, Port Arthur, Texas


October 16, 2013

Hands-on dads make bonds that last

There used to be a line that divided the roles of men and women in America. Men worked in the fields, factories and offices while women managed home and family. Mothers were still covering the bulk of childrearing duties well past the second half of the 20th century.  More recently, as women have established their presence in the courtroom, boardroom and operating room, men have discovered the joy that comes with taking part in the day to day duties of raising kids. One of the best by products of my teaching career has been an up close and personal view of this phenomenon.

Walking through a school cafeteria for coffee last Monday, I noticed a line of men waiting to sign in at the front desk. “Dads’ Club”, said the receptionist when I asked about it. “Fathers gather in the school cafeteria once a month to inspire each other toward successful parenting.” Students were craning their necks to see what all their dads were doing as they walked by on their way to P.E. class. Inspiring each other? Yes, and in that process they inspire their kids.

As I watched our son embrace his newborn son recently, I felt inspired, too. Daniel has been engaged in swaddling, diapering and covering his little guy with kisses for months now with no sign of letting up. There is no doubt that he will always know his son’s favorite books, foods and friends.  The bond will be a strong one because “Dad” will invest the time.

Aren’t good relationships always about shared experiences? Years ago, a successful businessman I know tried to rationalize his hectic traveling schedule.  He acknowledged that he wasn’t at home with his family as much as he would like.  When he was there, however, he was one hundred percent present.  “It’s not the quantity, but the quality of time spent that counts.” I remember reading articles with that same theme. These days, the pendulum of public opinion seems to be swinging in the other direction.

My sister Cindy volunteers at a Central Texas prison. She says the majority of offenders with whom she has worked are products of abusive or absent fathers. When I taught school in East Houston, one of my duties was to ride with the school nurse when she made home visits. If a student was absent from school for more than three days and the office had not been able to get through by phone, we investigated the reason for the truancy. “See how the upstairs blinds are moving,” said Nurse Anglin. It was obvious, on several of our outings, that the parents were not interested in meaningful dialogue.

The most successful students are those whose moms and dads make conscious decisions to partner with schools. If at-risk kids believed their dads may drop by, they might be more inclined to bring their A games to the classrooms.  My father didn’t come to campus, but that was typical of Post WWII poppas.  It simply wasn’t done back in the fifties. There is no doubt that we both missed out. I’m quite sure that’s why I get such a kick out of seeing fathers eat sandwiches with their offspring in the school lunchroom.

The nurse at the school where I presently sub was telling me about her family’s plan for the care of their young daughter. They say it takes a village. In her case that means two parents, two sets of grandparents and a part-time nanny. Daddy is in charge on Mondays. Last week he called Mom during her lunch break. “It is taking her forever to finish these carrots and peas. Am I doing something wrong?”

My new friend held back a chuckle. “You have to be patient She’s six months old.”  No doubt, her husband will learn plenty of patience on this journey if his little daughter has anything to do with it. I’m pretty sure they will end up teaching each other a lot about life. In the meantime, they have unlimited access at getting to know each other. It’s the type of labor that yields very sweet fruit: an unbreakable bond of love.

Donia Caspersen Crouch was raised in Southeast Texas and lives in Austin. Contact her at

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