Father's Day comes and goes without the same warmth and celebration as Mother's Day. The phone companies do not strain nearly as much with the prerequisite calls. The florists? Forget it. As for gifts in general, it's not the hottest holiday for retailers. Eight out of 10 people wait until the week before Father's Day to buy Dad a gift, according to the Mass Retail Association. What's the most popular gift for Dad? The survey shows that 42 percent of shoppers buy their father ... a card.
Let's allow that this condition exists because it's not easy to buy for fathers, and besides, fathers generally don't make a fuss about gifts. What is important is the recognition that fatherhood is a vital support for our culture. We readily agree with that simple proposition, correct?
But if that's so, why is father absence such a major social problem? The National Fatherhood Initiative's "Father Facts" include this sad statistic: Children who live absent their biological fathers are, on average, at least two to three times more likely to be poor, to use drugs, to experience educational, health, emotional and behavioral problems, to be victims of child abuse, and to engage in criminal behavior than children who live with their married, biological (or adoptive) parents.
The opposite is also the obvious. Children with involved, loving fathers are significantly more likely to do well in school, have healthy self-esteem, exhibit empathy, and avoid high-risk behaviors such as drug use, truancy and criminal activity compared to children with uninvolved fathers.
The NFI has also taken a particular interest in the way fathers are being portrayed on entertainment television, which regularly present dads as laughingstocks and lamebrains. There is reason for concern, too. Hollywood has taken the typical image of Dad from Ozzie Nelson to Ozzy Osbourne. As NFI's Roland Warren puts it, "Too many TV shows today tag fathers with the '3-D' image -- dumb, dangerous and disaffected. Such images must be reversed to demonstrate to viewers that fathers are there for their children and/or need to be."
Back in 2000, the NFI's eye-opening study of fathers on 31 prime-time TV shows showed dads were portrayed as as involved, but incompetent. They were eight times more likely to be portrayed negatively than mothers.