An extra-modest word about fathers on their day

Despite all the writing I’ve done about the sad and damaging effects of family fragmentation, my “operative” view of fatherhood – surprisingly, I trust to many – is a rather minimalist and non-romanticized one.  This is the case since I don’t argue or even hope for fathers being immersed in their children’s live in the kinds of intense ways some seek.

For instance, as long as it doesn’t upset their wives or other divine relationships they may have, I don’t see it as required that husbands change any diapers.  It surely would be nice if they did, but it’s not imperative they actually do so.  They can even pass on coaching soccer as well as carving out chunks of “quality time,” especially if their paying jobs don’t lend themselves to such flexibility.

Instead and generally speaking, American children would be much better off than they currently are if millions of fathers who are currently absent (really absent), in one physical or emotional way or another, upped their ante by taking seriously Woody Allen’s simple rule about how “Eighty percent of life is showing up.”  In other words, dads simply need to be there, they need to be around – not all the time, not always thoroughly engaged, and frankly not even eighty percent of the time.  But they do have to be there enough.

What’s an example of not enough?  By age five, in one study, nearly two-fifths of boys and girls of unwed parents had no regular contact with their fathers over the previous two years.  It’s granted, by the way, that Woody Allen hasn’t been the best person in the world to cite about responsible fatherhood ever since he ran away with girlfriend’s daughter, but his axiom is useful nonetheless.