One of my favorite and earliest memories I have of my father was when he was tilling the ground in our backyard to start a vegetable garden.
I loved watching that tough ground be turned into what seemed like soft clouds. My dad’s large frame would leave very huge imprints in the newly tilled dirt, and I would follow behind him as he tilled trying to stretch my legs far enough to step into the footprints he left behind.
Sadly, my father passed away when I was 17 years old. But even 30 years later, I still try to follow in his footsteps.
As a father now myself, I often think about what memories and legacy I am leaving for my own children. They are following me, but where am I leading them?
Strangely enough, you might be surprised by who else seems to be worried about the impact of fathers on their children. Better stated, you might be surprised by who seems to be very worried about the impact of children growing up with little to no father involvement.
Who is worried? The U.S. government.
During its last grant cycle in 2015, the Office of Family Assistance gave more than $55 million to fatherhood programs around the United States to specifically encourage fathers to connect more with their children.
Why? Why are your tax dollars being spent this way? Because research studies for years have confirmed what most school teachers and community leaders already know — children from father-absent homes are impacted negatively in terms of academic performance, emotional and behavioral maturity, job participation and nonmarital childbearing, according to the Congressional Research Service's 2018 report titled Fatherhood Initiatives: Connecting Fathers to Their Children.
I’ve had many conversations with men from fatherless homes. Most of them want to be involved with their children because they instinctively know they missed something. But for these men, they are tilling new ground.
They are going to have to break up some old, tough ground to create some fresh places on which to leave their footprints and legacies.
There are two places locally that are trying to help men through this process — Dad’s League and Five Star Fathers at Women’s Hope Medical Clinic.
Fathers need other fathers. Get involved if you can.
Jeremy Walden is pastor of Mosaic Family Church, a nondenominational church in Auburn, and teaches Family Communication at Auburn University.