I have met and heard the tragic stories of many parents. PA is a function, by and large, of a custodial ex-partner, although some alienation can start while the couple is still together.

This blog is a story of experiences and observations of dysfunctional Family Law (FLAW), an arena pitting parent against parent, with children as the prize. Due to the gender bias in Family Law, that I have observed, this Blog has evolved from a focus solely on PA to one of the broader Family/Children's Rights area and the impact of Feminist mythology on Canadian Jurisprudence and the Divorce Industry.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Fatherhood can be a thankless job

My comments left on the Ottawa Citizen site. Paul: Its good to see two articles related to Fatherhood so close together. We are indeed a marginalized species, especially white Anglo-Saxons who we see as buffoons on TV, in ads and at the movies. Those of us who are blind sided by family law as practiced by feminized judges know full well how important we are considered in the world of gender politics. We have wallets and are used as ATM's while perhaps seeing our children , if we don't have a vindictive ex, 4 days a month. Dads who have not run through the humiliation of family law (FLAW) don't yet know what is in store for them. Fathers are the bedrock of our civilization. The social problems, including the single largest source of child poverty, created by judges giving sole custody to moms in a 9-1 ratio, are pretty evident and study after study shows children with two parents in their lives do much better. A presumption of shared and equal parenting is needed on family breakdown to keep dads in their children's lives. Thank you for your good work at McGill and your hands on involvement in showing Canadians that we men and fathers are important in more respects than sperm donors and wallets. I wanted to add that I love my children unconditionally but the manner in which a father demonstrates this is fundamentally different than a woman most of the time but not always.MJM

Last Fathers' Day, U.S. President Barack Obama, so eloquent on most occasions, chose not to celebrate good fathers but to rant about "deadbeat dads." David Warren hasn't repeated that mistake. His Saturday column, "In praise of patriarchs" is excellent (and not only because of his reference to the books that I have written with Katherine Young). In the hope his article will jump-start a public discussion of fatherhood, I offer the following comments.

My father, who died two years ago, had a difficult but close and even intense relationship with me. From my perspective as a boy and young man, he seemed overly judgmental. I grew up thinking that I could never make the grade, never be good enough to satisfy his lofty expectations. And his standard for honourable manhood, which he applied to himself no less than to me, did seem unattainable. Worse, it seemed to me, his notion of manhood focused heavily on duty and sacrifice -- not things that most people, certainly not children, are eager to embrace. Worse still, perhaps, he expected me to learn skills that didn't interest me.

Dad played with me and took me to museums, sure, but he also tried to help me with my arithmetic homework -- and was visibly exasperated, night after night, by my inability to understand what he considered common sense.

To be blunt, I usually preferred my mother, who gave me uncomplicated and unconditional love. Dad confessed, many years later, that I had disappointed him at first. And I can see why.

I was an outsider for several reasons in childhood. Apart from anything else, I was both unwilling and unable to absorb prevalent but superficial (and ultimately both destructive and self-destructive) notions of masculinity. I had to invent myself, therefore, and I'm proud of my ability to do so. But it was Dad who first taught me to be independent -- that is, as I eventually understood, to think for myself but within a larger moral context. He taught me to become more fully human, in other words, not to embrace either conformity or "autonomy" (an overused and misused word these days).

Dad lived long enough to see me take my place in the world. I knew that he respected me as a scholar. One day, in the middle of some argument, he suddenly turned to me and said, "Paul, you're a learned man." Okay, I was much too old by then for those words to give me a sense of self-confidence. But we both realized immediately that this was a moment of profound fulfillment; a father had symbolically conferred manhood on his son. I never did learn arithmetic, but I had made him proud of me in other ways. This was my secular bar mitzvah.

Dad still blamed himself, however, for not pushing me hard enough to become more financially secure. Fortunately, we had time to talk about that. Having spent many years doing research in the humanities on manhood (including fatherhood), I told him that he had done exactly what every father needs to do. I didn't have to add that he had done so not by consciously adopting the approach of this or that expert but by subconsciously absorbing the legacy of human experience after countless generations.

Fathers, unlike mothers, must require their children to earn love -- respect, which is a form of love -- in order to leave home mature enough to give and receive it as adults. And fathers, unlike mothers, cannot measure their effectiveness adequately in terms of immediate emotional gratification. Spontaneous displays of affection from their children do not necessarily mean, after all, that fathers are doing what's best for them.

Young children know very little, in any case, about what their fathers do for them behind the scenes. Moreover, they often resent having to meet expectations or endure constant testing. As for fathers themselves, they find it hard to feel unconditional love for their children without always revealing it directly for fear of sending a double message: "I love you no matter what you do or don't do" versus "I love you for being worthy of love."

