Saturday, May 30, 2009

Grandama's Marathon and Junetenth often cause Father’s Day: to be lost in the shuffle

Caption: Brandon Clokey holding one of his daughters at the Martin Luther King rally in 2007.
Photo by Naomi Yaeger-Bischoff

By Brandon Clokey

Amid the race results, amid the ointments for the aching muscles, amid the chaos of returning to normal…something tends to be lost. Father’s Day.

Since coming to Duluth five years ago, I have been puzzled that Father’s Day often gets buried by all of the other great events that fall on the same weekend. Grandma’s Marathon, Juneteenth and other activities tend to grab our focus and much of our efforts.

While many are still tending to the sunburns and blisters, children across the Northland are doing their best to figure out how to make breakfast in bed for dad. This, of course, becomes easier the taller and older the kids are. Otherwise, 4 and 5 year olds are trying their best to create breakfast with four pieces of licorice, an egg, a bowl, and the barbeque sauce that they see dad use at every picnic. Ok, so it may not be the safest meal in the world, but it is heartfelt and a scene repeated in various forms across the city and country.

The sad part is, however, fathers have often been lost in the shuffle. We strive to recognize and appreciate the role of mothers and everything they do. Indeed, without mothers, we could not be fathers. Mothers are and should be cherished. But not until recently have we attempted to place equal value on fatherhood and the value that fathers have in the development of healthy families and healthy children.

From a court system that has tended to be mother-biased for many years to federal programs such as WIC (Women, Infants, and Children), society has managed to send a message that perhaps places the value of fathers on a different level than mothers.

Programs like the Duluth Fathering Project, Boyz II Dadz, and the St Louis County Child Support Division are all members of the Minnesota Fathers and Families Network. One goal of the statewide network is to improve the lives of fathers, children, and ultimately the whole family, even if they are not under the same roof.

And why not? The facts are simple…fathers that play a crucial role in child development and family dynamics help to generate many positive attributes for their children. These children tend to:
•Perform better in school. Academics, attendance, graduation rates
•Are less likely to be involved with the juvenile justice system
•Are less anti-social and aggressive
•Have better self-esteem
•Show lower rates of child maltreatment
•Show less maternal stress
•Are less likely to be in poverty

So, this is for fathers out there who may or may not have been lost in the shuffle. Enjoy your licorice and egg breakfast. Enjoy the tie that lights up and sings. Enjoy the extra hugs and kisses that you get on Father’s Day. Continue to be engaged in the lives of your children and grow with them as each day passes. As a father, there is no greater calling…and no greater blessing than our children. Happy Father’s Day.

The author is a Duluth father of three, and executive director of the Duluth Fathering Project