Just a few weeks ago the world celebrated mothers with brunch, flowers, a cloud of perfume and a shower of jewels. And in just a few more weeks the world will be celebrating fathers….or, rather, disparaging them, if things go as they usually do.
Either way, get your pockets ready kiddos and TEENS, because Father's Day is coming and grandpa, daddy and uncle saw you go all out for mummy, so now you just might need to step up your game from the classic but overplayed gift of a tie.
As part of our efforts to dig deeper into the emotions surrounding Father's Day locally, this group of writers didn't just ask ourselves if the fanfare of Mother's Day often eclipses Father's Day (which it does), or if too many of us take pleasure in dragging bad dads on a day meant to laud good dads (that's true too). We went further, and we asked ourselves why this is so, and if there really is room for improvement from our nation's dads, what this improvement could look like.
But first we asked: "Why is Father's Day way more low-key than Mother's Day?"
The simple answer perhaps is this: we live in a matriarchal society with most homes and families being (visibly) led and held together by women. When Jamaican children get up on weekdays to get ready for school it's often mummy that makes breakfast or makes sure their uniforms are cleaned and ironed, and mummy that packs their lunch kits and makes sure they have all the right books in their school bags. As a matter of fact, many Jamaican children and TEENS either have little to no relationship with their fathers or maintain a shaky, sliver of an emotional bond with them. All things considered, many Jamaicans genuinely might not have many good memories to reminisce upon when it comes to Father's Day, even if they wanted to.
Nevertheless, we reject the aforementioned as an excuse to be bitter on the 'Gram (or on Twitter or anywhere else) on Father's Day; the absence or loss of a solid, positive father figure in one's life, though unfortunate, is not reason enough to belittle all fathers (and all mankind) on a day meant for celebration. More simply, if you have nothing nice to say, jus' kibba yuh mout.
Now don't get us wrong
We aren't trying to invalidate the feelings of those who see the need to voice their displeasure at how the typical role of fatherhood is filled in a western society. We understand that a vast majority of men have played, and continue to play, small or non-existent roles in the lives of their children. We understand the frustration that has built up over years of disappointment at the hands of fathers. We understand it's a systemic issue, and we have seen and acknowledged the pain expressed on social media everyday, including father's day. But hear us out.
Having noted then that many Jamaican children have tenuous relationships with their fathers, there is certainly room for improvement. But that's nothing new or awfully exciting, nor does it necessarily signify that all or even most of our nation's fathers are deadbeat dads. In fact, as with anything else, and any other position of influence or responsibility, one will find that there is always room for improvement.
Now we won't seek to break down just why (not in this article, at least) most Jamaican fathers parent the way they do. But it seems to us that so many Jamaican fathers' fairly hands-off approach to parenting may be attributable in part or whole to their socialization, home training during childhood and adolescence, or what their counterparts allow and encourage (or disallow and discourage)….but we digress.
Given the murmurings we've heard, word on the street is most dads and men in general, do recognize the disparity between the kudos and big-ups given to mother figures and mothers on Mother's Day and those given to father figures and fathers on Father's Day. But recognizing that there is a difference in how we deal with the two, knowing why that's the case, and figuring out what to do about it aren't all one and the same, so we're prepared to buss di secret.
Even live-in or fairly present and involved fathers seem to struggle with the idea of being silly or vulnerable with their children, for fear of losing grip on authority or their own manhood, or maybe even for fear of being rejected. But great fathers parent hands on: they change diapers, walk their little ones to their classrooms, give them hugs and reassure them. The kind of dads that inspire us tell their children that they love them, and show them they love them. Great dads listen to what their children have to say and they (at least try to) show up to PTA meetings. They get to know their kids' friends and what is going on in their children's lives. They know their children and remain accessible to them as much as they possibly can. They share their wisdom with their children, and most importantly they do not allow their relationship with their children to become transactional just because traditional gender roles dictate that they are providers and protectors; not nurturers.
But how do we communicate this to our present and future fathers?
How do we ensure that father's day becomes a day of jubilant celebration, instead of recollections of pain from slighted children? We need to start by teaching our boys that fatherhood is more than a monetary transaction. We need to hold personal development classes in schools that teach our boys not only how to become good fathers, but also well-rounded, emotionally stable human beings. Our society needs a culture shift. Boys cannot learn how to become good fathers if they don't know what one looks like. Children truly live what they learn and the cycle of the absentee father is one that will continue if we don't teach our boys that a majority of the examples of fatherhood that they see around them, are not positive models to follow.
Admittedly, we have seen a shift away from fathers being formidable figures that only bark orders and dole out money to their children as necessary, but even more distance between those stereotypes and how fathers seek to conduct themselves in reality, is necessary. No one (that we know of, at least) thanks the ATM for giving them money, and in much the same way when fathers make their entire character or relationship with their children about providing money and material things, or about being deferred to, they will likely find the love lacking come Father's Day.
Ultimately, there's no need for parents to compete, or feel as though they are being pit against the other. Though protecting is often seen as a man's role and nurturing as a woman's, a great parent provides, protects and nurtures as best as he or she is able, recognizing that his/her parenting input matters. Lunch money or school fees alone won't really cut it, we need those things of course, but we also need more. Be present, be visible and stay in touch with us and our realities.
Here's to all the dads – the model fathers and the ones learning and getting better day by day – we see you and we celebrate you.