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Encouraging Male Parental Responsibility

Sometimes the world seems a cruel and irrational place.

You have probably read of the incident where a TV advertisement run for Father’s Day by fathers’ advocacy group Dads 4 Kids was pulled for being “too political” in the context of the same sex marriage debate.

Our society has suffered immeasurable damage from the breakdown of the traditional family unit. One of the most common outcomes from this breakdown is that men who have irresponsibly fathered children with no intention of supporting them have left countless women to bring up children alone.

No doubt many women have succeeded in doing so with little detriment to those children. But there have also been significant casualties.

In a society where we have been critical of derelict fathers, surely any initiatives designed to have fathers take their responsibilities more seriously should be applauded. I found the offending TV ad moving and appropriate for Father’s Day.

But more than that, to depict the positive attributes of fatherhood and the joys and benefits that children might derive from attentive fathers is surely a positive thing.

It is probably a truism to say that children deserve the nurture of both a father and a mother but  I can imagine children living in the loving embrace of same sex couples getting most of the psychological and physical support that children need. But I wonder at the difference it might make to children to have heterosexual influences.

As we saw above it is largely been men that have opted out of parental responsibilities. Whilst this has undoubted negative impacts on the children involved, it is probably more problematic for boys. Many boys are now raised solely by their mothers. And even when they get to school, in the primary years at least, they are likely to be placed with female teachers. Consequently they go through their more formative years entirely without male role models.

Does this matter, you might ask? Well to me it seems to matter.

When I think back on my own youth, I am sure my father had a big impact on me, and largely for the better. He was not a very demonstrative man, but I never had any doubt that he cared for me. He was a strong man and very protective of my mother. I can remember him even intervening to stop one of my aunts being assaulted by her husband. He, himself, would never have stooped to strike a woman under any circumstances.

He loved the bush and most weekends we went somewhere to camp, fish or hunt. He had very strict guidelines here as well. You never killed anything just “for fun”: if you shot a wild duck or caught a fish it must be eaten. He used to walk through the scrub looking for wild bee hives. On finding one he would return to rob the hive of its honey. I have visions of honeycomb in muslin bags hanging in the laundry dripping its sweet bounty into large containers. My mother often said he was never happier than when walking in the bush. Consequently we all developed a healthy regard for the natural landscape.

He loved the water and in the warmer months we would set off mid-afternoon on Sundays to go swimming in the Burdekin. He taught my brothers and I all to swim. Our swimming strokes were unorthodox and none of us would have made a swimming team – but it enabled us to enjoy the water and safeguarded us from drowning.

Dad was civic minded and became a councillor in the Charters Towers City Council. He served as a director on the local hospital board. He was a passionate member of the Labor Party and a staunch unionist. While I might disagree with his politics, I would never impugn his motivation, which was to support working people and the disadvantaged. He would sometimes speak to us of the struggle to survive the Great Depression, but it was only after his death that others of his generation told us how he had helped them to survive as well.

He had little education and left school early. And yet he was very accomplished in many ways. He was renowned for fixing clocks. People would bring clocks to him for repair. He used to manufacture gun stocks. His favourite timber for this endeavour was Burdekin Plum. He would cut a piece of Burdekin Plum and let it “mature” for some years before setting about fashioning it into gun stocks.

Although he worked as an unskilled labourer, he had a large array of skills. When as a student I bought a motorbike to get to and from university, it was dad who would repair it. He completely renovated the family home over the years.

He was a keen gardener and liked to boast about the size of his tomatoes and the beauty of his roses. Is it any surprise that I grow roses and tomatoes?

And then there were the little things that hardly seem worthy of mention but were immensely important. None of us had a new bicycle to ride to school. When we were five or six and were trusted to go to school by ourselves (primary school was a couple of miles away), Dad would fossick around and find bits and pieces and put together a bicycle for each of us. And guess who taught us how to fix our bicycle tyres? And what about all those other little skills? How to mend a dripping tap. How to cook potatoes in the coals of a campfire. How to drive on a muddy road. Where we could pick mushrooms after rain.

My mother in many other ways was just as influential on me as my father. But I believe I gained a lot by having both a male and a female parent who cared for me.

