DI Voices | The empty seat lingers amid Dads Weekend

By Nathaniel Langley, Opinions Editor

It’s absurd for the University to not provide an overall “Parents Weekend.” While several other universities — such as the University of Wisconsin-Madison or Illinois State University — host cohesive “Family Weekends,” the University lags as it splits these events into two weekends.

Similarly, U.S. studies show that around 20 million children live with a single parent. Consequently, an event such as the University’s Dads Weekend disregards this reality and aspires that at least one of its weekends will satisfy students. Without a comprehensive “Families Weekend,” the University fails to connect with students accompanied by fragmented, yet typical families.

Dads Weekend in college is no different than the desolate “Dad Days” of elementary school. For myself, in Praire Village, Kansas, the empty seat beside my desk on those dreadful days stuck out like a lighthouse beaming “Broken family over yonder!”

Fortunately, individuals such as my mom, aunt and uncle rose to the occasion and filled in for my absent father, yet for countless others, the continued separation of Dad and Moms Weekends carries the unpleasant tradition of an isolated weekend with missing family.

As a result, this year’s Dads Weekend will be the same as it ever was: I’ll gratefully receive pity for the missing man, yet in my heart, I’ll loathe him for his abandonment and silently resent circumstances outside my control. Likewise, that elementary empty seat unceasingly appears no matter how far in life you travel nor the fresh love that can aid in pushing it back.

The damage is done, and the wound is irreparable.

The sheer embarrassment of an absent father amid elementary “Dad Days” walks with you alongside life. While your friends’ dads participate in the day’s festivities, later your mom picks you up from after-school care — as she works her 9-5 to make ends meet —, and you’ll be a little quieter and irritated than usual.

Fortunately, time allows the scar to recede: You’ll be proud of the mom who stepped up, and the embarrassment will be overshadowed by the healing love you receive. Dads Weekend won’t be your demise, but it won’t be of any benefit to you.

Either with friends or on a call home to mom, you’ll quip contending that your “real father” will show up — illustrating the unceasing disbelief that one-half of your parents quit. Meandering through crowds of crammed families, there’s no option but to compare your single-mom-produced predicament to the joy radiating from fortunate fathers and students.

Nevertheless, college should be a resounding moment for students from splintered families to reflect on how far they’ve come. From the debris of demanding youth, students of single parents deserve praise for their situations, not antiquated celebrations focusing on separate parents.

A “Family Weekend” is a time for which whoever raised you can enjoy the group effort that is or was supporting a successful student reach college. In contrast, a Dads Weekend is a reminder of the fatherly field that remains barren since its tenant relinquished responsibilities.

When building a better future for familial campus events, ponder the empty elementary seats besides countless students’ childhoods and compel the University to relieve this wound by adopting “Family Weekends.”

Nathaniel is a junior in LAS.

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