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Joe Carter of First Things makes an astonishingly moving plea to fathers to move heaven and earth to stay with their children. How’s this for a head-snapper?:
I first read that passage in 1995, the year I myself became a “weekend dad.” In February my wife told me she was gay. In March she left our home and took my daughter with her.
A few years ago I met [David] Blakenhorn and talked to him about his book. I wanted to tell him that he was wrong. I wanted to tell him the base isn’t always lost and that the linkage is not always shattered. I wanted to tell him that it was indeed possible–because I was one–to be a “good-enough father.”
But it isn’t true. As much as I wanted to believe otherwise, Fatherless America was devastatingly prescient about my own experience as a “visiting father.” My experience was one more data point in the reams of empirical studies that show what millions of part-time dads before me have learned: Our children always need more than we can give them in a few weekend hours.
I can’t possibly do justice to the emotional weight of this essay by quoting it here. Read this so you’ll know what Carter’s up to:
I want to directly address the specific, narrow audience who can do more than anyone else to change this destructive cycle. I want to make a policy proposal to the fathers who are on the verge of leaving their families.
As with all policy proposals, certain assumptions must be shared before agreement can be reached. My proposal is based on a simple argument: When your first child is born, your life stops being about what you want and starts being about what they need. If you disagree, you can stop reading now.
Here is the only way to fix the problem of fatherlessness: You must find a way to stay with your children. You may be having a tough time in your marriage. You may be thinking that you no longer love or can live with your spouse. You may believe that divorce is the only remaining option.
I don’t know your situation. I don’t know what you are going through. I only know that your children need you at home. Your sons and your daughters need your presence. They need you around, all the time, and not just for regularly scheduled visits. If you want to be a good father, don’t leave your children.
Please, read the whole thing — and if you know any father, or mother, on the verge of breaking up his or her family for any reason other than abuse, send that essay to them.
Raising three young children, I see how much they desperately need their mother and me both. On the plane ride back from Louisiana this week, I watched the final episode of “Mad Men” from last season, which includes the scene in which Don and Betty sit down with their grieving children and announce their divorce. The scene nearly brought me to tears, just as it had the first time, because I couldn’t help imagining having that conversation with my children. I swear, I think I could put up with almost any unhappiness short of actual abuse for the sake of keeping my family together. There are people who would take a bullet for their children, or so they say, but they won’t sacrifice their personal happiness for a few years, for the sake of the children. I don’t understand this. I don’t understand at least making a heroic effort.