Where are all the good men?
Shortly after my husband died, one of my favorite blogs posted an article about the importance of fathers. It was beautifully written and was chockful of statistics about how active and engaged fathers increase good outcomes and decrease negative ones in children.
It left me feeling entirely defeated.
In fact, I left a comment on the blog to that effect. I said my husband had just died and that the post left me depressed because it seemed like the cards were stacked against my fatherless-kids. Some kind soul replied encouragingly and told me good men would step up and fill the void.
Three years later and I’m still waiting.
The man situation in our lives
To be clear, we do know good men. But they are busy with their own kids and lives and not a regular presence in ours.
In case you’re wondering, here’s the breakdown of male role models in my kids’ lives:
- The grandpa situation: My dad is dead, and my father-in-law works long hours so we only see him a couple times a year.
- The uncle situation: Tom didn’t have any brothers, and I have only one who lives out of state. We see him about once a year.
- The extended family situation: Both our immediate families are tiny, but we have large extended families. My cousins all live far away. Tom has a number of uncles and cousins nearby, but we’re not close to them (likely as much our fault as theirs – life got busy and making those connections unfortunately wasn’t as much of a priority).
- The friend situation: Most of my husband’s friends disappeared after he died although there are a couple who still check in on us from time to time.
- The school situation: Other than the principal, our elementary school is entirely staffed by females. However, we do have a priest and seminarian who are a regular presence at school. At the high school level, the kids have a mix of male and female teachers.
- The other men situation: My older boys are in Boy Scouts which, of course, has male leaders, and one son plays on a basketball team with two male coaches.
Beyond that, I have a dear friend who has arranged for her 20-something sons to include my middle son in activities whenever possible. I am immensely grateful that this gives him an opportunity to hang out with some older guys he looks up to.
Looking at the above list, my biggest concern is that there is no consistent go-to man that my boys can take their questions or concerns. I simply can’t imagine them having a heart-to-heart with a teacher they may see for an hour each day or a person they see once or twice a year.
Maybe I’m wrong, but I feel like there is this giant man-sized gap in their lives.
Why I’m not as worried about my daughters
Interestingly, I’m not nearly as concerned about my daughters lacking a Dad as I am about the boys. My oldest was 14 when her Dad died so I feel like she already got a heavy dose of his influence. Plus, she has Asperger’s and given her personality, I just don’t see her being prone to a lot of the risky behaviors I read about as prevalent in girls without Dads.
Meanwhile, my oldest son has, for better or worse, stepped into the Dad role for my 3 year-old. He dotes on her just as my husband doted on our oldest daughter when she was little. Since there is a 12 year age difference between them, I feel like she’ll have a good male role model standing by when she hits the tumultuous teen years (assuming my son grows into the man I assume he’ll be).
The age difference between my oldest and youngest sons is only 9 years, but again, I’m counting on my older boys being there to answer questions and provide guidance as their little brother grows up.
So that leaves my 13 year-old and my 15 year-old as my biggest concern. Right now, they are hitting those difficult teen years in which they are trying to find their way to adulthood. I can’t help but worry they’ll wander off the path to being responsible men if they don’t have a good male guide to help lead the way.
How much is too much to ask?
I’ve spent long hours and sleepless nights contemplating how to move more men into my kids’ lives. It’s a problem I don’t think I’m alone in facing. I’ve heard at least one other young widow discuss her plans to date and get married not because she had a deep desire to find a man but because she wanted one for her boys.
That’s not an option for me, and quite frankly, it seems like a risky proposition. Dating inevitably means kissing a lot of frogs before you meet Prince Charming. That’s not a process I want to endure nor is it something I want to expose my kids to at any level.
I also tried going the Big Brothers route but was quickly told there are no volunteers in our area. While I could sign up my son, I was told the possibility of him being matched to someone is practically zero and was discouraged from even completing an application.
Crossing off those options means I’m left hoping some man will step up and take an interest in my boys out of the goodness of his heart. Someone who will invite them to the movies or take them fishing or to do whatever it is that boys like to do with their Dads.
Sure, I could proactively ask someone to take on that role, but who would I ask? Most of the good men out there already have their own families and jobs. They certainly don’t need an extra obligation, especially when they don’t owe us anything.
One friend suggested I look for Dads who have only daughters and may be interested in having a boy to share more male-centric activities. But again, I can’t help but feel like I’d be imposing. I don’t want to add one more item to someone else’s busy to-do list.
So I want to have a male role model for my boys, but I don’t know how to find or ask that person. That’s one of the conundrums of the widow’s life.