I wonder how long it will be before Father’s Day is relegated to the remainder bin of history.
Ironically, when the end of fatherhood is written, the title will be: In Pursuit of Pleasure. Gay and defiant, confident in its indictment of the patriarchy, the culture dances unheedingly away with the playboy replacement. The arbiters of cool nod approvingly; the guardians of the gifted grant their blessing.
When midnight strikes, she wakes up alone. A baby cries. Full consciousness reveals no prince. No slipper. Only shards of glass mark her broken dreams.
Sadly, this is no apocalyptic vision of some dystopic future. It is today’s reality for many women and their children. Father’s Day may still have some kick to it: this weekend, cards will be bought; burgers will be charred on the barbecue. Meanwhile, our culture is dancing with the drummer…and relentlessly undermining the very heart of fatherhood.
* * *
It begins, oddly enough, with compassion.
The single mother at the baseball field confides her difficulties raising her son alone. She is confident of inspiring sympathy.
But isn’t that the son’s father? Right over there? Here, now?
Well, yes. We grew apart. But it’s working out okay. We get along.
Today, an increasingly sizable minority of children grow up without a father. Or, more precisely, the day-to-day presence of a familial man. And, to be obstinately specific, a man in a committed lifetime relationship with the child’s very own mother.
In fact the number of children living in these “mother-only” homes, according to the Census Bureau, has grown to just under 17 million…that’s 23 percent of today’s children who don’t have any particular reason to celebrate Father’s Day. If you add in the children who live with “other relatives” and “non-relatives,” we’re up to 27 percent. Easily over one-quarter of American children. And that doesn’t even begin to count those who live with step-parents.
Nobody wants to make them feel bad. And no one wants to make the mother at the baseball field feel badly either.
And so it begins with compassion. We no longer say anything.
Instead, we slowly slide into talking about the gender-less “parent” — which everyone understands to mean the mother. But we don’t say that. And academic feminists write whole papers and books about “family issues” that focus on a mother and her child as the unit of reference. No father. He has been air-brushed from the picture.
No matter; he’s irrelevant.
The heart and soul of fatherhood has always revolved around provision and protection. But accepting these gifts leads to admitting a need, which leads to dependency. And women today are independent. Princes are relegated to fairy-tales…men are past-times, for pleasure.
In a weird perversion of its own principles, the feminist movement ended up objectifying men. Just as they decried a wolf-whistle approach to appreciating women, we now have a phallic-focused assessment of men. Our elite thinkers worked to separate sexuality from its covenantal context within a family commitment and the potential for parenthood. Relationships then became measured by the Pleasure Principle: Is everyone having fun? Let’s just play!
Today, young women are no longer urged to assess young men for their potential as fathers to their future children. Instead, the latest online ‘zine for young women titles itself “The F-word,” and features an article from a 21-year-old virgin anxious to find a man to have sex without commitment as a means to “taking control of her sexuality.”
Similarly, Cosmopolitan magazine features a male advice columnist, the “guy advice guru” as part of their “carnal counselor” section. In response to a query from a woman who wants to postpone having sex with her boyfriend of two months, he chides her: “What are you waiting for? I mean, what are you going to learn about this dude in four months that you don’t know by now?”
Well, if fun is all you’re after, there’s not much to learn I guess. He’s a hottie isn’t he? He’s a play-ah.
The problem is that time is relentless. One minute she’s assessing a boyfriend; the next minute she’s holding the baby; the next she’s at the baseball field. And on it goes. The biological clock strikes midnight for us all. The young woman dances with her playboy, then wakes to find she needs a prince.
* * *
Recently, one morning, my oldest daughter asked me: “What was Dad doing up at 2:00 in the morning?”
I knew he had been up because I had been attempting to comfort our toddler who was being fussy. It was a one-person job. My husband had retreated to another part of the house to try to get some sleep.
How did you know he was up? Were you up?
She shares her room with her four-year-old sister, who had been having a night terror. I hadn’t heard her.
Dad came in and comforted her.
It was just an everyday — and night — moment. He hadn’t mentioned it. It’s all in a Father’s Day.
That’s just what a prince does.
Charmaine Yoest, Ph.D., writes the blog “Reasoned Audacity” and has five children with her prince.