day. The sentiments reflect the priorities emphasized by Dr. Laura.]
FATHER’S DAY FROM A DISTANCE
“Happy Father’s Day.” It’s a greeting that sends pangs of regret through the guts of millions of American males, a greeting that echoes forlornly in the empty spaces of the heart.
Instead of memories of daily life--meals together, nightly routines, school visits—there stands a punctuated set of visits. A seamless web of association has been transformed into a series of photographs. Disneyland stands in place of, not beside, trips to the dentist. Like fabric with stitching embarrassingly stretched out, the tenuous threads call attention to themselves. Like pictures with no background, recollections of days together become two-dimensional--almost cartoonish in character.
Though “Happy Father’s Day” is a bittersweet greeting for the 15 million men who do not live with the children that bear their own traits, I cannot imagine what those words mean to the substantial fraction of that cohort (up to 50%) who haven’t seen their offspring in the last year. Nor can I conceive what the phrase might mean to the 15% of male divorcees who, according to author and philosopher Christina Sommers, see their progeny only once a year.
What I do know is that the promises that flowed so glibly from the mouths of sixties radicals appear naive and stupid in retrospect. A society where autonomy and self-actualization inevitably lead to happiness has proven to be a cruel mirage masking an emotional desert--a world in which more and more Americans have become, in the chillingly prescient phrase of Alexis de Tocqueville, “shut up in the solitude” of their hearts.
Unfortunately, American pundits seem unwilling to confront this truth. “Ozzie and Harriett” continues to be the derisive epithet employed by elites who refuse to admit the devastation that has been wrought by our reckless pursuit of personal goals. Indeed, a 50% rise in single-father homes is even praised for “tear(ing) down a long-standing conception that single fathers tend to abandon their kids.”
The truth, pointedly ignored by the Associated Press article cited above, is that abandonment and alienation are much more common than continued involvement by dads at a distance. The truth is that there is no substitute for being there--day-in and day-out. The truth is that “quality time” is a lie devised for Americans who are unwilling to face the real costs of their determination to put career and personal goals above everything else. The truth is that children, more often than not, suffer from our contempt for “Ozzie and Harriett” households.
It is no consolation to me that more mothers now feel the pangs of remorse that affect conscientious nonresident dads. Instead, I grieve for kids raised only by Ozzies, just as I commiserate with and encourage the millions of fathers who know how hard it is to sew together lives that are physically separated.
And to youngsters growing up in a society obsessed with individual success, I offer you this bit of grief-laden advice: There is a good reason why so many tombstones bear this eternal witness--LOVING HUSBAND AND FATHER.