Diminishing Dads- When to Talk About Absent Fathers

“At least he still has his dad,” was my son’s reply when I told him about the baby.

An Amber Alert had come across the TV screen about this baby that had been kidnapped early this morning by his father, after the man stabbed the child’s mother several times and left her at a hospital. I told my son about the baby on the way to school and asked him to pray for the baby’s safety. He did so in a beautiful way. I left out the part about the kidnapper being the baby’s father because I thought it would be too hard to explain to a 6-year-old. How can a dad be guilty of kidnapping when a baby’s place is supposed to be with his dad?

Since we had prayed for the baby, I was excited to tell my son that the baby had been found safe and the “bad guy” was under arrest. He was ecstatic- his prayer had worked! He asked if there were pictures of the police arresting the “bad guy.” I told him no, but showed him a picture of the baby that was on a news website. “Is this after he was safe with his family?” he asked. Yes, I told him this was when the baby was safe. But the mother had been hurt when the baby was taken and she was in the hospital, so I didn’t know who the baby was with. And that’s when he said it: “At least he still has his dad.”

I couldn’t find words to say. Earlier in the day I had not wanted to get into how a dad can be guilty of kidnapping his own child. But this afternoon, hearing the optimism in my son’s voice that this baby at least has someone to care for him- it seemed to be a different issue for me. I didn’t want to diminish dads. “Can we talk about that later?” I asked as I drove. He agreed, and luckily forgot about it. For which I was glad, because it doesn’t seem the right time to diminish dad.

I don’t know when is the right time to talk about fathers that can’t or won’t be with their children. I just know, for my child, now isn’t the time. Too many children find out first-hand and way too early, and dad becomes dim in their lives rather than a shining example. Children can learn to forgive the mistakes of a father that is present, and it usually is not secret that dad isn’t perfect. But a dad that isn’t there or that severely traumatizes his children with abuse creates a hole that is hard to heal and harder to understand.

I want my children to have a firm grasp of how dads are supposed to be- by my example and the example of other strong fathers- before they find out that there are dads out there that don’t live up to the standard. In a world that too commonly finds children without fathers, I want that to be the exception in their eyes, rather than the rule.

What do you think? How do you frame this or other pressing family issues with children? Did I “run scared” by not talking about this with my 6-year-old? What would you do? Let me know in the comments below!

Copyright (c) 2013 Glen Gaugh


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