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“Anyone can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad,” said baseball player Wade Boggs. Such true words.
While most of the fathers who will be celebrated this June 21 are of the biological variety, there are many father figures well worth honoring, too. These men can be grandfathers, uncles, brothers, cousins, family friends, or a mentor who intentionally seeks to make a difference in someone’s life.
While mothers are typically ascribed the defining characteristics of parental love and nurturance, a father or father figure’s presence in a person’s life is essential to healthy development, “from the cradle to the grave,” as they say.
“It is impossible to overestimate the importance of dad,” according to Dr. Gail Gross, human behavior, parenting and education expert. She goes on to say that a child’s primary relationship with his/her father can affect him/her from birth to death.
Research supports Gross’s statements, showing that girls who have good relationships with their fathers do better in math, and boys whose fathers are actively involved with them perform better academically, have greater self-confidence and are less likely to develop addictive, abusive or criminal behavior.
What’s more, girls will typically choose male partners with the same characteristics as their fathers. If dad was loving, kind and engaged with them, someone like him with likely be their mate of choice. As boys model themselves after their fathers, they tend to become the kind of men their fathers were, like father like son.
While “father knows best,” men in the day of that eponymous 1950s radio/T.V. show were typically much less involved in their children’s daily affairs than they are today. A “stay-at-home dad” would have been quite unusual in previous decades, but today nearly 20 percent of parents who stay home with children are fathers.
Reasons for this shift in dynamic are, among others, more women in the work force with higher salaries, greater psychosocial consciousness, better mental health services, and less stringent gender roles. Men themselves are more comfortable not being the traditional bread winner, and a myriad of people makes up a family these days, including single parents, same-sex parents, stepchildren, adult children, grandparents, and more.
For some, Father’s Day is difficult, either because of the loss of a father or the painful reminder of a difficult childhood and/or fractured or absent relationship with their dad.
But that doesn’t mean these folks are destined for unhappiness or instability in adulthood. Quite the contrary; many have sought fulfilling relationships with non-biological “family,” either in the parent or child role.
Here in Geneva, the Boys and Girls Club of America has a mentoring program that helps at-risk youth thrive. Currently, there are over 13,000 volunteer opportunities in Schaumburg, several of them involving adults mentoring children and youth.
At GreenFields of Geneva, intergenerational relationships are key, as evidenced by our programs that foster connections between residents and younger people. These include our pen pal program, our prom night with local high school students, our close ties with families in the nearby Mill Creek neighborhood, the high school students who introduced our residents to Roaring Robotics, Friendship Senior Options’ scholarships for high school seniors, and more.
While we may need to get a little more creative this Father’s Day in the midst of social distancing and sheltering in place, the love we have for all the fathers – and father figures – in our lives is a bond that can’t be broken.