Friday, April 19, 2024

IN THE CANDID CORNER – To fathers with love


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A father has to be a provider, a teacher, a role model, but most importantly, a distant authority figure who can never be pleased. – Stephen Colbert
On Father’s Day I had the privilege of addressing the congregation of St Matthias Anglican Church. The invitation was extended by the Men’s Fellowship as they marked the celebration and contribution of fathers to our society. The theme was The Role of Fathers In Society. Our society continues to discriminate in its focus on fathers at this time of the year. While the celebration of Mother’s Day has become highly commercialised, the focus on the men and fathers remains rather lukewarm.The continued expansion of educational opportunities for females, the emergence of the career woman and her independence, the commercialisation of the sperm through the existence of sperm banks and the apparent harsh and sometimes discriminatory treatment meted out to men in divorce proceedings have all impacted on the way men see their role and function in our society.As opportunities for the advancement of women/mothers have become more prevalent,as more and more women take their place in the world of work, as equality issues take centre stage, as women free themselves from the bonds of oppression and assert their independence, the role and function of the father have taken on a new shape and new proportions. The question that is very pertinent is: how should fathers adapt to their changing role and function? How should fathers behave in an environment that can sometimes be hostile toward them? How should fathers respond to situations in which they may even be exploited, as partners make demands that may be unreasonable? On the other hand, how do we get those fathers who are recalcitrant and reckless in their sexual behaviour to recognise that the concept of the village ram dropping his seed from home to home as he moves from community to community is no longer an option that is wholesome or one that brings any pride to his offspring. In fact, there are too many “fatherless” children in Barbados; too many children for whom the only role their father played in their lives was to provide the sperm at conception. This was not God’s intention when he charged man to multiply and replenish the earth. God intended for children to brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Indeed that was the role and function He gave to fathers. The father was to be the head of the home as Christ is the head of the church.When it comes to the father’s role, we have regrettably moved away from first principles. While there are often calls for us to get back to basics, it is impossible for us to turn back the hands of the clock. The reality is that society never goes back. What then is the way forward? With the traditional role and function of both father and mother having been altered, how do we move forward in a way that enhances the quality of life for our children without jeopardising the pivotal role of the family within society? Fathers must take on a bigger parenting role. In our local and regional context, fathers must spend less time drinking beer and rum and playing dominoes with the “boys”, and spend more quality time with their little boys and girls who need them more.Parents must develop a road map that benefits both them and their children, rather than disadvantage anyone. There must be a win-win situation. Paternity leave must now become a right of fathers [just] as maternity leave is for mothers.  The church must tell our boys that if God’s instruction/mandate to multiply and replenish the earth is to be carried out, homosexuality, which is being flaunted more and more in our society, is not an option.Fathers must be told that incest is not an option, and mothers must not aid this wicked practice by remaining “mum”. In spite of high divorce rates, marriage must still be promoted as the best option for the family as the main unit of socialisation.Fathers must partner more with mothers in child-rearing and homemakingEven as we look at the role and function of the father in society, that of the stepfather needs to be carefully examined. Fathers must wake up and protect their daughters and their sons from those stepfathers who step away from mummy and take sexual advantage of her children.In conclusion, neither medical nor other societal developments can minimise the role and function of fathers in our society. Those whose agenda is to render men and fathers dispensable or disposable will achieve it at the expense of the family – and the children will eat the attendant sour grapes.Matthew D. Farley is an educator, secondary school principal, chairman of the National Forum On Education, and a social commentator;


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