Out of boredom, a friend once challenged me to come up with a popular word that starts from F- and ends with –K. As an English major, I enumerated at least twelve while avoiding the commonest of obscenities: fork, freak, flick, flak, flask, folk, frisk, frock, frank, flank, flunk, funk. Add Facebook to that, now that it has officially become a noun. Take the –K and more words come to mind. In this month, and as the 17th draws nigh, one F- word stands out, father. And in the strictest sense of the word, we find that nobody can claim the right to be called a “father” without an offspring. But children without fathers? Plenty.
Let’s take a moment and single out a group whose label again begins in F- fatherless. Much has been said about them, a few examples: a study made by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 1993, found that fatherless children are at greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse, poor educational performance, sexual abuse, teen pregnancy and criminality; a longitudinal study of urban elementary school students in the U.S. in 1995 found that there is a greater level of aggression among boys in mother-only households; and in Virginia a study found that children from one-parent households are more prone to depression and are less successful in relationships. In a nutshell, the fatherless youngsters have a greater tendency to be another F- word: failure.
Failure. A government liability. Underachiever. Shunned. Now doesn’t that make any of us wonder how many of those who are cramped in prison cells grew up without a father? How many of the drop-outs, the expelled, the flunked outs came from fatherless homes?
Before despair gets the better of us, let us remember we have an F-word to hang our hopes on: Freewill. All the researches and investigations have ever shown us about the fatherless children are tendencies. Just because you are a fatherless child does not automatically mean you will inevitably become a societal pariah. Tendencies are mere inclinations, possibilities, trends; not destiny, which is incidentally, a synonym of another F-word, fate: a little something that has a lot to do with our choices.
I am reminded of a 2011 documentary on the hardcore punk rock musicians of the 80s and 90s and their experiences on an F-word, fatherhood. The movers of this subculture were children in the Cold War Era, and their first images of the government authority were Vietnam War and the Watergate Scandal. With anarchism and nihilism as ruling ideologies, the punk rock subculture started out as a form of subversion against the system; subscribers were often mohawked and leather-clad, and the scene was always characterized by considerable violence.
The documentary reported on the changes of these punksters in the face of fatherhood. Some altered from “living fast and dying young” to “living fast and dying a little older”; they also dealt with the conflict of screaming profanities during their live shows, singing the anthem Fuck Authorities while being a role model and an authority figure at home; some reminisced on how their own fathers were- some good, while others walked out on their responsibilities. One in particular noted the society’s low expectations on them as parents because of a rockstar’s stereotypical lifestyle. But it was quite astonishing, honestly, to see them vulnerable, relating (tearfully for some) their experiences of fatherhood such as spending quality time with their kids, or dealing with a son’s death, or taking their kids to school, knowing the sexual perversions, drug, and alcohol history of these artists.
So you see?
An F-word may be ten thousand different things: from the obscenity to the patriarch. This 17th, think about your father. If he has raised you properly, congratulate him for a job well done. Otherwise, learn from his mistakes, and remember an F-word that’s good for your soul, forgiveness.