Being present in fatherhood

Just being present. This key phrase constituted a life lesson from an unlikely source: Modern Family.

I think it is a funny show and my favorite subunit is Jay, Gloria and Manny. There are pieces of that particular unit I can relate to – namely being a little older than all the fathers of my daughters’ friends.

One early episode is about fathers and Manny, Jay’s stepson, is waiting for his father to show up and take him somewhere. Of course, he never shows and Jay sweeps in and saves the day.

My favorite family on Modern Family.

At the end, Jay says the key to being a good father is just being present.

Fired

Bruce Arians, head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, an NFL team and Super Bowl Champions, famously told his staff that he’d fire them if they missed one of their children’s events.

He said, “Those years don’t come back.” And he’s right and being present is so meaningful to me as a father. But let me tell you, it is seeing what it means to my 3 girls when being present really has its impact.

Recital, game, or hell, just a practice, and the girls’ light up. And they remember that I was there. I’m always there.

Does it matter?

I have taught kids who literally do not know their father. The impact is dramatic.

According to the NCF/fathers.com, about one-third of all kids live without their biological fathers involved in their lives. It is shocking and the results are devastating.

  • Children without fathers in their lives are four times more likely to be raised in poverty.
  • 71% of high school dropouts are fatherless.
  • 71% of teens who get pregnant are fatherless.
  • Children 10-17 who are fatherless are shown to have “significantly” greater risk of sexual abuse, maltreatment, or episodes of major violence.
Divorce

I’m a divorced father. That makes being present more difficult, but the effort must be put in.

Of course I attend my daughters’ events. I see them at every opportunity and volunteer to keep them for any reason (snow days, mom traveling, anything). I never ever cancel my visitation and I go to dinner with them during the week. And we talk on the phone with regularity.

Being Present
My daughters and I on the beach.

I get it. When it comes to divorce, fathers face a rigged system. The federal government is discriminatory on child support, and local courts just assume the kids are better off spending most of their time with mom.

It becomes important to maintain relationships with people I’d rather not so that I can have a strong relationship my children.

Quality

Being present is more than showering the girls. We’ve taken trips and done fun things.

But you know, a game night or sharing one of my favorite movies from my childhood, or just a walk at a park is as valuable, if not more valuable, than spending thousands of dollars on vacations and expensive toys.

It is easy to forget. Sometimes I find myself calling students’ parents or entering games or even playing a computer game and I have to push away and go sit in the living room with my girls. They need their dad and sometimes just sitting on the couch eating popcorn is being present.

That’s what it is all about. Being present.

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