Raising children is hard. Doing it successfully may be the most difficult task those of us who undertake it will ever face. It takes money, yes, but moreover, it takes effort: thoughtfulness, patience, concentration, fear, hope, willpower, planning — did we mention patience? — and time; so much time.
It’s no wonder many parents choose to abandon that responsibility. Some — particularly, but not solely, fathers — do it completely, disappearing entirely from the picture, refusing to participate or acknowledge their obligations. Or they withdraw to a safe distance, showing up when it suits them. And some remain, physically, but at times cede that role to others: teachers, babysitters, relatives, even TV and video games.
To what extent they hang in there and commit to the task goes a long way toward determining the adults those children will someday become. Because children are always learning, every waking moment is part of their education in some way.
America is billed as the land of opportunity, where anyone can grow up to accomplish great things. Still, it’s becoming more difficult for young adults to escape the circumstances they’re born into. Harvard social scientist and sometime-Jaffrey resident Robert Putnam, in his book “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis,” noted the dynamics that make this so. One of the most important is the role of parents and how involved they are — or can be — in actually raising their children.
It makes a critical difference to a child to have even one involved parent. Those with two have a huge advantage. Likewise, those who don’t are disadvantaged, and not just economically. Parents are their children’s primary role models, reluctantly or not.
So if they treat others — especially their spouse or children — poorly, that’s what is learned. If they disappear, that’s the modeled behavior.
And if they participate and care and show love and respect, that’s the lesson.
It could be easy to overlook today as a date of note. Coming amid graduations, weddings and the end of school/start of summer; wedged between Mother’s Day, Memorial Day and July 4, Father’s Day can sometimes be a bit of an afterthought. This year, especially, there’s more to stress over.
But its significance should not be dismissed.
It doesn’t take a gift or card, although those may be enjoyed. Far more welcome is recognition of the effort involved — and the commitment.
So happy day, dads. You may not get mentioned along with apple pie and baseball as American treasures, but that doesn’t mean you’re unappreciated.