Tue | Jan 21, 2020

Ronald Thwaites | And if you get a jacket, wear it

Published:Monday | December 9, 2019 | 12:10 AM
We must accept the responsibility of being great parents to the children we plan for, the ones we didn’t plan for, and yes, even the jackets!

The radio programme I hosted dealt with people who had difficulties with the immigration process of getting to the United States.

A father, now a US citizen filing for his son, was on the long-distance phone, while the mother and the young man were in studio listening, enquiring why the routine DNA test to confirm paternity was so delayed.

There is no describing their faces and words when the response emerged that there would be no migration because the test had proved negative. I often wonder what became of that family. Denying the truth in these matters only festers useless guilt.November, which is celebrated as Parenting Month, has ended without much notice.

Christmas is anticipated, when Christians and Christ-haunted secularists recall the Bible story of Joseph, not the blood father of Jesus, but who accepted him, provided for him and saved him from the murderous Herod. Joseph, to whom, the Gospel narrative records, Jesus, Son of God, became subject.

In our language then, he accepted the ‘jacket’ for the good of the child and the family.

There can be no more defining act of a human person than to recreate his or her own image, and God’s likeness, by bringing into being another human. Parenting, then, supersedes in morality, law and social utility, any and all other vocations. There is no wealth, no honour, no office, no legacy, no personal preference or convenience greater than being the best parent one can be of your natural or adoptive son or daughter.

And, by extension of reasoning, a primary purpose for creating communities and states is to create conditions and provide opportunities for citizens to fulfil their roles as family members. So it is opportune to ask ourselves how well we are doing at these tasks.

Consequences

Consider the consequence of every intimate personal relationship open to procreation. Rate every aspect of public policy; evaluate each use of public and private expenditure against these priorities. Think of how well we employ the plethora of media and communication devices at our disposal to improve parenting and human growth. Determine if and how much parental leave is granted against the ideal of great parenting. Ask if Jamaica’s political economy is structured so as to foster functional families.

So far there has been little appreciation of the profundity of Peter Phillips’ resolve to dedicate a specific agency or ministry to the concerns of the Jamaican family. Once again, the most devastating aspect and enduring blight of slavery was the systemic destruction of African family structure.

We have deepened the distress by demeaning peasant families and disrespecting ourselves by confusing poisonous hedonism with legitimate self-expression, by delinking sex from love and commitment. We need to stop being hostages to this history.

And the children suffer most. Let the school counsellors relate the pathos and resentment harboured by boys lacking father figures. But not only them. One of the sadness of this time of year is to visit the elderly, mostly but not only men, discarded and abandoned by relatives who feel no bond of kinship, dating back to absent or inadequate parenting.

The identification and naming of fathers is one foundational step in strengthening parenting. The ambivalence which many of our leaders and opinion formers show regarding this issue is evidence, to our peril, of how low a priority we place on uplifting children’s interests.

Look here: there is no investment alchemy, no budget wizardry, no value to being sexy can’t done, which can save the nation from its scourges, unless we resolve to live up to the primary responsibility of being great parents to the children we plan for, the ones we didn’t plan for, and yes, even the jackets!

Ronald Thwaites is member of parliament for Kingston Central. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.