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Local Voices: Fatherless

By Sean C. Bowers

It takes a real man to be a father to his children. Anyone can sire a baby; raising them is an entirely different matter.

Coming from a single parent home with an ex-con father who was not in my life for the formative years from five through 15, I speak from personal experience. As a five-year-old child, I ended up in the state’s foster care system directly because of my father’s selfish choices and came to see first-hand mental and physical abuse, of the obtuse.

Some fathers understand their vital role of example, role model, caretaker, provider, encourager and hero; sadly, too many fathers see their children as a nuisance, competition or not worthy of their time. Some leave and never look back, spreading generations of sadness in their wake with no intent of ever doing the right thing.

Innocent children are left to pick up their life pieces for themselves. This behavior also causes many fatherless children to have self-worth issues and may keep them from being able to commit to a relationship because of the permanent “hole” left in their souls.

Some are destined to repeat their father’s cycle without a positive role model disciplinarian being involved to keep them in check. Too many become abusers of both women and children, simply because they never saw the right behavior in their upbringing.

Some children have their own moral compass, an inner fortitude, self-determination, will and a burning desire to overcome their poor excuses for fathers. Some latch onto their coaches as I did, with my sports career, seeking that “family approval replacement component.” Luckily, there were many up-standing men along the way who helped me understand that there was a different more honorable way. These men showed me the correct mindset and positive coping mechanisms to deal with and overcome life’s many obstacles.

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All fatherless children share one thing that almost never goes away: an inner rage, that left unchecked or dealt with, can have dire consequences. Understanding the “why” of that powerful volatility is the beginning of controlling and harnessing it. We can only be hurt by those whom we give the power to hurt us. It is by rechanneling that rage for our own constructive uses that we truly begin the healing process and overcome. Thus we can become good fathers for our own children.

One of the last steps is forgiveness. Holding onto anger will eat one up from the inside or even cause illness. Releasing all expectations of that person is a great “first step” to rendering that person powerless over us and our future destiny in any way. Because we no longer expect anything, we can no longer be disappointed or feel let down by anyone. We are finally free.

Most infuriating is the proximity of said delinquent father to still be in one’s life with plenty of Monday morning armchair quarterback criticism, while never owning up to their less-than-stellar roles in their children’s lives. Those are the fathers who gave up their rights to offer an opinion when they first walked away. Taking ownership of our actions is the key to being proud of our future mature relations, instead of retaliations.

Remember, forgiving and forgetting the other person is imperative. Reliving the situation is akin to pulling up the planted seed every hour to see if it is growing. It is said we must honor thy father, but when they are not honorable themselves, then the honorable thing to do is to move on.

In some cases we are just better off without that negative impact in our lives and we must make that most difficult choice of self-determination. Because we have a failure of a father in no way reflects on the success we may experience as children and later, as grown ups. We must seize the day and decide to take the high road. Our destiny, our inner beauty and glory is within us, despite what any and all others may do or say. It is always up to us to choose to see ourselves in that right light.

Sometimes we have to become our own leader without a proper example, and sometimes we have to become the opposite of the bad example we have been shown.

Once we understand those self-evident truths, we will have broken the “victim cycle” and we can then become the positive influence that we ourselves missed in the lives of our families and of others.

Many thanks to my mother and my many coaches for helping me (in spite of my hardheadedness) understand my self-worth and my potential. You all taught me that fatherhood is, in a word, unselfish.

Sean C. Bowers is a local progressive youth development coach, author and poet, who has written for the New Journal and Guide for 17 years. His recent book of over 120 NJ&G articles detailing the issues is available via email at and he does make large-scale solutions presentations upon request.

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