Beaver County Times

Wednesday, September 1, 1999

An important role for men in families

Beaver County Times (Beaver, PA)

Too often, fathers get forgotten.

We're not talking about the deadbeat dads who have money for everything else except child support or the ones who think raising children is "women's work."

We're talking about the fathers who care, the ones who communicate, the ones who read bedtime stories.

Somehow they sometimes get lost, overlooked, taken for granted, in the outdated notion that only mothers can be parents.

Now comes a study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.

It says most teen-agers are more at ease talking to their mothers about drugs. It says teen-agers who don't get along with their fathers are more likely to drink, smoke and use drugs.

The report was the result of a survey of 2,000 kids ages 12 to 17.

It talked about fathers who are "AWOL," missing from their children's lives. It talked about fathers who aren't home for dinner. It talked about fathers who aren't "emotionally engaged" with their children.

Overall, the report was pretty depressing. And it was a punch in the gut to the many fathers who aren't any of those things.

Don Eberly, chairman of the National Fatherhood Initiative, said even those dads who come up short on the nurturing scale shouldn't be wholly condemned.

"Fatherhood has not been culturally valued," he said.

Translation: We have told men to be men. Put on the suit or the hardhat. Bring home the bacon. If you play patty-cake with your toddler, you're wimpy.

We had to have a movie called "Mr. Mom" to remind us men can be parents too.

The Columbia University study deserves attention. But it does not deserve to carry so much weight that it diminishes the strong roles so many fathers play in their children's lives.