We stepped into the gym office where my wife and I work out most mornings between 6AM and 7Am. The young vivacious 22 year old gym instructor was visibly shaken so we asked her what was the matter? She poured out her tale of woe.
Mary (not her real name) is a fourth year trainee teacher. She was at the tail end of a traumatic prac experience at a public school in a working-class suburb. Here is what happened in her own words.
“I can’t believe what is happening in our schools!” said Mary.
Fatherlessness Odd Thomas
“What do you mean?” I asked politely.
“Warwick, I get told to f . . k off by young primary school children on average three or four times a day at this school. Often I have to put up with physical violence, directed at me by young children who are only 8 to 10 years of age. The worse thing is that some of the parents will stand behind their children’s bad behaviour and tell me to f . .k off as well.”
“Wow”, I said, “Sorry to hear that!”
Mary continued, “It was so bad in my class the other day I had to call the Principal and several other teachers into the classroom to control a violent student. The situation prompted the Principal to call the mother into the school for an interview and the mother defended her child’s abusive and violent behaviour.”
“Where was the child’s father?” I asked.
“That’s right,” Mary reflected, “Many of the children at my school where I am doing prac don’t have a biological father in the home. They are fatherless”.
Shaking as she recounted with emotion these traumatising stories to us both, we were quite concerned for her. As a former teacher herself my wife knows the reality of her story. We have both done a lot of work in schools over the years and have watched the standards fall for many decades.
At the other end of the scale, teachers have to suffer the indignity of helicopter mothers who know better than the teacher and back their abusive children because they can do no wrong. In many of these cases there may be a father in the home, but he is not present for the children.
The story from T. DeWitt Talmadge illustrates the reality for these children and the results of a father too busy to connect with his children.
“Do you remember your father?” asked the judge sternly. “That father who you have disgraced?”
The prisoner answered, “I remember him perfectly”.
“When I went to him for advice or companionship, he would look up from his book on the law of trusts, and say, “Run away, boy, I am busy.” My father finished his book and here I am.”
Sadly, the story from the poorer end of town is similar but in a different way. Many children in these areas simply don’t have a dad in the home at all, or the man that is in the home is their mother’s tenth boyfriend and simply present for what he can get and not what he can give. The mothers in these situations do their best, but fatherless children are hard to control at the best of times.
The statistics show that one in three marriages are failing in Australia and that defacto relationships are six times more likely to split than those who get married. The reality is that families in Australia are in deep trouble for multifarious reasons. Having said that, fatherlessness is the main driver.
Typically, our children are paying the price. Having grown up in a broken and dysfunctional home I know how our children are feeling, and it’s not good. Not only do our children pay the price, but so do our teachers.
So back to Mary, our trainee teacher’s traumatic story.
By this time Mary was close to tears getting very tense as she was scheduled to leave for school in an hour or so for her final day of prac. Words were failing me, so without thinking I said, “Can we pray for you?”
Mary nodded, thankful that someone cared enough to pray.
I prayed a simple prayer for her, for her students and for the families of the children she taught.
In the work that I do, it is not unusual to find me forced to pray. Whether it is for a devoted single dad who has been denied contact with the children he loves so dearly by a cruel and often anti-male Family Court system, or for a young teenager contemplating suicide and crying out for help, watching his family haggle through a bitter and protracted divorce. Whether it is a young person who has been sexually abused at the hands of an older male somewhere in her broken family tree or a couple struggling with seemingly impossible problems, all I can do when hearing these stories is listen. Often my eyes fill with tears and without thinking I often ask, “Can I pray for you?”
I am never refused.
People instinctively know that in these situations, prayer is often an articulation of love and care that is always appreciated. And the amazing thing is though, miracles often happen as a result!
Why am I telling you all this?
Because one of Australia’s largest Christian groups has called for a month of prayer and fasting for marriage and family. Other groups that I work with have combined together to support this historic and timely initiative and added the word ‘Awakening’ to the list of prayer points as well as ‘marriage’ and ‘family’.
The team at Dads4Kids believes that this call for prayer for marriage and family is both fortuitous and desperately needed. The challenges that marriages and families face collectively today in Australia are beyond the scope of the mortal man. We need the hand of heaven to help us. We encourage you to consider praying for marriage and family in Australia during October, should you be able to do so.
This newsletter goes out to people of all faiths and in many cases people of no faith.
I have no qualms about asking you to pray for marriage and family throughout October.
Our new Prime Minister recently asked Australians to pray for the drought.
This is what Scott Morrison said, “I’d encourage others who believe in the power of prayer to pray for our farmers. Please do that. And everyone else who doesn’t like to do this, you just say, “Good on you guys, you go well”. Think good thoughts for them, or whatever you do”.
There you have it. Good thoughts or prayer, we will accept either.
All I can say is, thank you for what you can do this October.
Yours for our children
PS: If you would like more information about this call for prayer for marriage and family, under the heading of Awakening, click here.
Check out the Awakening 3 minute promo video here.
Sign up for a daily devotion through October here.
Happy praying and remember (as the Prime Minister said), you don’t have to.
What you do is up to you!