There’s a commercial airing as I write these lines, that says it all: Mom and Dad racing each other through the city streets in order to be the first to get a red box of McDonald goodies to their waiting son. Completely out of breath, the father gets there first, only to see the boy look beyond his father to his mother, and say, “Thanks, Mom.”
For a long time now—generations in fact—, the media has orchestrated what seems like a calculated devaluation of fathers, of men. It was obvious to me even during the thirty years of research that I poured into my book on the impact of television on the American psyche: Remote Controlled (Review and Herald Publishing, 1993); it is blatantly obvious now. It is a moot question whether or not we men deserve it—it is a fact of life that men are consistently portrayed as being clueless about life; and women as those brave souls who sacrificially (and sarcastically) spend their lives mopping up behind their bull elephants. Watch virtually any sitcom, any movie, any commercial, and the trashing of men is obvious.
The price? Last week’s blog addressed it. The price is that men have come to believe the continual devaluing of their species—even to buy into it. Quite likely, a man may even have written the McDonald commercial. Just watch them: men are portrayed in the million plus commercials each child is exposed to during his/her growing up years, as bumbling klutzes, incompetent, inane, with the constancy of a rabbit; interested only in sloshing beer, couch potatoing in front of TVs during 24/8 sports (vicariously, of course), and so on. Is it any wonder that so many boys are growing up effeminate, unsure of what it is to be a man, a father?
And because of our skyrocketing divorce rate, the norm today is no longer the nuclear family, but single-parent families. Because the media devalues marriage itself, over one-third of all children are now being born out of wedlock. Not surprisingly, given that it’s almost impossible for one parent to be equally effective in both mother and father roles, to say nothing about trying to do all this while also keeping a roof over their heads, working around the clock at several different jobs, shuttling the kids from one activity to another, at a near frantic pace—the children get shortchanged on all levels.
I spoke at a grandparenting conference not long ago, and was stunned to discover that today one third of all children in America are being raised by their grandparents! The same percentage as out-of-wedlock children (with tragically obvious implications). I interact with such grandparents a lot, and they are overwhelmed at having to be the primary care givers twice in life, when they no longer have the energy or emotional reserves for such a demanding role.
So, it’s no wonder boys are falling between the cracks. For, in single-parent homes (the vast majority of the primary care givers being women), there is no dad to play ball with when the boy comes home from school; no dad there to mentor him, to teach him tough love, to build up his self-worth, to enforce behavior limits, to help steer him away from substance abuse, to show him what it means to be a father, a husband (99% of how we treat our spouses as adults is predicated on how our parents treated each other)—and, not coincidentally, to provide enough family income so the boy can feel a college education is part of his birthright.
I am not discounting the valiant efforts so many fathers who share joint custody of their sons make to compensate for their absence in the boy’s primary home, but it is not the same—it is not the same.
The strength of a nation is not money, prestige, possessions, or military power—it is the home. Around the world, emerging powers such as India and China are flexing their muscles, and investing billions in higher education so that their children may grow up to help dethrone America as the world’s superpower. Already, in areas such as engineering (traditionally a male preserve), the balance of power is shifting east away from America. More bad news for the untold thousands of American men who have doomed themselves to minimum wage jobs by their failure to value higher education.
We cannot retain our world-wide leadership without once again valuing our boys as much as we value our girls.
But I’ve only addressed the tip of the iceberg so far. Stay tuned for next week.