Living With Absent Fathers

Keire Stone, Staff Writer

In a well lit room full of chairs and paintings, twenty students sit quietly. Many look gloomy; a few seem comfortable. Silence hangs in the room until guidance counselor Ivan Lamourt finally speaks.

“Any burning desires?” Dr. Lamourt asks, arms open and waiting for responses. The burning desires he refers to are any current struggles with their parents that they may want to let out.

“I do,” someone says. Suddenly, the silence disappears and the guys start to talk. Another weekly meeting of Unknown Sons begins.

In 2002, Dr.Lamourt noticed that many students had bad attitudes and he soon realized that some were dealing with absent parents. He also realized that many students lacking father figures were not doing well academically.

Dr.Lamourt then began thinking about a group that could aid in counseling those who didn’t have a good relationship with their father, rarely saw them or had never seen them at all. Eventually, that group met for the first time with only five students. At first, he was afraid that nobody would talk. However, at that meeting one student began to express himself, and the rest followed.

“I was really impressed,” Dr.Lamourt said.

The group took off from there. Students would meet in a room next to his office, convey feelings about their fathers and move forward from there. Some kids would talk, some  never said a word. Others could be brought to tears by the grief of dilemmas with  fathers they have never known.

“When you’re talking to someone about their feelings and emotions, you have to let them feel it out” he said.

However, Unknown Sons is not a group for people who solely have no contact with a parent, some live with their fathers but never really know them.

This is true for UD II Micaiah Nimmo. Occasionally living with his mother in Newark and his father in Maplewood, NJ, his relationship with his dad is not as strong as he would want it to be. He does not depict his dad as a role model.

“My mom is my dad,”  he said.

Despite the lack of a connection, Micaiah hopes to have a better relationship with his father.  But, he also suggests not necessarily following in the footsteps of a father who has problems.

“If your dad’s a deadbeat, don’t act like your pops,” he said.

Twenty four million children in America live in homes without biological fathers, according to the U.S Census Bureau. These children are also more likely to live in poverty, be incarcerated,  and suffer from drug abuse and obesity. They are often more angry and don’t function as well emotionally as kids living in homes with their father. Some students here have fathers who are in their lives but are separated by geography.

This is the situation for UD II Olumide Ijandipe. His father lives in Nigeria, and he comes to America about 5-10 times a year. Olumide lives with his mother and his siblings. Unlike Micaiah, he does not yearn for a better connection with his dad.

“ I have a pretty decent relationship with my father,” he said.

The distance doesn’t make him dislike his father. However, he says it can be difficult at times. There are times when he wants to talk to his father; but can’t because of the distance.

“Be grateful that you have a father in the first place, because some people don’t have the opportunity of having a father in their lives” he said.

Unknown Sons comes to a close, and Dr.Lamourt talks about the process of rekindling a relationship with one’s father. A relationship with our fathers is a choice. He looks around the room as he speaks, talking about taking slow steps and being patient.

As a student dealing with father problems, I find it hard to accept. Why should I be the one to start rekindling the relationship? It isn’t my fault the relationship I have with my father is weak. Although it is difficult advice to let sink in, in the end it is our obligation to handle the problems that we are given.