In short, fathering is inherently more complicated, more ambiguous, and more perilous (though not, of course, more important) than mothering. It requires a massive cultural effort to promote fathering and not merely to bribe or threaten fathers into providing material resources.

I'm dismayed, therefore, to find that our society seems hell-bent on undermining the culture of fatherhood (or whatever remains of that culture). My research with Katherine Young indicates that every person and every group, to have a healthy identity, must be able to make at least one contribution to society that is distinctive, necessary, and publicly valued. Now that women can take over two of the three historic functions of men, provider and protector (if necessary with the state's help), only progenitor remains. And to be a progenitor in any meaningful sense is to care for children in the ways that I've outlined here, not merely to contribute a teaspoonful of sperm or even a monthly cheque. Boys must know that society will indeed need them to make at least this one contribution.

For the time being, they don't. At best, in this age of Oprah Winfrey and sperm banks, the message is that fathers are assistant mothers and therefore luxuries. Boys now learn directly or indirectly, that there will be no room for them as men in family life and that they will therefore have no moral stake as men in the future of society. If that isn't an ominous sign, what is?

And yet, even now, most men do care for their children. Congratulations, then, to all the confused and beleaguered fathers out there for continuing to do what is often a thankless job.

Paul Nathanson is a research associate at McGill University's Faculty of Religious Studies and co-author of the books Spreading Misandry and Legalizing Misandry.

The Changing Role of Father: Involved Dads and Their Positive Impact on Education

The One Thing You Need To Know

Fathers make an impact in all facets of their children's lives - including academic success.

In the 21st century, the role of ‘father’ has changed. It’s safe to say that most people do not expect fathers to take on the role of sole breadwinner, primary disciplinarian or take a backseat to mothers when it comes to raising children. As this outdated thinking about the role of the father dissipates, dads who are truly involved in their children’s lives are making a significant difference in many areas – including the realm of education.

The Canadian Father Involvement Initiative (CFII) is a non-profit organization based in Carleton Place, Ontario. CFII defines an “involved father” as: “…a father who knows and enjoys his kids, one who shares with his partner the work and the play of raising them, one who understands them well and can handle their daily routines. We mean a man who has his own direct, close relationship with his children.”

In the 2001 census there were 4.2 million fathers in Canada. How do these modern-day dads parent their children? “I think fathers parent differently than mothers…but it’s just as important,” says Glenn Sacks, a journalist and the executive director of Fathers and Families – an advocacy and research organization. Sacks adds, “….fathers who are around [these days] are more hands-on.”

Fathers need to realize the important contribution that they make in every facet of their kids’ lives – sometimes the father’s role is dismissed as less important to the mother’s but this is simply not true.

According to an Australian study entitled The Changing Role of Fathers conducted by Graeme Russell, “The ideas that fathers do not have the ability to care for children and that it is not good for families to have fathers take a major responsibility for care-giving are not supported by recent research findings.” The report also states that, “fathers in shared-care (two partner) families saw that they had improved relationships with their children.”

While paid work may get in the way of full involvement, fathers can stay in touch with children in the mornings, evenings or on weekends. Simple activities like playing catch, going to the park, building Lego, shopping for groceries together, or singing songs can bring great joy to kids. Dads who have more time or enjoy group activities may want to volunteer to coach their child’s t-ball team, volunteer on a school field trip or join a “dad and tot” program at their local library or community centre.

Involved Dads = Success in School

Whether today’s dads are helping kids with homework, attending parent-teacher interviews, or reading to children at bedtime, the positive impact that involved fathers make resonates in their children’s academic success. According to information from CFII, school-aged children of involved fathers demonstrate the following attributes:

-They are better academic achievers -They are more likely to get As -They have better quantitative and verbal skills -They have higher grade point averages, receive superior grades, or perform a year above their expected age level on academic tests -They demonstrate more cognitive competence on standardized intellectual assessments -They are more likely to enjoy school, have better attitudes toward school, participate in extracurricular activities, and graduate.

Glenn Sacks was a stay-at-home dad for three years and is still very much involved with his children’s school and social needs. While he loves being involved with his two children, Sacks feels that educators sometimes lag behind the times when it comes to involving fathers in their children’s schooling. “Even now,” says Sacks, “if something happens at school, [teachers] still call my wife. She will tell them, ‘call my husband – he deals with that stuff.’”

So, with all of this useful and important data backing up the important role of fathers, what else do dads need to get more involved? Sacks has advice for dads who truly want to be more involved with their children: “Just do it,” he says simply.

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