I have long believed that little girls who have adoring daddies grow up to have a tremendous advantage over those who, for whatever reason, do not become the apple of their father's eye. When Daddy tells Little Angel every day how beautiful she is, she is less likely to need to seek the approval of others who may or may not have her best interests at heart. When Pops encourages Sweetie-Pie to try everything and to believe in herself, she does. In short, children frequently grow up to be what they are taught they are. Fathers, in particular, have the ability to completely shape a young girl's image of herself.
This principle is not something that I thought of all by my little self, of course, but I have seen evidence of it in my life over and over again. I have had friends who fit the mold; elementary school classmates, college roommates, co-workers who spoke of their fathers in glowing terms and knew that their hero would still show up to defend their honor should the need arise. As a long-time educator, I have witnessed the effects of poor parenting on kids and have had my heart broken on numerous occasions by my inability to help them seek better circumstances.
Currently, I have children involved in a wide range of activities on an equally wide variety of age and grade levels. One such activity is popularly known in this area as "Fall Ball" – a term for a second season of girls' softball. Over the last few seasons, I have been amazed by the number of girls who are accompanied to practice and to games by their fathers – and only their fathers. At first blush, I should be championing these present dads, and I do, I do! But, I have to ask – where are ya, Mom? I can understand that you don't want to hang out at the softball field two nights a week, but can't you at least show up to her one-hour game on the weekend?
Maybe I'm misinterpreting the situation and the mother is off at another rehearsal field or practice facility with another child; maybe she is home doing laundry so the kids will have clean uniforms the next morning. I hope that is the case, and I know several situations where that has been precisely the situation. The parents take turns switching out at the kids' conflicting events; the children understand this and do not suffer for it. Unfortunately, according to some of the coaches and instructors I have spoken with, this is not usually the way the ball bounces. Instead, according to them, the absentee parent views the extracurricular activity as a baby-sitting service; they care little to nothing about what values the child may be gaining from that activity.
Still, I call the girls who have at least their dads either coaching them or watching each at-bat and base-running drill from the bleachers the lucky ones. There are others that I refer to as victims of the "drop-and-run" technique. You're never sure if these poor souls will even make it to practice, as they most likely didn't get the information from the end of the last practice. When they do show up, they are usually late, and they are usually picked up late as well, causing the coach to have to stay until someone arrives to retrieve them.
Much like the victims of a hit-and-run, those who suffer frequent drop-and-runs die. Oh, maybe they don't stop breathing, and maybe they don't become paralyzed or maimed. But, with each incident of a parent failing to care, the child's spirit dies a little more. In this example, the coach can't really depend on that child making it to practice or the game, so perhaps they aren't put into the starting lineup. The child, through no fault of his or her own, fails to acquire the skills needed to keep up with those who arrive on time and have additional help at home to master each technique.
I have frequently heard the expression, "It takes a village to raise a child." How very lovely that concept is. Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton popularized this African proverb; not surprisingly, Republican Senator Bob Dole disagrees with her position. In fact, the whole issue gave rise to a healthy debate. I believe I fall in line with Senator Dole's concepts. Unfortunately, with today's society being as transient as it is, we frequently don't even know our next door neighbors, much less our entire communities.
We can overcome this sad fact only by becoming better, stronger individuals who make the necessary sacrifices it takes to make a good kid within our families. We should not turn to our schools to monitor our kids' food intake, their social lives, their character development, their wardrobe, and a myriad of other human development concepts that are currently being placed in teachers' and administrators' laps. Count on your church to help you develop your offspring's morals and values; count on your neighborhood school and recreational department to help develop their body and mind. The rest is… and should be… up to you.
It isn't easy. No one promised you it would be. But, if you don't do it, who will? And, if you're still so self-absorbed that you haven't thought of it this way – who is going to take care of you when you get old? It could just be that you will be the victim of a drop and run as well. The last time you see them will be at the door of the nursing home.