Levi Johnston, the teenage father of Bristol Palin”s 4-month-old son Tripp, has fought to be a father to his child, taking his case to the media via the Today Show, Larry King Live and others. Johnston claimed (and the Palins backhandedly acknowledged) that his access to his son was restricted, and that the Palins weren”t allowing him to take his child out of their home for visitation, effectively requiring all visitation to be supervised by them.
Now People magazine and others have reported that Bristol Palin has changed her mind, saying, “I’d love for Levi to be a part of [Tripp”s] life,” and following through on her commitment. Todd Palin, Tripp”s grandfather, says, “They’re working out a schedule…I know both of them will love and care for their son together.’
Bristol Palin should be commended for her decision–research shows that father involvement is critical for children.
Many loving fathers like Levi Johnston are pushed aside after the relationship with their children”s mothers ends. We often hear phrases like ‘deadbeat dad” and ‘abandonment.” Yet while it”s true that some fathers don”t come through for their children, many divorced or separated fathers fight a long, hard battle to remain a part of their children”s lives. Fathers are often kept out of their children”s lives by intransigent mothers and a family law system which is often indifferent to the loving bonds children share with their fathers.
Johnston position isn”t unusual. Newly-released data from the National Center for Health Statistics shows that now 40% of children born in the United States are born out of wedlock–a 26% increase since just five years ago. These children”s unwed fathers–particularly those young and poor–are often stereotyped as uncaring and irresponsible. Yet the new “Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing study’–the most comprehensive long-term study of poor, unmarried parents ever conducted–found that young, poor single fathers often see caring for and protecting their children to be their highest calling.
Harvard Sociologist Kathryn Edin, one of the study”s authors, says “When we ask guys, ‘What would your life be like without your children?”…we expected them to say, ‘Life would be so much easier, I”d be so much better off, I wouldn”t have these child support obligations.” Instead, they say…’Everything good in my life is because of my kids.”‘
Levi’s dad, Keith Johnston, told People that his son is a devoted and “proud father.”
Levi said his son means “everything” to him.
“He’s my little boy. I don’t know what I’d do without him,” he said. “When I hold him, it’s an amazing feeling. I just shake.”