Parents have ultimate responsibility for their children

CHRIS BURNS

THERE has been quite a bit of buzz lately about crime and violence
against our children. Several newspaper reports have been rightly
focusing on the re-emerging trend of these atrocities against our
children. Yet, as beneficial as these news reports have been, it is
unfortunate that many of them carry a particular bout of sensationalism.

The truth is that sensationalism has its rewards, but it cannot cure the
problems associated with many of these cases of kidnapping, sexual
exploitation, physical and verbal abuse, violence or even the ugly
slaying of innocent children.

Exposing the underlying factors for these crimes could help, as the
crimes are offshoots of a troubling combination of a deteriorating
socio-cultural and economic milieu in which the virtuousness that once
dictated our mode of socialisation has been replaced by foolish vices
promoting violence, coarseness, sex, intolerance and instant
gratification.

Nevertheless, with May officially declared Child Month, the entire
society must redouble its efforts to reform individual families toward
getting parents to take greater responsibility for the care and
well-being of their children; the Government alone cannot do it, period.
We are in a national crisis, therefore it requires the full and
sustained participation of every citizen.

We must begin to sensitise and educate parents and potential parents
about establishing priorities and planning for their children’s future.
We must find ways to encourage them that bling is no substitute for
proper parenting and to delay having children until they can afford them
— biology permitting.

We must persuade parents to organise their lives such that fewer children will matriculate into becoming wards of the State.

For although some would have us believe that it is the State in which
children are born, or the society in which they are raised that has
responsibility for their personal welfare, parents have the ultimate
responsibility and ought not to shy away from their obligation.

For while it is unquestionably true that Government has the final
responsibility for the general safety and security of all its citizens,
parents are not exempt from the chain of responsibility when it comes to
providing for the well-being and development of their
children.

This is unequivocally true; since children were never part of any
pre-birth negotiations or consultations; had no say in their parents’
sexual habits, cohabitivate intimacy, or anything of sorts and didn’t
ask to be born. As such, children are victims of the circumstances and
societies in which they were born, and we could circle the wagons until
the cows come home, parents have more than a moral duty to see to their
children’s needs.

However, there are special circumstances in which the State must act. For instance, where there are physical

or mental disabilities, abandonment, financial or environmental ruin, or
death. Nevertheless, we must hop off the wagon of looking to “di
Government” to be parent, teacher, nurse, obeah man, lawyer, police,
tailor and dressmaker. And even though we know that “it takes a village
to raise a child”, the declaration does not absolve parents or
surrogates of their commitment to their children.

Hence, if voluntary compliance is not attractive enough to get them to
recognise or accept their part in their children’s lives, then the State
must ensure that parents are held legally accountable for the
well-being, general safety and protection of their children. Only then
will delinquent parents understand that in sowing “seeds” and
fertilising them they should prepare for harvesting.

For it cannot be that, as parents, we allow the pleasure of sex to
colour everything to the extent that we do not give a rat’s behind about
the consequences of sex, and when children are produced, we simply “run
away” only to repeat the same sexual gig elsewhere. It cannot be that
our boys continue to be socialised into thinking that their main role
and purpose is to “breed up di gal dem” as a way of exerting their
sexual prowess or establishing the rigidity of their masculinity.

Neither is manhood about the size of one’s penis, or how many women one
“bounces”. It is certainly not about boasting over how many “yute mi
get”, without knowledge of their names, ages, or whereabouts. Manhood is
about a higher calling, a deeper sense of value, and how to be an agent
of positive change, while taking responsibility for one’s
actions.

Women also have a role to play; as there can be no children without
them. They have to uphold high levels or personal responsibility in the
way they govern their lives. It hardly matters how good they can ‘quint
it pon him’. The fact is, there could be consequences from ‘letting it
off it’ if the ‘letting off’ happened without
contraceptive.

Women, regardless of the terrible reality of your personal economy or
emotional state, it cannot be that you ‘back it up’ for every Tom, Dick,
or Harry without understanding the everlasting weight and obligation
that come with motherhood.

And so, it cannot continue for our women to excuse their recklessness by
saying “Oh, it [child] was a mistake”; or “mi nuh know how mi get
pregnant…,” although there hasn’t been any repeat of the Virgin Mary
experience. A mother’s role in the development of her children is
crucial, and gone are the days when mothers could sit at home with arms
folded and wait until John brings home the bacon, while poor little
Sandra’s stomach is churning painful knots of hunger.

Some of these so-called parents have absolutely no business being
parents in the first place, since they, themselves, were by-products of
the same vicious cycle that their parents found themselves in and
in which no one took responsibility for their upbringing.

The end result is that, by their own deeds, they are fortifying the
vicious cycle — a cycle of criminality, poverty and backwardness. Sadly,
most of these parents were largely left to fend for themselves from an
early age and so they don’t know how to care for or love themselves, let
alone a child. We simply cannot build a prosperous society in this way.

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