By Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ, & Director, CREDI Visit rcsocialjusticett.org for our columns, media releases and more.
Today is Father’s Day! Let’s take some time to reflect on the challenges and opportunities that our fathers in T&T and in the world face.
I don’t think we need research to tell us how important it is for children to have both parents in their lives. And while the nuclear family is under threat, this does not absolve either parent from ensuring that they play a key role in their children’s lives.
As Krystine Batcho states: “Although both fathers and mothers can be sensitive and effective parents, some theorists argue that fathers serve a special role in their children’s development (Paquette, 2004)….With many fathers living separately from their children, it’s important to remember that the essence of closeness isn’t geography; it’s love. When asked if he and his father had been close, Robert De Niro reflected: ‘You can be close to people and not always see them…it is important to recognise also that fathers are impacted by their children.’.”
Pope Francis rightly states: “Every family needs a father. I ask that you have the grace to be very close to your children, letting them grow, but being by their side. They need you, your presence, to be there, your love!… fathers are the irreplaceable guardians and mediators of faith through their goodness, justice, and protection.” And read what the Holy Father said in his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love): On Love in the Family (particularly paragraphs 172–17).
In a recent discussion I had with a father whose young son was murdered in T&T some years ago, he said: “I still grieve for my son. My own father left home when I was a child, and by the time I was 12 he was murdered because of his involvement in a gang. When my son was born I was so proud. I wanted to give him all the love that I never had from my father. I thought that showing him love meant buying him the latest designer wear and showing him off in my neighbourhood.
“Then I lost my job. After constant arguing, my relationship with his mother broke up. I could not pay maintenance for my son so I moved out of the area and never went back to see my son. Although I am down and out, I still have feelings and when I heard that my son was killed, it broke me. I never even had a chance to influence his life in a positive way.”
Although his financial situation is far removed from that of Barack Obama, Obama’s speech at Moorhouse College, USA, in 2013 about fatherhood and family came to mind when I spoke to this man. Obama’s speech highlights the fact that it is not only among the poor that we find absentee fathers. Indeed, even in two-parent families, many fathers are ‘missing in action’ for a variety of reasons and play little or no part in rearing their children.
Inter alia, Obama said: “I sure wish I had had a father who was not only present, but involved. Didn’t know my dad…I want to be a better father, a better husband, a better man…Be the best father you can be to your children. Because nothing is more important…It’s hard work that demands your constant attention and frequent sacrifice…Everything else is unfulfilled if we fail at family, if we fail at that responsibility.”
And then there are the children who treat their fathers— and mothers—really badly, but in spite of this, their parents continue to love them. As Pope Francis said: “Everyone knows that extraordinary parable of the Prodigal Son, or better yet, the Merciful Father (Lk 15:11–32). What dignity and what tenderness there is in the expectation of that father who stands at the door of the house waiting for his son to return!
“Fathers must be patient. Often there is nothing else to do but wait; pray, and wait with patience, gentleness, magnanimity, and mercy. A good father knows how to wait, and he knows how to forgive from the depths of his heart. Certainly, he also knows how to correct with firmness: he is not a weak father, submissive and sentimental. The father who knows how to correct without humiliating is the one who knows how to protect without sparing himself…”
I thank God that my father, now deceased, had many of the qualities of a good father. Let’s help our fathers to meet their responsibilities. God bless them all.
Clint Alexander and his nine-year-old daughter, Aleeza at last Sunday’s 50th anniversary Mass for Sacred Heart RC Church, Gasparillo. Photo: Elmo Griffith