Ode to Dad on Father’s Day: They DO Need You

By Zerline Hughes

Thank you, but I’m not one who really appreciates the “Happy Father’s Day” well wishes from folks who know of my multi-faceted  duties, travails, challenges and hardships as, dare I say it, a “single mother.” Yes, I do 95 percent of it all when it comes to raising the Js, but I still can’t be dad.

According to the feds, via the Child Welfare Information Gateway, a father serves a major role and function in a child’s life, aids in the development of well-being and educational achievement. It’s also just nice to have that male-figure relationship around. The booming voice, the shared responsibility, the second, experienced perspective.

Their dad and I divorced when the kids were 1 and 3. Luckily (I guess), they don’t even remember us living as a family, together in the same house. Soon after, the Js’ dad moved four hours away, making the father-daughter/father-son relationship a long-distance, Skype, phone call, once-, sometimes twice-a-month relationship. But it works. It has to work. And I pray this special, non-traditionfathersday2al (but not unique) relationship lessens the Js’ probability of becoming at-risk.

The fact of the matter is, however, on paper, on the calendar, and in the Js daily routine, their father is not an every day part of their lives and that is a daily concern of mine. Reporting after the fact about an illness, run-in with a teacher, good grade or bad grade isn’t the same as live interaction, conversation, face-to-face emotional moments.

According to the National Fatherhood Initiative, the absence of a father makes children more likely to … well, the list is so long, lemme create a bullet list:

  • be poor
  • have behavioral problems like aggression
  • die as an infant
  • be incarcerated
  • commit a criminal offense as a child
  • marry without a high school degree
  • get pregnant as a teen
  • become sexually active too early
  • be abused or neglected as a child
  • use drugs or alcohol as a child
  • have less of a chance of getting all As

Um, yikes.


Father daughter dance

So even though it’s once or twice a month when they eat at Denny’s together every Sunday, hit thrift stores, make music and advocacy videos, take Sunday trips to the Martin Luther King Library in D.C. (I LOVE that the library is open on Sundays), it really does mean something. It will also DO something. Stand for something. Prove something. What, exactly? That fatherhood does make a difference. A positive difference. That substance abuse, poverty, and being justice-involved is not in the Js’ near- or long-term future. No, Not These Two.

I am doubly thankful, though, and must make mention of my spouse. He has stepped up, helping me to rear the kids when it comes to learning life lessons, providing that needed balance in the household, listening and delivering advice, and even stepping in to attend a father-daughter dance with my girl. We’re all making this work – for the welfare of the kids.

So Happy Father’s Day to all. Dads: you are so important. They need you. We need you. Especially these two!


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