Happy Father's Day or Happy Men's Day?


Monday, June 17, 2019

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For the longest time in Jamaica, and the Caribbean at large, fatherhood has been marked by absenteeism. Recently, I did an interview with a group of boys ranging from ages 14 to 18 about their relationship with their fathers. Unfortunately, the stories had more negatives than positives. Although the target group was random, there was little diversity. Less than 20 per cent of the individuals lived with both parents. Then, of the remaining majority, some had visiting paternal relationships, while others had a non-existent paternal figure.

The fathers were described as worthless, aggressive, and inadequate, to say the least. In fact, one interviewee expressed that his father currently has no place in his life because when he needed him he was not there. He said further: “If mi see mi fada right now, mi woulda slap im a shat!” He did, however, say that he really would not do so, and only said it because he wanted him to feel bad.

I decided to also hear what my peers' thoughts were on the issue. Again, the responses were overwhelmingly negative.

All in all, the absenteeism of our fathers has left a bitter taste in the mouth of our men. And not enough people seem bent on breaking the cycle. Consequently, there is little value that is placed on Father's Day.

Among the aforementioned interviewees, when I modified the question to whether there was an outstanding man in their lives, the feedback took a 180-degree turn. These individuals all profited from a male figure — be it a teacher, principal, minister, older friend or brother, cousin, uncle or grandfather, you name it. In fact, for some it was a combination of multiple men. And while I do not have an up-to-date figure on the men who play leading roles as fathers, my father being one of them, I can proudly say that many men have risen to the role of father to mentor someone else.

It is on this very notion that I first pondered, should it be Father's Day or Men's Day? We have outstanding men who have fathered many. Consequently, I was forced to re-examine my definition of a father. This is not someone who simply contributes to the procreation process but one who is actively involved in the life of another.

In the grand scheme of things, the absenteeism of biological fathers has left indelible scars on our nation's children, primarily our boys, creating a misinformed perception of what it means to be a man. This is a reality that I experience daily as an educator. This is why I encourage our men to step forward and play their role as fathers. It does not have to be biological. A father protects, he instructs, he disciplines, and he loves.

Men, let us rise and build men who will lead the nation. It does not have to be our biological child, but let us be there for a child. Happy Father's Day!


Romane Elliston is an educator, writer, and motivational speaker. He is also an activist for young people, at-risk boys, change, and enlightenment. Send comments to the Observer or ellistonpolyglot@gmail.com.

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