Last weekend it was Father’s Day, but I didn’t quite get breakfast in bed or the long lazy lie-in I had hoped for. And to cap it all, when my wife asked our darling 4-year old daughter who was the best father in the world she said, ‘Millie’s dad!
So the day was not going quite according to plan. However, I eventually rallied enough to get dressed and into the family car to be driven off to the Dad’s Army museum in Bressingham, Norfolk by my wife and three children.
As we walked around the exhibition and the mocked up fictitious Warmington-on-Sea it made me feel quite sentimental. My wife commented how strange it was that we can feel nostalgia for a time and place that we did not live in. After all, this is a museum dedicated to a British TV sitcom made over the 60s and 70s, it’s not as if it really happened, is it? I am told my grandfather had spent a little time in the Home Guard and my parents did grew up during the war, so there is some affinity there, I guess.
Now I am aware at this stage I have either turned you off from reading because a) you hate Dad’s Army; b) you are a mother; C) you’ve never known your father or had a particularly famous relationship with him.
Being a dad has mixed blessings nowadays. The law continues, to my mind, to unduly punish the husband/father in divorce courts and favour the mother by default. To be honest, we are not exactly getting a particularly good press at the moment.
The dad status is also slowly being reduced through our brave new world of genetic research that will probably see the father figure become a dispensable commodity in the next 20 years or less.
Then there is the offspring who have never known their father, who lack male guidance and mentoring in the most formative years of their life.
I have been enjoying reading Donald Miller’s book this week called To Own a Dragon: Reflections of Growing up without a Father. (I have added it to the To Read list.) He talks with his typical mixed style of humour and poignancy about his own experiences and how he was desperate for a father figure in his young life. This has also been my experience when talking to fatherless young men around me. Though often without the humour.
At the end of his book he includes some quite startling stats. Although admittedly American, I am sure they will reflect UK culture to some large degree too:
63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes – five times the average.
85% of all children who show behaviour disorders come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average.
80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes – 14 times the average.
71% of all high school drop outs come from fatherless home – 9 times the average.
75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centres come from fatherless homes.
70% of youths in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes – 9 times the average.
85% of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes – 20 times the average.
For those of us fortunate to have dads, Father’s Day is really worth celebrating, perhaps more than ever. For me, a normal balanced family life still seems to fit well with the experience of growing up with a mother and a father. My Bible tells me that this was always God’s intention for his creation, so it breaks my heart when this is denied a youngster. But we can do something about it.
We, men in the church, can give the fatherless father figures in ourselves and help them become all that they can be. We can offer to be a mentor and reliable friend on speed dial to them. It's worth thinking about.
Meanwhile, I leave you with news that down the road from the Dad’s Army museum in Bressingham they are erecting a statue in Thetford's town centre to Captain Mainwaring. I kid you not!
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