As a fatherhood coach, Earl Betts has spent a lot of his energy trying to heal damaged relationships between men and their offspring and wives.
“Sometimes we leave, sometimes we get pushed out, but there’s always a way back,” said Betts, who works with Family Support Hawaii’s Fatherhood Initiative.
Ninety percent of all homeless and runaway children, 71 percent of pregnant teenagers and 75 percent of all youths in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes, according to the Fatherhood Initiative.
“It’s not so much a job as a calling,” Betts said about being a father. “You have to have a heart for it.”
Today, families across the island and nation are celebrating the often cherished, sometimes absent and occasionally underrated figure we call Dad.
For many children, there never seems to be enough father, wrote Robert Bly, an American poet whose book “Iron John: A Book About Men” became a centerpiece of the men’s movement in the 1990s. The father is often blamed for being absent while he tries to juggle the multiple responsibilities of being father, provider, spouse and an individual with his own needs for personal freedom, according to Bly.
Kailua-Kona resident Lance McCracken welcomed his daughter, Jaia, into the world five months ago. He and his wife, Jasmin, had a home birth — their second.
Like many dads, Lance has no regrets. But he has, undeniably, seen his freedoms curtailed.
“You’re not doing what you want anymore; you’re doing what they want,” he said with a grin. “I tell my friends who are thinking about having a kid: Go do some stuff you want to do right now, because otherwise you’ll have to wait until the kid is 10.
“I’m glad I had kids and settled down instead of doing more crazy stuff, or I probably would have missed the chance altogether.”
Last Saturday, fathers were feted at the 11th annual Celebration of Fatherhood at the Queen Liliuokalani Children’s Center in Kailua-Kona. Kids and dads charged down the water slide and enjoyed a bounce house and free food at the event put on by Family Support Hawaii.
Chris Olivera, 7, who played on benches at the Children’s Center, said he was planning a surprise for his father, who works at Rent-A-Center.
“He’s funny, he loves me and it’s always really good to see him because he’s always working,” Olivera said.
His friend, Tahoe Obregon, 8, has a dad who takes him fishing — one of the highest marks a father can score with a son.
“When I get my fishing stuff tangled,” Obregon said, “he untangles it.”
Betts has two daughters, ages 21 and 3. His eldest is studying in California.
“Usually, I get a card, a present, a thank-you,” he said. “She’s good for that. The 3-year-old, she gets me shirts, usually orange.”
His father, 71, has been married to his mother 49 years.
“An amazing example of a man. A good provider, but from a different era,” Betts said of his father. “Not a warm fuzzy, but he’d show you that he loves you.”
As for where Father’s Day originated?
“I would check Hallmark,” Betts laughed. “It makes sense.”
Like many other holidays, Father’s Day hasn’t escaped rampant commercialism. The day has different origin stories attached to it, according to the website The Art of Manliness. The most widely accepted story says the first Father’s Day was observed June 19, 1910, in Washington State. Sonora Smart Dodd proposed the holiday to celebrate her father, a Civil War veteran who raised six children by himself on a small farm and deserved, she thought, the same level of recognition as mothers.
Celebrations of fatherhood were hosted in different communities throughout the country in the early and middle 20th century. But Father’s Day faced resistance from citizens and lawmakers who didn’t want another commercial holiday such as Mother’s Day, and it wasn’t officially recognized as a national observance until 1972.
Today, it’s celebrated around the world at various times of the year.
“Dads don’t get enough credit; dads don’t get enough help,” Betts said. “You can’t heal a family and leave some part of it out.”
Email Bret Yager at firstname.lastname@example.org.