Working in the media I get to see and read a lot of “studies” that purport to have meaning to our lives.
The latest one I read came over the weekend from the Brookings institute, a well-known and respected institution. Their paper was simply titled “The Parenting Gap.”
In it, the gist of the research, was that the kids whose parents cared, talked, read, and were more loving and responsive to their kids had more successful and well-adjusted children. Those who were in large families or adoptive environments where criminal behavior existed or other factors were involved the children were less educated, ended up in criminal behavior, and – if you’ll pardon my interpretation here – were pretty much doomed to failure.
Their premise was whether or not intervention in parenting could or should make a difference. The first part of the paper brings into account the need and importance of parents in the equation and then they simply seem to talk like the initial foregone conclusion is then obsolete and tries to factor parents out of the equation.
But that’s not my biggest pet peeve with the study.
A couple things crossed my mind: first, when they started talking about income and responsibility and family size…I grew up as a very young child at formative age without a lot. I never knew we didn’t have a lot. I grew up a block or two from the railroad tracks. I ate fried baloney sandwiches and loved them. Nothing in that entire setup had me feeling like I was missing out. Why? Because, to put it bluntly, my folks were there. My Dad worked, a whole lot, but when he was home, he was home. We spent time with them both. They read to me. They played with me. When I had horrible asthma attacks they took care of me and the worry on their faces never belied the fact that they were working their hardest to make me get better.
The second . . . and today in particular, it starts to piss me off . . . is how they talk about “parents” and then completely factor out the Dad in all their tables, scales, and research. Every table in the study mentions “where Mom worked” or “where Mom is a college graduate” or “where Mom cares for or provides a loving environment.”
I totally agree that Mom has to provide all those things or is a factor in all those things. I get angry because it seems, like so many times before this study, they assume Dad’s just less sympathetic, caring or involved than Mom is. He must be right?
If you’ve read any of my blog you realize that it’s impossible for me to not be involved. Today alone I received half a dozen phone calls from my son, freaked out because he left the book for a book report at school. I helped him, from 30 miles away via telephonic discussion, look for a copy at home. I ended up buying a new version (because the library was closed) on my way home. When things go wrong, my kids call me. That was the case even before the loss of their mother, my wife Andrea. They absolutely did the same with their mother, but they do it more now with me.
When Abbi, Hannah, Noah and Sam were born, I spoke with them. Full conversations. I did some baby talk sure, acting a little silly, being a little crazy, here and there. But I had conversations with them because they’re little people, smarter than we give them credit for, and there in the room with us! It’s just common sense.
I read to them. I still read to them. Abbi remembers the book Drummer Hoff and how I had a different voice for every character in the book. Private Parriage, Major Scot, all of them.
I find it a major disservice to Dads who are involved, not looking for credit, but do everything they can, get the phone calls, get the hugs, and have the conversations . . . and then the studies come out and say Mom is the main, key factor. Mom isn’t here for us…and we’re still doing okay. Maybe they might want to think about that.