Fathers have had an elevated role in societies throughout history, but itís not always easy for dads to live up to such lofty expectations. Fathers are human, and they do fail. And far too often, they do even worse than that by their families.

On this Fatherís Day, 43 percent of all children in the United States live without their fathers, according to the U.S. Department of Census. Of that number, one-third will never see their dad. When a child grows up under those circumstances, children are at greater risks for a long list of unfortunate events. The statistics involving the problems children who happen to grow up without a father are disturbing.

Children with little or no contact with their fathers are more likely to drop out of school, become involved in drug and alcohol abuse, and commit suicide. Girls are more likely to become pregnant as teens. Boys are more likely to become involved in crime and violence.

Those statistics donít even reflect the fathers who are physically present in the home but are emotionally absent from their childrenís lives. Regardless of the marital status of the parents, the father needs to be actively engaged in his childís life, especially during the childís early years. Experts say the involved father encourages independence, and plays a major role in nurturing their children to build creativity, embrace good morals and the make friends.

Sadly, some children may still be better off away from their fathers. Too many are abusive to their children and perhaps to their mothers as well, and thatís not a good example. The cycle can repeat through the next generation. The word ďfatherĒ and the celebration of that distinction hardly brings fond memories to such victims.

While the tragic numbers are growing and the trend is not encouraging, the supply of good fathers remains abundant. Students of civilization are increasingly understanding the true importance of parenting. We are learning that when a mother and a father fail to devote adequate time to that crucial, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, their children do suffer ó not only in the present tense, but also throughout their lives. As a result, our society suffers along with them, and potentially positive contributions to the next generation may be lost as well.

But this is designed to be a happy, positive moment on the calendar. Todayís observance is not designed to focus on the shortcomings of fathers, although few would claim that they donít have any. Discouraging statistics do tell us, though, that fathers have an important role to play in grooming the next generation for responsibility, and the fact that leaders and good citizens emerge suggests that many, many fathers are doing their jobs. They are indeed present and involved in their childrenís lives, and are making a difference for them. What they do may not be perfect, but no child expects that. All they ask is a good effort in the right direction, and that will do wonders in pointing a son or daughter in the right direction, as well.

If you have a father, make this a special day with him, and work to make many more just like it.

Brownwood Bulletin