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Be man enough to be a dad

Published:Tuesday | June 16, 2015 | 6:00 AMPatria-Kaye Aarons, Contributor

Some fathers don't deserve a happy Father's Day. There was an exchange I once overheard. A woman said, "Pickney a problem," and a man in earshot retorted, "Only if you put dem pon yu head." It was a very loaded comment. One of complete apathy shared by many men who 'get a yute'.

There are some fathers who have a lot to be desired. They see fatherhood as a part-time job - contract work. They pop their heads in every now and again around birthdays and Christmas and expect a hero's welcome. And the sad part is, little children yearning for their daddy's love and affection get excited every time and treat them like the hero they are not.

The week leading up to Father's Day for every child is filled with card making and decorating for the 'World's Best Daddy', no matter how bad he is at the job. And as much as he absconds his responsibilities, Daddy is still every kid's hero.

Why?

It says a lot about the true needs of a child; and about how much care and attention play a part in those needs. I refuse to accept the excuse posited by some that they can't afford to be the father they want to be because they don't have enough money. It's not a good enough excuse.

Someone I love and respect last week told me he had never wiped any of his children's bottoms. And I was disappointed in him. I then spoke to at least five other fathers that very day who admitted the same thing. How are you OK with that? How are you OK not knowing how, or being part of, a child being fed or cleaned or bathed or soothed when they cry? How are you OK with never helping with homework?

Part of being a good father is helping to do these things. And to help with any of these things, you must be physically present.

It's just too easy for some to step away from their responsibilities. I don't care how much of a dragon the mother of your child is, stand up like a man and face the fire.

Some use the excuse, "The mother took the child away to a location far from me, so I can't be there." So take the child for holidays. Summer is all of two months. Easter is two weeks. Make the effort to get involved. Single mothers should not be the default. Anything she can do on her own, you, as a father, had better learn to do as well.

 

financial responsibility

Are you there when your child needs you?

As much as I talk about the intangibles, fatherhood also comes with a financial responsibility. Sex may be free, but a baby certainly is not. Food and diapers and shelter and medical bills and day care and clothes and everything else a baby needs come at a real cost. And that financial responsibility should at least be shared equally.

Our court system needs reassessing. The courts ascribe child support based on a man's salary. I am told that judges use their discretion and award manageable monthly payment amounts to delinquent fathers, based on how much he earns and what he is likely to pay.

Many women don't go through the court system out of frustration, because the amounts they are awarded are far less than it really takes to cover 50 per cent of the child's expenses. Who is expected to pick up the slack?

I believe that a man should be made to pay half of whatever the real cost is to cover a child's expenses - no matter his income. Part of being a man, and part of the consequence of your five minutes of careless fun, is going out and working overtime to supplement the shortfall. If he doesn't find it, someone else will have to - and that isn't fair.

As long as having children and not caring for them has little consequence, as long as some men don't take the time to really know what goes into raising a child, as long as women do not hold their men accountable, there will always be deadbeat dads.

Fatherhood is a 24-hour job. It doesn't kick in on payday and birthdays.

Sowing your seed everywhere doesn't make you a father. It just makes you really good at having irresponsible sex and not dealing with the consequences. And there should be no prizes for that.

Not every man deserves to have a happy Father's Day. Some deserve to feel the sadness their children feel every day they are neglected. Don't celebrate the day unless you are playing the role.

- Patria-Kaye Aarons is a television presenter and confectioner. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and findpatria@yahoo.com, or tweet @findpatria.