Since the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut I’ve been reading the news even more voraciously than usual. Like most people, I want to know why. I want to see a hard drive or a suicide note that explains the mind of a madman. To date, nothing has surfaced. So, while the debate roars over gun control versus the need for better health care for the mentally ill, I’m going to ignore both of those issues and talk about something else entirely: fatherhood.
I’ve heard and read many things about Adam Lanza’s mother. She was generous, happy, upbeat, a farm girl. She was a survivalist who loved guns and frequented the shooting range with her mentally unstable son. Bloggers and the media speculate over whether she properly parented her son, who was at least on the autism spectrum and, at worst, severely mentally ill. But I have heard nothing about Adam Lanza’s father except the amount he paid in alimony to Adams’s mother each year. Does that strike anyone else as odd? Adam’s father’s effect on his troubled son is reduced to a dollar amount? Really?
I don’t know enough about Adam’s father to make a judgment on his parenting abilities. But I find the lack of media attention on this man a symptom of a problem in our culture. We don’t give men enough credit, or hold them to a high enough standard, for raising their children. It’s like everyone just assumes that Adam’s mother was his biggest influence. This is quite possible, since he was angry enough at her to murder her. However, no attention is being paid to the influence, or perhaps the lack of influence by Adam’s father.
Would Adam have turned out any differently if his dad had been around? Would a solid male role model have helped him deal with his anger or his inability to fit in? We’ll never know. But I will say that the fathers of those dead children would give anything to have the opportunity that Adam Lanza’s father gave up in the divorce, the ability to be with their children every single day.
Am I calling Adam Lanza’s dad a bad father? Not necessarily. I can’t make that call because I don’t know. What I am doing is issuing a challenge to hold fathers to the same standards as mothers and recognize that their presence is vital. Their absence can screw up a kid just as fast as a mother’s questionable parenting can.
Recently I read that the number one commonality of all men in prison, regardless of race, is the lack of a father in the home. I don’t believe that we’re giving good men enough credit for sticking it out in their marriages and sticking around to raise their kids. So here’s a toast to good men. I’m lucky enough to be married to one and I’m thankful for him every day.