5 dads who won America's hearts

Posted May 2

A new report from Child and Family Research says that America has changed to help dads. And we have the proof. (Deseret Photo)

American families have changed significantly over the last 50 years, mostly in ways to help dads.

According to a recent post from the Child & Family Research Partnership, American families have changed in the eyes of policymakers since the Vietnam War. Once the war ended in 1975, all soldiers who were drafted into the military or served on their own merits returned to a country that had changed significantly.

“The United States was undergoing a major shift from the structural family norms of the preceding century, becoming more open and accepting of different family dynamics,” according to Child & Family Research.

Before the war, men were mostly viewed as the breadwinner of the family, with their wives acting as houseworker and stay-at-home mom. With so many men away at war, women had to find sustainable income, which inspired the shift.

Coupled with divorce laws and access to birth control, women also found new opportunities in the workplace, increasing their presence and changing the way people viewed breadwinners in families.

This changed the family dynamics of the time. Women had the opportunities to succeed in the labor market, which forced men to spend more time with children and housework. But society failed to catch up with the change.

“As family dynamics changed, however, most of America continued to view fathers only as breadwinners, neglecting to understand and value the important role they can play as caregivers to their children,” according to Child & Family Research.

That’s why social programs were built to help moms and children, neglecting to help dads, who increasingly needed help to raise their families, too.

Since that time, the changing dynamic has only increased. Fewer men are the sole breadwinner, which has forced more of them to handle housework and spend more time with their children, according to the Pew Research Center.

It’s only been in the last decade or so that a number of social programs have looked to change this scenario, hoping that it will help fathers become more financially stable and develop sound and healthy relationships with their children. For example, the John S. Martinez Fatherhood Initiative of Connecticut assists men in legal and financial battles and promotes paternity leave so that men can take care of their children. On a national level, the National Fatherhood Initiative looks to educate Americans about the benefits of fathers.

These programs want to increase the amount of influence fathers have on their children, something that’s been scientifically proven time and time again. According to an article from LiveScience, engaged fathers help their children obtain higher IQs. Dads also increase a child’s ambitions by encouraging them to take risks through roughhouse play, and promote gender equality by pushing their daughters to find success. Dads also teach their newborns to stop crying and fussing through teasing and hyper play, since they establish trusting bonds with their children.

We’ve seen these benefits play out in the real world, too, and not just through research. Here’s a look at five dads who helped their children in big ways.

1. Finishing the race

In 1992, all Derek Redmond wanted to do was finish the 400-meter relay in the Olympic Summer Games in Barcelona, according to ESPN. But he pulled his hamstring mid-run, sending him down, unable to finish the race. He slowly rose up and attempted to finish, but his run had become a hobble.

His father, Jim, wouldn’t let his son walk alone. He hopped over the security fences and aided his son across the finish line.

"I'm here, son," Jim said. "We'll finish together."

2. Bat dad

Becoming a hero isn’t something you can really plan for. It just happens.

Take Shaun Cunningham, for example. During a baseball game between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Atlanta Braves, Cunningham saved his son from injury after he reached his arm out to stop a flying baseball bat from colliding with his boy’s face, according to Deseret News National.

The video and photo of the incident went viral, and all Cunningham could do was say that he upheld his fatherly duties.

“I was just protecting my son,” Cunningham told the Tribune-Review. “There wasn't a lot of time to think about it. I just reacted.”

3. Quit the team

Former MLB star Adam LaRoche sacrificed his career for his son. Back in March, the 36-year-old baseball player left a $13 million contract with the Chicago Whitesox in the dust after the team’s executive vice president requested that his son stop spending time in the team locker room.

LaRoche had played for previous teams that allowed his son in the locker room. Players knew about this, and were completely aware that his son would be around. But the former MLB star was so put off that he left the team and retired, allowing himself to spend more time with his son.

4. Dressing up

It’s been hard the last two years for families to avoid the princess craze. After all, Elsa is as marketable as fictional characters come, according to The Huffington Post. Caiden Henson valued the “Frozen” film princess so much that he decided to dress up as her for Halloween. And he asked his father, Paul Henson, to dress up as Anna.

Paul obliged.

“As children get older, they distance themselves from their parents. Why start that split sooner than they need to?” Henson told The Huffington Post. “It’s important for children to know that their parents will stand by them no matter what. Ashley and I will do whatever it takes to keep our son happy and not take his innocence and imagination from him.”

5. A rolling save

Delbert Latham saved his 6-year-old son Kaysen just this past weekend when a roller coaster malfunctioned. As Nick Anderson wrote for Deseret News National, Kaysen’s sea belt slipped off and the boy was thrown to the floor of the coaster carriage. But the father quickly lifted his son up and held him in his lap for the rest of the ride.

“I felt the seat belt release,” Latham told KVII in Texas. “I guess the motion of going down threw him to the bottom of the cart, and that’s when I reached over to grab him.”

Herb Scribner is a writer for Deseret Digital Media.


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