Thursday, November 17, 2011

Season of the Father

There may be at least one silver lining to the raucous dispute between NBA basketball players and owners – more time this winter for normally globe-trotting NBA dads to spend some serious time with their kids. 

A normal season would see these abnormally tall dads absorbed from late September to late October preparing for the upcoming season. Then during the potentially eight months of basketball (if dad's team goes all the way to the NBA Finals in June, as the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks did last year), there are the coast-to-coast road trips, long practice sessions and night home games that often last long past the kids' homework and bed time.

The current labor dispute that is painfully pulling apart loyalties in the pro basketball family may, ironically, help keep a lot of players' families together.  Dads taking kids to school and picking them up from practice afterwards. Dads fixing lunch, helping with homework, volunteering at school either in the classroom or on the school yard. For as long as they're locked out of their basketball arenas, the fathers of the NBA are free to be ... fathers. And that's no small thing.

As I've noted in previous newspaper articles and blogs, father absence is an undisputed factor in a huge array of social problems for kids. Families without fathers produce more kids with depression, teen pregnancy, delinquency and drug use.  Studies show that kids without dads do worse in school, drop out sooner and at higher rates, commit more crimes, and are more likely than other kids to lead a life of poverty. 

Most of these negative social factors stem from dads who have either fled the roost, been pushed out by punishing divorce laws and custody rulings, or were never in the picture in the first place. But even dads who are "there" for their kids can "not be there," if you know what I mean.  So while the NBA stalemate will predictably lead to massive amounts of money lost by players, owners and support staff, it could also result in some really positive developments for their offspring – including some awesome new moves on neighborhood basketball courts.

The Evolution of American Parenting
In the continuing vein of monitoring the changing roles of moms and dads in our continually changing society, here are some results from a survey asking parents to rate their involvement in household chores and child-care. Interestingly, these are parents rating themselves – and each other:

Statement 1: "I do the majority of child-care and housework"
Moms: 72%
Dads: 61%

Statement 2: "The work is split evenly"

Moms: 27%
Dads: 24%

Statement 3: "My Spouse/Partner does the majority"

Moms: 1%
Dads: 15%

The poll, by NBC Universal, surveyed 3,224 moms and 403 dads in June and August, 2011.  Hey, why so few dads in the sample? Maybe they were too busy running errands and helping with homework! J

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