Sun | Nov 17, 2019

Gordon Robinson | Try keeping your shoes out of your mouth, Delroy

Published:Sunday | November 3, 2019 | 12:22 AM
It takes two to reproduce and, in the main, BOTH do what they can to accept responsibility for their unfocused surrender to ‘urges’.

The heated paternity leave conversation brings to mind one of Yogi Berra’s notorious faux pas “Feels like Déjà vu all over again”.

As usual, the subject has been analysed to death. This is a modern proclivity, especially whenever it involves man/woman relationships and more so when there’s a hint of sex detected. We just love to talk about other people’s affairs. So, naturally, examples of foot-in-mouth disease abound, including local poster boy Delroy Chuck.

Addressing a justice ministry child diversion sensitisation session in MoBay, Chuck solemnly warned: “If you want paternity leave, you must be living with the mother for a few months before birth. If it’s your wife – no problem. If it’s your girlfriend, then you can’t come and say, ‘It’s my child and, therefore, I’m entitled to paternity leave’, and you not living with the mother. You would be getting paternity leave to do what? Visit her every day?”

For those of you previously fearful of trying, THIS is how to insert both feet (in shoes) in your mouth while simultaneously chewing gum, brushing teeth and walking.

Let’s try to get a grip on all this salacious saliva. Delroy, how’d you define a “few months”? Would three months suffice? Four? Five? Can the father move out AFTER birth? As an allegedly bright chap, why can’t you understand fatherhood and residential address aren’t mutually exclusive? Some fathers live with baby-mothers. Some even marry them, despite warnings that the food most destructive of female sex drive is wedding cake. Some live elsewhere. Some live with another babymother. Some live with two.

They’re ALL fathers. Many who don’t live in the same hemisphere as the mother make better fathers than some who live with the babymother. Men don’t have to live with women to make babies. They don’t have to live with anybody to be good fathers. So let go of this artificial nonsense about “living with the mother for a few months before birth”.

What the warra warra do you mean if it’s my girlfriend I can’t say “It’s my child and, therefore, I’m entitled to paternity leave’, and you not living with the mother”? Delroy, it IS my child. Why’d my address matter? Have you any idea how many loving parents live separately (often with grandparents) because they can’t afford to live together? Do you live in Jamaica?

THIRD FOOT IN MOUTH

Only biology prevented Delroy from Chucking a third foot in: “All I’m saying is, fathers in Jamaica need to take responsibility for children they fathered. It’s just unfair for mothers to struggle with these children, and all fathers believe that they are to do is to send a money. That’s not enough.”

Even if it’s an accurate characterisation of today’s fathers (it isn’t), what the bejeezus has this to do with paternity leave? Delroy, do you think denying paternity leave will make irresponsible fathers responsible?

FACT: Irresponsible fathers and irresponsible mothers exist. Has it occurred to you that sending prospective fathers on paternity leave might not only encourage more responsibility but also give mothers leverage to insist on it?

But, by then, Delroy was in full flight and all reason had fled: “Most of these children need love and attention, and if those children had love and attention, they wouldn’t be at the corner with the gangs becoming criminals, causing us to have this programme of child diversion.”

So Jamaica’s crime rates are unbearably high because children aren’t getting fathers’ love? Really? Seriously? There’s no link whatsoever to woefully inadequate government-funded education? Or laughable government child welfare services? There’s no blame left to be placed on the lack of real job opportunities? IT’S FATHERS’ FAULT FOR NOT SHOWING THEIR CHILDREN LOVE? You must be high!

All you need is love.

All you need is love.

All you need is love, love.

Love is all you need!

I don’t know how you grew up, Delroy, but some of Jamaica’s most successful citizens never knew their fathers. Many didn’t know their mothers. They were loved by single parents, aunts, uncles, grandfathers, grandmothers, foster and substitute parents. Many fathers obtained jackets by gift (no tailor required) yet loved and cared for those jackets as their own, even when they knew exactly which stylist made them. Meanwhile, many gang members grew up in homes with ‘nuclear’ families. So stop the foolishness, Delroy. A father by any residence is still a father. And his children are entitled to his paternity leave.

I write déjà vu because I remember similar arguments produced in the 1970s when a Maternity Leave law was threatened. Male employers trashed the idea mercilessly. “As soon as you hire dem, dey gwine get pregnant!” was one of the kindest things said. “I don’t employ people to have pickney. I employ them to work!” I actually heard a prominent senior lawyer say, “I’ll never employ a female lawyer. All they ever do is get pregnant!”

Horror underproductivity stories were told to frighten legislators and a strong cash-rich lobby mounted against the idea. But, on December 31, 1979, The Maternity Leave Act was passed, giving women 12 weeks maternity leave (eight with pay), resulting in a Jamaican labour law revolution.

Today, nobody gives maternity leave a second thought. It’s as natural as prime minister’s wives finding them “sexy caan dunn!” Now it’s fathers’ turn. So, now, the same old, backward, sexist thinking opens its ugly, drivel-producing mouth. We’ve been programmed to believe Jamaican fathers are wutliss (akin to the oft trotted out insult “all men are trash”). If you give them paternity leave, they’ll spend it at the rum bar. Jamaican men have pickney daily. They’ll be permanently on paternity leave.

Oh, shut up!

My experience with Jamaican fathers at all societal levels is that they are, in the majority, extremely responsible parents committed to their children’s advancement. I find young fathers, in particular, to be far more conscientious than was my generation. I’m sick and tired of retching at the work product of the careless broad brush with which all men are stereotypically painted because of a few wastrels’ behaviour.

TAKES TWO TO REPRODUCE

Yes, men tend to take “Go ye forth and multiply” to heart and occasionally spread seed recklessly. I knew a clerk/bearer who had multiple children. He worked tirelessly and educated every child to tertiary level. I know a poor-for-life mechanic who brought up his only child, a daughter, without her mother (bolted), and educated her to beyond secondary school. She has performed well in an excellent public service job since graduating and is now herself married with children; living in their own home; and looking after her father.

A famous politician, now deceased, fathered over sixty children. Again, he educated every one and found time to check on each babymother to ensure all was well.

Jamaican men may be thoughtless with their reproductive system, but it takes two to reproduce and, in the main, BOTH do what they can to accept responsibility for their unfocused surrender to “urges”.

There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done

Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung

Nothing you can say, but you can learn how to play the game.

It’s easy!

There’s nothing that you can make that can’t be made

No one you can save that can’t be saved

Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time

It’s easy!

Led by brilliant songwriters John Lennon and Paul McCartney, the Beatles were a revolutionary musical force in the 1960s/70s. One of their earliest hits was Love Is All You Need. They were advocating for government policy change to love not war by meditating on God’s promise “love thy neighbour (as thyself)” as the only way to be who we really are. The subtle clue that the musical geniuses were speaking to governments, not individuals, is found in the intro – a rendition of the French National Anthem!

Children need love, yes. But Government must love them as much as fathers.

Morals can’t be legislated. Government should stop trying. What government can do is to create a legislative framework that encourages responsibility. Leave baby-making to us. Legislatively, the issue of men having too many children is easily resolved by restricting paternity leave to once per year and three in all for each father. Employers and employees can work out exceptional scenarios where more than three is needed with tax exemptions as encouragement to recognise deserving cases.

It’s not rocket science, Delroy. But it does require you to keep your nose out of our bedrooms; your mind out of our business; AND stop telling us how to live our lives. To sum up, Delroy, try keeping your shoes out of your mouth.

Peace and Love!

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com