I can’t seem to get some statistics I heard in church this morning out of my head.
First, by the tender age of six, most children will already have spent more time watching TV than they will spend in their entire lifetime talking to their father. I know this dates me, but by the time I was six, I hadn’t watched much TV at all. In those days, kids played outside, or played inside if the weather didn’t cooperate, and had human rather than electronic babysitters. I can’t think of any shows that would have interested a preschool child back then. Now I loved Andy Griffith and Dick Van Dyke when I was a little older, but I doubt those shows would’ve held my interest when I was, say, four years old. Sesame Street premiered in 1969 and suddenly toddlers watched television. Today, infants watch the tube with Baby Einstein. I remember it being a huge event when I saw the premiere of Mary Poppins at the movie theater. I anticipated this outing for weeks beforehand, and relived it for weeks afterward. If you missed a film at the cinema, you missed it altogether. Now, movies can be seen all day long, the same one over and over. It loses some of the specialness.
However, I’ve digressed. The point is more about the small amount of time fathers and children talk than the large amount of time children watch TV. That brings my to the second statistic I heard this morning: the average father talks to his child only 38 seconds per day. I’m not bringing that up solely to get down on fathers (society as a whole is doing a pretty good job of that); I want to point out the inconsistency of women today who may think that men are unnecessary, that they can effectively do the parenting alone. Sometimes mothers do have to step up to that mammoth task and God can equip them to do it. But whatever the reason, when a father is uninvolved and unpresent in a child’s life, it is never a good thing for that child.
That brings me to the final statistic I heard. More than 70% of men in prison today grew up without a father present. My husband did prison ministry at San Quentin for 17 years and judging from the inmates he knows, he was surprised the percentage wasn’t higher. My not-so-profound conclusion is this: fathers are important and children desperately need to communicate with them. God bless the fathers who are being the best men they can be for their children.