The Last week on The View, guest co-host Terry Crews got into a scuffle with his female co-hosts by emphasizing the importance of fathers. “There are some things that only a father can give you,” he said. Crews listed a number of things, one of which is confidence. “Because when your father tells you you can do something, you believe you can do it.”
In better times, a comment like this would be met with applause. But in a country in which single parents have more than tripled as a share of American households since 1960, such an assertion becomes an outright attack. Indeed, a very defensive Jenny McCarthy chimed in with this: “I’m a single mother, and I can guarantee you I can give [her son] Evan every one of those things!”
Fortunately, the level-headed Sherri Shepherd—despite being a single mother—pointed out that while single mothers have no choice but to try and fulfill the role of mom and dad, the reality is they can’t. “What I appreciate about a father…because I do think you need a mother and a father…I think there are things a father can do that a mother can’t.”
She then offered a fantastic example. “Like fathers…the tears don’t bother a man as much. Like my friend Bone Hampton, he has a son, he’s raising him beautifully. That boy will cry, and Bone will say ‘Get up, wipe it up, you can do it.’ Me with Jeffrey, he’ll start cryin and I’m goin, ‘What’s goin on, Baby?”
Well that was enough to give Whoopi Goldberg heart palpitations. “Wait! Wait! Wait!” she screamed, as Shepherd was forced to insist she’s “not trying to take anything away from mothers.”
“But you ARE!” whines Goldberg. “You’re taking from mothers because the mothers whose husbands maybe have died…Listen, I was raised by a single mother, and the story I got from my dad was, ‘You’re kinda on your own, Babe.”
Then McCarthy says to Crews, “Every single thing that you’ve mentioned I see in Evan. I’ve managed to imitate what a man does.”
Goldberg’s and McCarthy’s responses speak volumes.
Many women who are single mothers, or who were raised by single mothers, become highly emotional when it comes to fathers. They can’t honor a man’s role in children’s lives because that would mean they (or their mothers) failed. We can all sympathize with the delicate nature of this subject. But dismissing uncomfortable truths doesn’t make them any less true.
Sherri Shepherd was a breath of fresh air. Unlike her co-hosts, she was able—despite being twice divorced and a single mother—to separate her story from the facts. She knows that just as there are things mothers offer that fathers don’t, so must the reverse be true. If that is not the case, if women truly can do the job of both parents, what are fathers good for? Why have them around at all?
I believe what Crews was getting at his visit on The View isn’t all that different from what The Wall Street Journal highlighted last week in “Roughhousing Lessons from Dad.”
“The father serves as a secure base allowing the child to explore and take risks,” writes Sue Shellenbarger. “In an early study at the University of Regensburg in Germany, researchers created a scale to evaluate parents’ play, based on whether they challenged kids to stretch themselves, were sensitive to their emotions and encouraged them to solve problems. Mothers and fathers were observed playing with blocks or play dough with their 2-year-olds. Fathers’ scores were a unique predictor of children’s healthy attitudes toward relationships with others at age 16.” [Emphasis mine.]
Security. Confidence. Purpose. These are just a few of the things fathers offer children. Can a mother do it just as well? Maybe. Sometimes. But all too often, no.
“Therapists’ office are filled with people who discover this later in life, says Crews. By “this,” he means the void left in a child’s life from not having a father.
One of these days, we’re going to have to acknowledge this.