Edward Mulholland Ph.D. is assistant professor of classical and modern languages at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. He holds a doctorate in philosophy from Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University, and an master’s degree in classics from the University of London. He has been involved in Catholic education via seminary, college and high school teaching for 25 years. He has taught in Italy, Spain, Mexico and the United States. He and his wife Valerie have six children.
Among the many reflections that may come out of the Newtown, Conn., tragedy is how at risk children are more at risk without a father to guide them.
My two oldest boys are teenagers now. I bought them The Dangerous Book for Boys some years back. I wondered what a good follow-up book could be. I was disappointed that Brad Miner’s The Compleat Gentleman, which I should have bought when it came out, isn’t easy to find and is now a pretty expensive book. I want my boys to be warriors for the good, and respectful and protective toward women, and scholars and, — why not dream big — great saints for the Church. I try to give example, and fail, and pray and try again. I cannot imagine raising kids without my bride, nor could I imagine how hard it would be for her to do it alone.
One of the most chilling things I read after the Newtown tragedy was Liza Long’s blog post “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother,” which has been shared and downloaded and commented on countless times this week. The post set off a storm of its own, with many people sympathizing and others attacking.
I am not going to address any of that. I am just going to make an observation. The authors of so many of the comments of those who were encouraged to break their silence and found in Liza Long a solidarity in suffering are single moms. Moms raising kids alone, moms raising kids with special needs in special circumstances. These moms are heroic. But I still ask myself where the dads are.
It has been reported that Adam Lanza’s own father, Peter, had no contact with his son since 2010. Adam cut off contact with his father after he began dating someone new. No contact with a father from age 17/18 to 20. No model of manhood other than video games or the media.
There was another report that, as of Dec. 18, the bodies of Adam Lanza and his mother had not been claimed yet. I know we are dealing with a man in grief here, but it is time to step up.
Boys at risk need extra attention, not less. And dads here are key. My experience as a high school teacher taught me that kids labeled as “outcasts” at school general fulfill a role they already live at home. Dads here again are key.
It is already well documented that boys who grow up fatherless can often be violent. (The statistics in David Blankenhorn’s Fatherless America are still chilling, and his predictions from 15 years ago seem to be coming true.)
Maybe moms who are left doing so much heavy lifting sublimate a lot of anger. And maybe women have guns when they feel that no one will protect them, whether dad lives at home or not.
Let the conversations about firearms and mental health continue. But let’s not stop there. If we dads examine ourselves deeply, we can recommit ourselves not only to being providers, but models of true manhood for our sons. Men who are warriors for the good and full partners in parenting. The most dangerous book for boys is the one where complete gentlemen are hard to find.