Sunday, June 17, 2001

Single dads embrace rewards

'It's never easy,' but more go it alone

By Shauna Scott Rhone
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Dan Losekamp's three-bedroom home in Anderson Township grows quiet as the week's frenetic energy eases. The echoes of children's laughter fade. It's another long Sunday night for a single dad who already misses his kids.

        “Everything in this house reminds me of my kids,” says Mr. Losekamp, whose two sons and daughter live with him every other week. “Their stuff is everywhere, everywhere I turn around. I get my energy from them; so when they're not here, I'm drained.”

[photo] Single dad Dan Losekamp hugs son Kevin, 13, before a baseball game.
(Yuli Wu photos)
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        Standing alone in the family room, this 42-year-old single father slowly picks up the remnants of his week with the kids: Danny, 15; Kevin, 13; Kelly, 11. A stubby blue crayon remains on the coffee table, a candy wrapper is wedged between sofa cushions.

        The silence is heavy, but today, the kids will be back, and another week will begin.

        This Father's Day, more than 2.2 million dads across the country are single heads of households. According to the 2000 census, that's one in 45 families in America, a 62 percent increase within a decade.

        And in the Tristate, the increase is even higher — a 75 percent jump in single dads since 1990.

Census evidence

        The U.S. Census Bureau counts single fathers in a category that could include other adults, such as the child's grandparents in the home. However, most of the research analyzed shows the majority are single fathers raising their children alone.

        “Single fatherhood is as much a test of endurance, patience and assets as is single motherhood,” Dr. Kyle Pruett writes in Fatherneed. “It depends as heavily as single motherhood does on support, economic and social, for many of its positive outcomes for kids.”

        According to new 2000 census numbers, the number of father-only families in the Tristate has grown even faster than nationally.

[photo] The Losekamps, Kevin, Dan, Danny and Kelly. “I have a unique relationship with my kids,” Mr. Losekamp says.
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        The rise has been spurred, in part, by an increased number of advocacy groups asking lawmakers to make it easier for fathers to gain custody of their children.

        At the same time, society has become more willing to accept the notion that fathers can be sole caregivers of children. Judges are agreeing, and they're even ordering non-custodial moms to pay child support. In 1998, 38 percent of all custodial fathers were receiving child support.

        “I still see more single mothers than fathers, but the single fathers that do come here are involved in their children's lives,” says Steve Neff, a clinical counselor at Beech Acres, a family advocacy agency.

        Mr. Neff says single fathers have the same issues as single mothers: child care, health costs and relationships with their children.

        “Fathers in general play a very important role as a parent. Fathers help boys tremendously in their approach to adulthood. Boys need acceptance from men in order to enter into that world,” he says.

        “Girls learn about relationships from their dads. If they have a strong and caring father, they'll be drawn to those kind of men. If they have an abusive dad, they grow up to include that behavior in what they expect from men.”

The custodial dad

        William Clark has been a custodial father since his divorce in August 1995. He's seen the changes in the role of fathering since growing up in the '60s and '70s.

        “Fathers, if they can provide a good home and income for their children, can become good single fathers,” says Mr. Clark, a deputy for the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office.

        Mr. Clark, 51, has four children; two are grown and have their own families, and two live at home. His daughters, Kathleen, 12, and Sarah, 14, keep him busy with after-school activities, but he sees it as a labor of love.

        Between viola recitals and soccer games, shopping treks and visits with friends, the Clarks have just enough time to fix a meal, do chores and homework (“I'll check it for them, but I won't do it for them”), and get to bed at a decent hour. Exhausted at the end of most days, Mr. Clark still acknowledges the importance of consistently being there for his girls.

        “The best thing for me is seeing my children excel at school, keep themselves from getting involved with bad crowds and not get in the kind of trouble that might be detrimental to them in the future,” Mr. Clark says.

        He believes that to be a good parent, it's important to keep family traditions and stay in touch with kids.

        “I want them to tell me what's going on in their lives. I try to screen who they're hanging around with, too. Parents have to keep close watch these days. I know they're not prone to do drugs or anything because they know they'd have to deal with me.”

Every-other-week dad

        The sight of an empty juice glass left on the kitchen table pulls a bittersweet smile across Dan Losekamp's weary face. But this was part of the deal, he reminds himself. One week with their mother, one week with him.

        It's been like that for the past two years, but the separations don't get any easier. He wishes they could return to 1994 when the children lived with him all the time after his former wife took a job out of town. Kelly was just a toddler, and the boys were in grade school.

        Mr. Losekamp eagerly wore the double hat of a single parent. He made fudge brownies for their birthdays to take to school. They all huddled in the kitchen, baking chocolate-chip cookies for the church's cookie ministry. He did it all because it was important for him to be a good father.

        The parents live separately in the same neighborhood so their children can attend their same schools regardless of which parent they're with. The exes both put the children first and encourage contact with both sides of the family.

        Being a 25-year employee at Superior Label Systems in Mason allows him the flexibility to adjust his work schedule for the kids' activities.

        “I got them involved in Cub Scouts, basketball, football,” Mr. Losekamp says. “I helped coach some of their teams from T-ball on up. I even took them camping one Thanksgiving weekend.

        “We're closer because of those five years we had together.”

        He loves watching Kelly grow up. Taking time out to create memories with his daughter is one of his favorite things to do.

        “I like to spend special time with Kelly and take her to places with her friends, like going to the roller rink on Fridays. So there I am, sitting in the back of a room full of kids, just watching my daughter skate and have fun and it's OK.”

        Mr. Losekamp also treasures his sons and teaches them “to be independent and be no trouble in school. I want them to learn responsibility and do something special” with their lives.

        “It's never easy,” he says about being a single father. “But it's 10 times more rewarding when you get to have the kind of relationship we do. I love my kids.”

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