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Father's Day: Celebrate big brothers who support younger siblings

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Melanie Stetson Freeman/The Christian Science Monitor

(Read caption) In this 2003 file photo, Big Brother Kevin Burke, an attorney, has been a mentor to his new Little Brother, Javon Chapman, 8, for several months now. Although the Big Brother/Big Sister program provides mentors for children, real big brothers do a lot to care for younger siblings and deserve to be celebrated on Father's Day.

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There are many fortunate youngsters who have a father available and able to provide the support and guidance that is part of that role. There are other children whose fathers are either unavailable or unable to provide that support.

For years I worked in a community where the presence of a father in the family was not common. For reasons of health, incarceration or economics many children did not have the luxury of that guidance. This role was sometimes filled in part by pastors, coaches, teachers and grandparents.

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But in other families, big brothers served that role with amazing love and maturity.

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I have watched with admiration as big brothers escort little siblings to school, checking their backpacks, adjusting their jackets and then going off to their middle schools. I’ve watched them pick the younger ones up from school and walk them home, often holding the tiny hands. These little fathers have risked appearing uncool, as they pass through their neighborhood with younger ones in tow. Some do it with such a sense of responsibility and dignity that they rise above any peer judgment.

In stores I’ve watched them hold and take care of the little ones while Mom took care of the shopping. At home these big brothers may be combing hair and fixing breakfast while Mom works an early shift. At some schools older siblings serve as translators to help the parents in teacher meetings.

These young men must correct, encourage and even dry the tears of little one. When Father’s Day comes around, when those younger siblings are grown enough to appreciate the gift, I hope they will thank that brother for being a little father. These young men have made a huge difference in the lives of their siblings. It may have seemed that it was just what they were supposed to do, but often what we are supposed to do is also something very special.

To those many little fathers, “Happy Father’s Day.”

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Susan DeMersseman blogs at Raising kids, gardens and awareness.