Ken Connor

Clark answers this question with a simple "no." She says that when she was young she would "daydream about a tall, lean man picking me up and swinging me around in the front yard, a manly man melting at a touch from his little girl. I wouldn't have minded if he weren't around all the time, as long as I could have the sweet moments of reuniting with his strong arms and hearty laugh. My daydreams always ended abruptly; I knew I would never have a dad." Miss Clark even describes being jealous of other school children who were raised in broken families because at least they had fathers that they occasionally saw.

Katrina Clark's entire article is well worth careful reading. Her overall point is clear: it is not irrelevant whether or not a child has a father. When a child does not have a father, that child lacks something important. True, sometimes a tragedy occurs that renders a child fatherless. Some fathers die young, others desert their families. Historically in these circumstances the community would step in to help the mother, and provide the child with healthy father figures whenever possible. It was never considered noble to intentionally have a child out of wedlock, regardless of the woman's desire for motherhood. The needs of the child were put first.

Today, many people have false illusions about fatherhood, imagining that it is entirely optional. Some people have had negative experiences with their own fathers, and they therefore assume that their children will do better without a potentially negative male influence. Social scientists do not share these false illusions about fatherhood. In category after category—poverty, health, education, crime, drug use, teen pregnancy—children with fathers are healthier than children who are raised by single parents.

Though the benefit of having a married father and mother are now well known, the incidence of fatherlessness continues to rise. This fact was highlighted in another recent Washington Post article which found that sixty-nine percent of black children are born to single mothers. Many young black men have no role models when it comes to fatherhood because they do not know their own fathers. In some families, many generations of children grow up without any positive male figures in their lives.

This fact is not only a tragedy, it is an injustice. As a society, we should strive to ensure that every child has a mom and a dad. When this does not happen, we should see it as a regrettable failure, not a clever new type of family structure. It is a tragedy when it happens in the inner city because of family breakdown, and it is also a tragedy when it happens in upper class communities where aging women decide to go forward with motherhood even when they have not yet found a husband. It is not that such women do not have what it takes to be a mother—they do. The problem is that they do not have what it takes to be a father. When we, for selfish reasons, try to redefine the norm of two parent families, it is the child who suffers.

God, in his wisdom, did not deprive his Son of a human father. As wonderful as Mary was, God apparently felt that there were some things she could not give her son—things that were important to Jesus' upbringing. Therefore, on Christmas day, the holy family huddled close together in the manger: mother, father and child. It was a good model then, and it's a good one now. We abandon it at our peril—especially at the peril of our children. Join the Conversation!

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Ken Connor

Ken Connor is Chairman of the Center for a Just Society in Washington, DC.