Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden made headlines all the way to Europe last week as he was quoted as saying his players wore earrings “because they wanted to be like their momma.” In the firestorm of controversy since, the true words Bowden spoke before his earring comments are hardly quoted.
Bowden’s first observation was, “My last years at Florida State, 65 or 70% of my boys did not have a daddy at home.” For nearly 20 years, I’ve been quoting absent father homes at 24 million. While that’s a long way from 2/3 of the boys, the number does vary greatly among the races. Male coaches and scout leaders are noticing a heavy increase in absent father homes among those they coach and mentor. It is epidemic.
Bowden continued, “They were raised by mommas, sweet ol’ mommas. Thank god for them mommas.” Right again. Sweet mommas have been taking up the slack and making ends meet for a generation in the wake of absent fathers. However, many dads have been shut out of the custody and visitation options when a mother or grandmother decides to keep him away from his own children. Courts have been historically one sided, assuming the mother makes the best custodial parent. States with shared custody arrangements report a greater father-involvement than those with one-sided bias squarely in place.
Coach Bowden continued, “Or grandmomma. Many times it was grandmomma, or big sister, or aunt.”
He’s right; there are almost as many grandparents raising their grandchildren as single fathers raising children. Thank God for grandparents who step in when neither parent is able to continue as needed. Most grandparents didn’t sign up for 40 years of childrearing. But they step into the void and put their own lives on hold while they make the world a better place for these precious children.
His real point wasn’t about earrings at all. His next observations were the meat of the comments, which apparently don’t attract much headline power; “But where’s the man? A boy needs a male figure. And the girls do too. Somebody to discipline them and make them be a man.” A retired coach in his 80’s gets the real issue dead to rights. Despite reporters and celebrities who wondered aloud a decade ago as to whether fathers were even necessary, children need a male and a female role model to thrive in the world. Can they make it without one or the other? Sure, the same way they could make it without one eye or one hand or one foot. But why? Who just gives up half of their possible influence because children can survive on 50% of their available parenting needs? It just doesn’t make any sense at all.
“I used to kid about this, you know, they grow and wanna be like their momma.” Coach Bowden’s unfortunate comment about earrings overshadowed every good thing he said before. Alums are commenting about the story, saying he did nothing for his legacy. The real legacy that our children need will be supplied by parents who work hard to give their children every advantage. Parents who realize their own relationship supply the role model for a child’s future relationships. Parents who invest in their child’s future by spending time as well as money on their children.
As you continue to watch a media bent on the sensational rather than the truth, filter out the noise and remember that our children need a father and a mother and everything two parents can give them for two decades. Stay engaged and provide for those needs. Advocate for counseling when you know parents who struggle with their own relationship. Support single parents with mentoring and rides and childcare when they need it. Our children deserve our best.