The narrative is quite common amongst this crowd. Sometimes you will come across an outlier who sees things differently, but for the most part you could sum up the actions of many teenage fathers with these three words:
“I’m outta here.”
Many will shroud their coming flight with tales of going into the military or going off to find themselves, but the root of the story cannot be denied. At the end of it all, they have very little intention of taking responsibility for their role as a dad.
And, who can blame them? For so many teen fathers, they emulate what they see – runners. So few of these guys actually had a dad who stuck around to see things through to the end. So, they simply do what they have seen their own fathers do for years.
This narrative becomes more pervasive as you see the fallout of the fleeing father. The girlfriend often stops at nothing to just get the attention of the father. She will post anything online, date anyone who will have her, even to the point of setting herself back to gain the gaze of the abandoning dad. The child lacks basic resources such as clothes, a clean house, or even medical care.
A Thought for Father’s Day:
I have always wished that Father’s Day was more of a celebratory day like Mother’s Day. We all know that moms make the world go around. Moms save us from ourselves and care for us with a heart bringing life and fullness.
But for some reason, Father’s day reminds me more of the brokeness of fatherhood and how for so many dads, we have succumbed to the desire to run and feign responsibility.
Sitting with teen dads each week, I can see the fear in their eyes. They have a kid (or are expecting one) as a high schooler. They made the mistake of getting their girlfriend pregnant and now life is completely upside-down. It is so much easier to run to the nearest sand dune and stick their head in as deep as possible than to face the daily challenges of caring for a baby and keeping things afloat.
Trust me, I am not picking on teen dads. Remember I said they are only modeling what they have seen. All of us who have experienced fatherhood have wanted to run. But, for many of us running will not look like actually leaving our wife and kids. For many it takes the form of abandonment and neglect while we are living in the same house as our kids.
You can choose:
Dads, we do not only need Father’s Day as a time to be honored, but also a time to re-up our commitment to our kids. Maybe you have chosen to be absent from your kids. Maybe you have chosen other things over deepening your relationship with your kids. Or maybe, you are just struggling a bit to do what it takes to be there for your children.
This father’s day, choose your kids – no matter how old you are. If there has been tension between you and your children, take the first steps to reconcile the relationship. If you have struggled to know how exactly to connect to your children at this stage of life, sit down and make a simple plan and commitment to make that happen. If you have screwed up, ask for forgiveness…again. Maybe you know a fatherless child who needs a male role model. Mentor and love that kid. Take them in as your own.
So many will choose to keep running from being a dad this Father’s Day. Yet, you can be different. On behalf of all of the fatherless and hurting students we work with here at Teen Lifeline, you can choose to stay and engage with your kids – bringing an irreplaceable relationship to someone who needs it. You will become the solution by choosing not to run away, but to run to your kids.
Happy Father’s Day. Make this one special.
Chris Robey has worked with teens for 10 years. His work facilitating groups for us leads to some amazing insights with teens and how their world works.