Staff Writer, Stacy LaPointe
The script seems so simple to have a good family—a home, a mom, a dad, and kids. Still, for so many children, a parent’s missing, a home’s broken, and often it’s the father who leaves in some way. He may be absent physically, financially, or emotionally. Oftentimes, parents who leave their kids do so thinking that kids are resilient and will be fine without them in their daily lives. The problem is that it simply isn’t true. There’s no true replacement for a missing parent, and a missing or uninvolved father usually leaves a lifelong, unhealed wound in the hearts of his children.
Fatherless and motherless kids grow up without a sense that those who said they loved them cared enough to stay and do so, or that they’re not one of the lucky ones. They grow up wondering why they weren’t lovable enough to keep their parent at home or why they were the ones who lost parents through death rather than someone else. They lose faith in marriage, family, home, security, and lasting love. Parents, fathers, are necessary, not simply to provide a home but to show up in every way. Children need fathers because fathers provide a model for how to be a man, a husband, and a father for the next generation. Good fathers guide, protect, and teach. Great fathers are there for their kids, period.
What if dad or mom is gone, and doesn’t seem to be coming back? What if dad’s around but is emotionally distant or destructive? What if he’s so consumed by his own dysfunction that he can’t or won’t be present for his kids? Kids suffer and get lost and hurt amongst friends, in school, and while moving forward into their futures. That’s why we exist—to help rewrite the scripts for suffering kids aching for fathers and mothers. We can’t be their dads or moms, but we can help to fill in some of the gaps created by those hard losses. To be honest, sometimes we “nail it,” and sometimes we don’t. Still, our hearts and minds remain on purpose, and the kids we work with sometimes sense that, and other times they don’t. Their problems aren’t all solved, but they have some extra people on their side to help them begin to write a better script for the future than the one they’ve been given.
Add to all of that the issue of race, disadvantage, and poverty. The students who come to Rewritten for help are largely from marginalized populations. Even though this adds more stress to an already difficult life, it is not nearly as impactful as being fatherless. The wound and hunger for a father is gigantic. As Frank Perez, CEO of Rewritten, explained, race matters and causes obstacles at times, but being fatherless is an even greater obstacle: “I’ve been treated less than at times because of my brown complexion and these 13 year old black males have been treated even worse because of theirs. What has shaken the four of us to the core has not been the mistreatment of our skin color, but the father hunger behind all the chaos. We know the color of our skin better than we know our own fathers; that’s a problem.” The need for a father outweighs so many other life needs. Our students may never get a father back in their lives, so we are here to try to help recreate a new life structure that allows them to move forward without one.
These kids are not miracles, and neither are we. We’re all flawed, but we’re focused on hope and better futures than pasts. That’s how we rewrite the script together and attempt to fill in the missing parts that were handed to them. First drafts are always a mess, but with editing, revision, time, and skill building, the final draft can be an inspiring wonder. We can’t be their parents, but we can provide a place and an environment for that future to begin to be rewritten.