Where have all the fathers gone?
Any well-meaning person must realize that one of the most crucial problems in our society is the lack of paternal responsibility. If any real leader, social, political or religious, wishes to address the most burning issues of this society, this is where he should begin. Yet, this issue has often been bypassed, as if it is of no consequence.
One of the laudable attempts at addressing burning social issues in a community which has in recent times experienced a number of incidents of violence has been made by Dr. Peter K.B. St. Jean in his book, 'Lessons From Grand Bay'. Indeed, a valiant attempt was made to help us understand the problems of that village and so find worthy solutions. However, nowhere in his book does Dr. St. Jean speak of the lack of paternal responsibility as one of the determining factors in the adverse social conditions existing in that area.
The role of fathers in the upbringing of children and the development of good citizens should not be downplayed. It has always been held that men have an important role to play in the proper nurturing of their children. But, in recent times, some people who have studied the matter professionally have come to the conclusion that the role of the father in the home may be even more determining than that of the mother.
We live, to a great extent, in a matriarchal society. Often, there is no male parent in the home. And if there is, he is not very visible. It does happen too, that the female parent does not always adequately permit the male parent to fulfill his role in directing the course of family life. This is very unfortunate. Such situations need to be addressed.
One of the most successful fathers has been Dr. Benjamin Carson, an American Negro, one of the best brain surgeons in the world. Not only has he harnessed modern technology and used it very effectively as a medical doctor but he has also mastered the art of bringing up children in the modern world. We live in a world in which a man's occupation, a man's profession often appears to be so demanding that it leaves him little scope for proper parenting. In his book, 'The Big Picture', Dr. Benjamin writes:
At the age of forty-seven, looking at the big picture, I have come to the conclusion that what I do as a parent in my own home is far more important than anything I can accomplish in the operating room at Johns Hopkins University Hospital—and I think the same can be said for all of us. No matter what we do for a living, when it comes to how we can best impact the world today and shape its future tomorrow, chances are our parenting will have the greatest, most lasting influence on others. I know the difference parenting can make.
Such considerations are far from the minds of most of our men in Dominica. Indeed, many of them persist in behaving as little boys who never grow up. A tremendous transformation is required if these men are to act maturely and responsibly. They would seem to need a brand new vision of family life. Nothing less than a revolution in moral responsibility is needed.
There are some pertinent issues which need to be addressed immediately. One of these is child maintenance. Of course, there are state laws governing the adequate maintenance of children by their fathers. There are a large number of cases in which children receive no assistance whatsoever for maintenance and education from their fathers. In some cases, the mothers have to bear some responsibility for this.
However, our problems with responsible parenting are much greater than the absence of child maintenance and education. We are made for love. It is God's plan that children should be born in a loving and caring family. Their birth should be the fruit of love. They should grow in an environment of love. Many of our children live in a state of utter helplessness and lovelessness. No wonder that far from developing worthy citizens and decent human beings we often find that we have nurtured problem youth and social misfits