“Proud single mom” Yevette Vasquez of Worth, Texas recently crashed an event her school was throwing for fathers. Upon dropping her son off at school, she learned of “Donuts with Dads.” Not wanting her son to feel left out, she went home, dressed as a man, and returned to the school to do breakfast with some of the fathers. It was played off as a joke, but Vasquez clearly wanted to make a statement.
In an article published on BuzzFeed, the tone is one of “sticking it to the man,” or men, in this case. Although there was an event for mothers scheduled separately, Vasquez also wanted to be included in other events designed just for the fathers.
“My kids have lived a while without having their father, they’re not sad about it,” she told BuzzFeed, adding that the dads-only event doesn’t bother her, as long as she’s allowed to attend future ones — without a costume.
This Just Erases Dad Events
If mothers can attend events meant only for fathers, fathers-only gatherings become meetings for anyone, losing their entire purpose. Who are the parents most involved in the day-to-day goings on of a child’s school life? Any parent or teacher can tell you, nine times out of ten, it’s mothers who show up to events.
Due in part to their nurturing nature, growing numbers of single mothers, and the probability that a wife has a more flexible work schedule than a husband, most school events are predominantly female. Would men—fathers—feel as comfortable coming to an event when they know they’ll be outnumbered by mothers, or would they be more inclined to participate if they’ll be surrounded by their fellow dads? Educators keen to get dads involved know it’s the latter.
The pushback against “Donuts with Dads” and other like events ultimately reflects that some in our society consider fathers essentially useless. “Muffins with Moms” is unobjectionable, as moms are viewed as irreplaceable, but “Donuts with Dads” can be diluted enough to eliminate the dad part of the breakfast.
Doubling Up on Moms Doesn’t Replace Missing Dads
Vasquez said she didn’t want her son to feel left out. What most parents raising kids these days seem to have forgotten is that kids will eventually feel excluded in some manner. Kids with food allergies can’t enjoy the same treats as their classmates, kids without grandparents can’t enjoy grandparent day, and girls and boys will eventually splinter off into the respective camps, only to find each other again come puberty. Feeling left out is part of growing up, in every sense of the term. Dealing with life’s disappointments is a requirement for maturity.
Growing up, I was that kid in my elementary school class making “Mommy-Daughter Day” crafts while my friends were making Father’s Day equivalents. Even among the several children of divorce I was unique: I was the only one in the class completely estranged from my father. I understand better than most children’s feeling of loss without a father figure, which is why I’ve become such a cheerleader for fathers as an adult. Kids need their fathers, and their fathers are not replaceable, even by their mother.
It wasn’t my friends completing crafts for their dads that reminded me of my missing father; I felt his absence every day regardless of how and whom my friends were celebrating on a Sunday in June.
Now, more than ever, fathers need to be reminded of their importance and be expected to show up physically, financially, and emotionally. The “more than ever” part comes in because fewer and fewer men are doing their job as biological parents to their children. Single parenthood has tripled since 1960, a phenomenon with far-reaching negative implications for our society. Controlling for other factors, children whose fathers were present in their childhoods attain higher educational levels, are less likely to be imprisoned, and achieve more behaviorally, cognitively, developmentally, psychologically, and academically.
For those attending schools with events like “Donuts for Dads,” the big picture is important to keep in mind. Yes, the feelings of students should be considered; but the message we are sending to them should, too. Mothers and fathers are separate and not interchangeable, and both play critical roles in their children’s lives.
One of the goals of get-togethers such as this is to foster parental involvement. For fathers, who already might be less likely to show up at school events for myriad reasons, events specifically celebrating them are an important step to reversing the tide of paternal absence that is so damagingly pervasive in our current society.