The sexual preferences of other people and the way they choose to live their lives are of no great concern to me. I am perfectly comfortable that they should make such choices. But I am concerned with the welfare of children who live in such environments. And I suppose if same sex marriage comes to pass and those couples marrying are encouraged to display long-term commitment then that does provide a more certain environment for children that come into their care. But I am still unconvinced that that provides as good an environment for raising children as a committed heterosexual couple. Perhaps I look at my own past through rose-coloured glasses, but my parents nurtured a close family, the members of which they supported as best they could and not without personal sacrifice. My father provided a role model for his sons in how we should take our appropriate place as men in society and the values we should aspire to. Many boys and young men have not had this advantage and as a result do not contribute positively to our society at all.

(It was this very point with respect to dysfunction in remote indigenous that motivated Bill Leak just over twelve months ago to publish his famous cartoon about derelict indigenous fathers for which he was unjustly pilloried.)

And going back to my opening concern about the Dads 4 Kids advertisement, if you look at the two social issues that were drawn together here, the inability of same-sex couple to marry and the dereliction of fathers of their parental duties, I believe it is the latter that is doing the greater harm to our society. The lack of economic, moral and social support by such miscreant men is perpetuating an underclass of struggling (but often courageous) women and their dependent children. We should be applauding anyone trying to encourage men to fulfil their parental responsibilities rather than silencing them with faux political correctness.

The LGBTI advocates are preaching that gender is an individual’s matter of choice. I have written many essays pointing out the fact that human behaviour is largely determined by our genetic inheritance and our early socialisation. Indeed our free will is far more constrained than most people understand.

The LGBTI supporters seem to imply there is no genetic determination of human behaviour at all. This is not true. But even if we assume it was, their model still has deficits. Supposing it was true that children could choose their gender orientation, they could only choose from the options demonstrated to them. My concern is that male children in such environments don’t have the option of heterosexual malehood available to them.

Now this deficiency is only partly due to the prejudices of the LGBTI community. It is also due to the failure of many heterosexual males to fulfil their obligations of parenthood.

Maybe if we could address this issue, there would be more and better options for our children in whatever family relationships they happen to inhabit. Consequently Dads 4 Kids and their advocacy for male parental responsibility should be encouraged even if you are a same sex marriage supporter!

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  1. 4 Comment(s)

  2.   By Barbara Jones on Sep 9, 2017 | Reply

    Thank you Ted, for your piece this week, with it’s specific perspective on fatherhood. I whole-heartedly agree. I am at odds on which way to go in this forthcoming vote on SSM. Things have gotten way out of hand – and it does seem to be more from the “Yes” side of things. It is this sniping at any person who (or organisation which) expresses a different opinion, that has me thinking this way. Much as I am thoroughly tired of the “debate” I believe that more needs to be thought through in terms of protections/freedom of speech; freedom of religion etc. We are in for a rough ride, I suspect.
    Warmest,
    BARBARA

  3.   By Gary Humphrys on Sep 9, 2017 | Reply

    Great article Ted, well balanced and thought provoking.
    I think that the same sex marriage debate has suffered like so many other matters that are discussed in the public square, full of vitriol and name calling. It would be great if a sensible debate could be had just for a change.
    Personally, I would prefer to have some more information about what the proposed legislation may look like if the “yes” vote is successful – but that does not look like happening.

  4.   By Jack Taylor on Sep 9, 2017 | Reply

    Well said Ted, Father’s Day has served to lift men from their heretofor brutish ways to a more noble and caring and responsible animal….. All under the hammer now though as our pull everything down society raises small M males to great heights only attained previously by Men. I see marriage is under fire also – Marriage is and was an institution which has been essentially connected to procreation and the protection of children for thousands of years in every social group known to history, well and truly pre-dating our establishment Churches. Marriage enshrined in social law the obligation of the strong to protect the weak, the Man to support his family, the Hunter to provide for more than himself, the wage earner to share his wages….the vitriolic people you speak of would have us downgrade this basic and ancient social contract which has as long as recorded history and before been the quintessential mark of civilisation. No wonder the Muslims think the West is degenerate.

  5.   By Lori on Sep 10, 2017 | Reply

    Great article. I too, grew up in a loving home with a hard working father and a very dominant mother. My dad is a good man, though he was not a prominent influence in my choices of my decisions in my younger and latter years. I was basically a single mum, but was fortunate to have some input into my son’s life by his biological father, and this was a great influence on what made my son the wonderful person he is today. This I am so very grateful for. I really feel sorry for the generations today who may not experience the family values that I was fortunate enough to have lived through.The times they are a changing!

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