*Young men who grow up in homes without fathers are twice as likely to end up in jail as those who come from traditional two-parent families…those boys whose fathers were absent from the household had double the odds of being incarcerated — even when other factors such as race, income, parent education and urban residence were held constant.
*63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes
*85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders come from fatherless homes
*71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes
*70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes
*in 2014, nearly 4 out of 10 children find themselves in fatherless homes
These numbers are brutal, horrible to read. I have never met my father, I don’t know his name or ANYTHING about him. I wasn’t aware of the statistics I was up against at birth. I kind of wish I had known these stats because back then it seemed like I was the only one in my situation. I felt so different, and often very alone. I write this as someone who has faced the odds above and has emerged on the other side, adulthood and fatherhood and find myself both determined and energized to advocate to fix this shit.
I can only speak from my own experience. As a child without a father you are destined to run into your own naivety. It is simple embarrassment when you are unable to do something that everyone else’s Dad has taught them. Some of my earliest memories include the realization that I was different, I did a quick headcount of my neighbors and I always came up one short. Being different as a kid makes the mirror in your room look like one of those fun house mirrors that distorts reality. You look into it in the morning and all you see is a warped sense of self worth. You are too young to articulate the feeling but you know that something must be wrong with you. As a child I lived with my grandfather, my grandmother, my mother and my blind uncle. My memories really start at about 5 or 6 years old. In retrospect, it blows my mind that at that point my mother was 2o, 21 years old. I am not sure how she was able to face that challenge, that stress but maybe that is a story for another day.
So, back to facing your own naivety. A child without a father misses out on all of those talks, that readiness that allows you to enter conversation with your childhood peers with confidence that you have a strong foundation of who you are and what you believe in that has been past on to you as family structure. Once you have been embarrassed enough you find yourself at a crossroads. Will you crawl into your hole and take up your bastard’s fate? Or will you come out swinging and make your own life and name?
I admit there was a long learning curve where I scampered back to my hole and believed that I was less than those who surrounded me. I mean, I didn’t even know my Dad or have a ‘real’ last name? As I read the stats above, I think back to my own crossroads and my own decision to leave that hole and never look back. Your only friend becomes anger, you have seen enough and you are never going back to that place. Time to move forward and anger will be your fuel. Anger is a messy fuel, it burns hot and rages to successes and defeats. You find yourself moving further from your bastard’s hole with more and more accomplishment but sometimes you find yourself burning meaningful relationships to the ground just to move forward. You learn that you can throw a punch and you learn you can certainly take a punch but you start to wonder why you find yourself in so many situations that require punches. When I look back and think about the rage and anger that burned so strongly in me it is amazing sometimes that I don’t make up part of those percentages above.
As I really started to accomplish things in my early adulthood….. degrees, relationships, careers, workout goals, anything positive… It started to bother me that I had to thank anger for my accomplishments?! Was I really only driven to become further from where I had started or should I start to become something new, something that when I looked into the mirror stood on its own merit. This is the last mile in shedding your fatherless skin. You have to shake off the anger, you have to shake off the wounded child and stand on your own two feet and realize that you are moving forward because that is the person you are and you will not settle for anything less.
As an adult, as a father, this road to self understanding has become so important. I have been blessed with an incredible chance to end a cycle. This is my chance to take all the things that I disliked and do things differently. Sometimes that means just sitting quietly and listening. Sometimes it means being motivated to do better so I can be all the things I wish that I would have had. I guess I write this to help underscore why being a father is the most important thing I will ever do and maybe to serve as a warning to those who don’t take this amazing role to heart.
“Every father should remember that one day his son/daughter will follow his example instead of his advice”