My Dad Abandoned Me

 

Leave it to kids to be brutally honest.

I recently had a conversation with my very young nephews, my sister’s son and my brother’s son, who both believed they were abandoned by their dad. Neither was abandoned. Both live miles away from their dad, and because they are not able see their dad every day or spend the amount of time they would like to with their dad, they feel abandoned.

When I explained this to both my sister and brother, they both felt bad and their feelings were hurt. I, on the other hand, saw this as a great teaching moment. I explained how both were living with their mother and just because the relationship between their parents didn’t work out, that doesn’t mean they can’t have a relationship with their dad. I also asked them to remember this feeling when they have kids and try not to be so quick to walk away.

Each of my nephews, and even my own son, are very close to their mothers. And although I come from a family of very strong women who routinely raise kids as single parents, research has proven that kids are much better off with two positive parents in the home.

Bradford Wilcox, the director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia and author of “Gender and Parenthood: Biological and Social Scientific Perspectives,” discusses the benefits of having a father in the home in his 2013 article “Children Are Better Off With a Father Than Without One.” He highlights the difference having a father in the home makes in education, teenage pregnancy, and even how likely kids are to go to jail.

Peggy Drexler, author of the book, “Raising Boys Without Men,” details the successes of many mothers who raise their sons without men. I agree that women are completely capable of raising wonderful, loving men who contribute positively to society. I also believe that single parents must be cognizant of the possible void their kids feel without the other parent.

My son’s father and I make it a point to ensure he spends ample time with both parents. We both spend time with him and make memories. We take photos and document every minute that we can. We may go overboard, but even at 9, he looks back on those memories and smiles. He brings out his baby book every time someone new comes over. He asks me to play the video of when his father gave him a bath at 6 months old and sang to him. He remembers and when his cousins said, “My Dad abandoned me,” he simply listened.

Being a single parent doesn’t mean your child has to know the difference. I encourage those who are raising kids alone to make every effort to co-parent. It could make a world of difference to your child.

The challenge of raising boys

I recently watched a clip of Divorce Court where Judge Lynn Toler very emotionally described what she calls the “decline of manhood.” As a mother of a young boy, and aunt to several young boys being raised by their mothers – my sisters – her commentary reminds me of the challenges we face as mothers raising our boys without their fathers.

It is not hard to find information about raising young men in books, on the Internet and even Oprah dedicated a Life Class to Single Mothers Raising Sons. However, what happens when the articles on the Internet, books and television shows meet reality?

My sisters and I raise our kids the way our mother raised us, with a lot of love and discipline when needed. So of course, we raise our kids the same way. Love and discipline works, but it does not prevent them from connecting with the wrong crowd or making the wrong choices at times.

No matter how hard my sisters and I try to refrain from being a statistics or allowing our sons to become victims of the stereotypical black male, the truth is, they are more susceptible because of they are not being raised by both their mother and father. According to pewresearch.org, less than half of U.S. kids today live in a traditional family.

Children whose parents are divorced have lower academic performance, social achievement, and psychological adjustment than children with married parents according to childtrends.org, and outcomes for kids in step-parent families are similar those growing up in single-parent families.

Now, each of the boys has a relationship with his father, just not a daily relationship. This has a significant impact on how influential friends and the community is on our boys. Even with my son, I recognize the difference in the way he responds to me as opposed to his dad. With me, he is more playful and affectionate. With his dad, my son is more calculated and tries to show his maturity. He lives with me so he gets more experience being playful and affectionate than being calculated and mature.

My sisters and I will continue to place group calls to discuss our kids, comfort each other when needed and offer advice where we can. We will never be able to replace their fathers, but maybe we can help our boys not fall victim to the decline of manhood.