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It's Our Turn - You're indispensable

This weekend, fathers all across the country will be kicking back and relaxing as their families honor them for Father's Day. And rightfully so; being a father is one of the most important and underappreciated jobs.

A lot is said about the importance of mothers and the role they play in raising children. We honor moms on Mother's Day for their hard work, sacrifices, and ability to shape the next generation. They deserve our praise for all these things and more.

However, we often seem to expect less of dads.

If you believe what you see on TV, dads spend the majority of their time - when they're not working - going out with the guys, watching sports or just sitting around on the couch. On the weekends dads spend their time working in the yard, or going fishing or golfing.

Like all stereotypes, there is probably some truth to this characterization. Yet if that's all a father is, then they hardly deserve the recognition that mothers get.

Even though the tendency now is to minimize the role fathers play in raising children, fathers do have an important and indispensable role in building strong families. The facts speak for themselves:

•Children in father-absent homes are five times more likely to be poor.

•Children who live apart from their father are much more likely to end up in prison. In one study, almost 40 percent of inmates came from mother-only homes.

•The number of children who use drugs, tobacco and alcohol, is higher for when they do not have both a mother and a father.

•In a study of crime rates in 39 countries, it was found that single parent households were more likely to be associated with violent crimes.

•Being raised by a single mother increases the risk of teen pregnancy.

*Children without a father are more than twice as likely to drop out of school.

•Children raised by single mothers are more likely to become obese.

•Infant mortality rates are almost twice as high for unmarried mothers.

These statistics are alarming, and yet we seem unable to comprehend the correlation. As the number of families with two parents has dropped over the last few decades, all these other problems have steadily increased. The facts show plainly that children need both a mother and a father and that the absence of fathers is a major source of society's problems.

That's not to say that single moms can't do a good job of raising children, only that it is much more difficult and the odds are stacked against them. Mothers, in general, do a great job, but they can't easily make up for a lack of a father.

Father's Day is a good time for us to not only honor dads, but to let them know how important and necessary they are in creating strong families.

It's certainly not an easy job, being a dad.

After 13 years of being a dad myself, I appreciate more and more how hard it is to be effective in that role. There is a never-ending list of demands for your time and projects that need to get done. There is also the constant "call of the couch," tempting us to take it easy and relax, to not get involved. It's so easy to forget about the really important stuff and to focus on things that really don't matter.

So, to my own dad on Father's day, I would like to say "thank you." I know you weren't perfect, but no father ever is. You did your best. You worked hard and taught me the value of hard work. You taught me to be grateful for what I had. You taught me so many other things. You also shared with me a love for hunting, fishing and the outdoors. I don't think I've ever told you before, but I love you and I'm proud to be your son.

To all the other fathers out there, I'd like to say: Hang in there, embrace your responsibility and stay committed. Remember that your involvement is not an option ­- you're indispensable.

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"It's Our Turn" is a weekly column that rotates among members of the Echo Press editorial staff.

AndersonLowell Anderson Lowell Anderson has worked as a writer and photographer at the Echo Press since 1998. His current responsibilities include taking photographs, preparing photographs for publication and the Internet, managing photo archives, and writing for special publications. Anderson is a 1995 graduate of St. Cloud State University, where he majored in mass communications with an emphasis in photojournalism. In his spare time, he enjoys nature photography, outdoor sports and reading.