Happy Father’s Day!!! (reprinted with permission)

Assuming role of dad tough job

By Terry Pluto, Beacon Journal columnist

Most men I know are helping to raise someone else's children. We live in a society of “blended families,'' a term that hides the fact that even the best families don't exactly run smoothly.

That's why so many men find themselves in no man's land on Father's Day.

They're the father in the home or, at least, the man in the house. But they aren't sure where they stand with some of the children who suddenly are under their care. Nor are the kids sure what to think of the man who now lives with their mother.

The children usually want their family to stay together. They want mom and dad to love each other. They often feel rejected when the biological father leaves or when he is told to depart as a result of a divorce.

Some states have no-fault divorce, but there's no such thing as a divorce without pain and guilt when children are involved. That's true even when there was abuse or abandonment, when divorce was the only viable option.

It still leaves open wounds. Decades later, scars remain.

That's why many men who marry into homes where they take on another man's children discover it's so hard.

They know they are loved by the children's mother, but they sometimes have trouble navigating the difficult road of how to discipline the kids.

They are uneasy when the biological dad returns for visits. In some cases, the biological dad is a good guy. He's not always the devil in the divorce. Or maybe he was a mess when the divorce happened and he's starting to clean up his act.

They end up in the middle of court cases about child support and visitation rights. Sometimes, these legal situations squeeze in from both sides of the new family — his and hers. The stress can be unrelenting.

What's the point of all this?

Father's Day just ain't what it used to be.

This is not a story about blaming moms or dads. It's about fatherhood being more complicated, more demanding than ever.

Single mothers have begun to receive their real due for the seemingly impossible task of raising children by themselves. Sometimes they try to be mother and father, and feel like they're doing a rotten job at both roles. Often, their situation seems overwhelming.

Yet most of them press on valiantly. In the end, they often (or should) receive enormous love from their children.

If some of you come from a home with a single mom, give her a call and thank her today. Not for being dad. But for simply being there every day — Mother's Day, Father's Day, Christmas Day and Groundhog Day.

As fathers, down deep, most men fear they are blowing it when it comes to their kids — biological, adopted or just the children in their care.

In some segments of society, fathers have been told they are irrelevant. In parts of the media, fathers are portrayed as dictators, bullies and religious nuts. Or men who have abandoned their children. Or wimps who need mom and the kids to whip them into shape.

The majority of fathers don't fall into any of those stereotypes, but it's discouraging to many men who are trying their best in situations never faced by their fathers and grandfathers.

I know of some men who had no real father in their homes. They feel like they are making this up as they go along — driving without a map, often sensing they just got off at the wrong exit.

Father's Day should be more than a day to thank dad. It's a day to pray for him, to encourage him. He could be a grandfather, an uncle or someone else who suddenly has ended up with children in his care.

Whoever he is, the man needs to feel he is appreciated. Not just this day, but every day.


Terry Pluto can be reached at terrypluto2003@yahoo.com. Sign up for Terry's free, weekly e-mail newsletter “Direct from Pluto'' at www.ohio.com

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