Sunday, June 21, 2009

Fathers

One of the things that has been dismissed from our culture is the importance of fathers. Since it is Father's Day in the U.S., I have been thinking a lot about this. My father, Alfred Buell Snyder, Jr., was killed in WWII a month before I was born so I never knew him. In fact, when I was about 5, the kids who lived upstairs (my mother bought a duplex with the insurance money) said they couldn't play with me because I didn't have a daddy. How cruel can children be! They didn't know any better but I didn't know that I was guiltless either. I guess I felt a sense of shame (I don't remember this but my grandma told me).

My mother and I lived in Cincinnati from about the time I was a year old. Prior to that, we lived with my paternal grandparents in Dayton, Ohio. My grandfather owned and ran a chicken farm; his life dream finally coming true to be a farmer. Crazy, eh? My grandparents loved me so much because I was the first and the only grandchild from their fallen son. My mother, in her wisdom, knew I would be spoiled rotten if we continued to live with them. :)

She got a job at the Veteran's Administration and it was just the two of us until I was 8 when she started dating a man from work. I hated him...he could have been Jesus Himself and I probably would have resented him. After all, I had my mother all to myself and now had to share. He had problems that I certainly didn't understand and those problems came to an ugly head a few years after they married. I lived with my grandparents for a while before they were able to move to Georgia where my step-father got a job. My mother was a stay-at-home mom which was a dream come true for me. He wasn't used to girls, especially ones who resented him the way I did so we didn't get along well. My mother didn't help - she would resent any interference in her disciplining of me whether he was right or not. Then she became ill with multiple sclerosis and things really went down hill. They got into a physical fight right in front of me which terrified me. Apparently he had a problem with drugs and would go on a binge with them.

So the father figures in my life just weren't all that good. My paternal uncle and his wife moved back to the U.S. when I was 13 (they were stationed in Japan) and he was the closest thing to a father I ever had. I never felt close to him sadly. I adored him but I felt terribly inferior to him. Maybe all children have this duality about their dads, I don't know. All I know is that I still feel a huge hole where "dad" should have been.

My Heavenly Father is what fills that hole today but I am convinced that much of what is wrong today in our society is that men/fathers have been marginalized and ousted out of importance. There has been a campaign to celebrate being a "single mother" rather than encouraging staying together and being committed to one another. It is just too easy to walk away and destroy everyone's lives now. It happened to me after 20 years of marriage and it definitely affected our children even though they were nearly grown. I still don't entirely understand what happened and why we couldn't make it work but I know I had made some very poor choices after he left that also affected my children in a negative way.

Along with wanting to kill babies, we really don't want fathers either. A woman can just decide one morning that she is "done" and completely shatter her husband and father of her children and their children. Yes, I know that men do this too - that is what happened in my case - but what happened to keeping promises? Married couples stand before their friends and family and, in most cases, their God and say to each other that they promise to love the other through it all and be committed to the marriage. For the absolute dumbest reasons, those vows are broken. I have heard them all too since I worked in Family Law for nearly 25 years. Yes, there is abuse and that is never right and never a reason to STAY in a marriage. I am not talking about that - most of us were not abused; we just didn't like something about the other person or just got tired of trying. We all of a sudden can't accept the person we married even though he/she has not changed. It is like we wake up one day and say we can't tolerate that person's habits/personality/whatever and nothing has changed...we have!

I urge all of you who are married or in a relationship with children to take seriously the job of parenting. It isn't about you once you have children. God has given you a job when you become a parent and that is to parent! Children need both a mother and a father (yes, I know that some of you would stand up and call me homophobic here but I am entitled to my own opinion and am not bullying you - so sit back down, please). Tons of research has been done that only emphasizes this simple fact. We need to be the grown-ups.

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