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The importance of fathers

by Bart Moss for the FCT

Sunday was Father’s Day – a very special day for many who celebrate the impact fathers have on the lives of their children. Scrolling through Facebook Sunday, one could see how many love and respect the dads in their lives and how much many men enjoy being called dad.

My dad taught me many things growing up – not by lecturing but by example. When I was a young boy, my father was a teacher and coach at the high school level and at the junior college level. When I was a young man, my dad served two terms as the superintendent of education of Franklin County.

I was really too young to remember his days as a teacher and coach at Phil Campbell and Belgreen. But very few days go by when someone he taught or coached at those schools doesn’t ask about him or tell me how much he meant to them.

I do remember his days at Northwest Alabama Junior College, where he was an accounting and business teacher, coach of many sports and athletic director. He will tell you to this day that Northwest was his favorite job. He loved the students and his colleagues at the college, which is just a mile from their home in Phil Campbell.

At Northwest, he was able to impact people from all over Franklin County and, more broadly, northwest Alabama. As a teacher, my dad was always the storyteller. He picked on students – but in a good way, that made them feel special. As a coach, my dad, when it came to awarding athletic scholarships, tried his best to stay local. He felt strongly that local students should have a chance to succeed and did his best to make that happen. When he got these students to the Phil Campbell campus, he worked them hard and expected their best. He also demanded that they be good community members and didn’t put up with much nonsense. To this day, former students and athletes from all over will call him, come by and visit him or send me messages in Facebook to relay to him.

As superintendent, as much as he liked sports and as much as sports were a part of his life, his underlying philosophy was students first and education first. He sought to be fair and respectful to everyone and every school.

Today, my dad is just Dad and Papaw. I think he loves it that way. As much as he loved working to help so many people throughout his life, there is nothing he wouldn’t do for his six grandchildren. I have learned a lot from my dad – to be honest and fair, to never make promises I can’t keep, to value and respect others, to teach my students the way I would want my children taught, to value students as people not just students and to offer students guidance and support when they need it, even when it means we have to veer off the subject a few time – life lessons are more important than government and economics.

Finally, my dad taught me to how to be a father myself. There is no title I would rather have than that of Dad or Daddy. My two children give me more joy and blessings than I deserve every single day. Every day of fatherhood brings new adventures and new challenges. I love watching them grow and learn. I love the fact they care about others and have compassionate hearts.

As I close this column about fathers, I can’t help but think about those who are fatherless – those who don’t celebrate Father’s Day. Children in father-absent homes are four times more likely to be poor. Children in father-absent homes are more likely to show more aggressive behavior and have more disciplinary problems in school and more negative contact with law enforcement. Children raised by a single mother also have a higher risk of teen pregnancy and marrying with less than a high school degree. Obviously, this just perpetuates the cycle and keeps the problem going for young people and society in general.

I know it’s pie-in-the-sky thinking, but let’s hope that one day enough people decide it’s time to break that cycle and more and more children can enjoy Father’s Day.