From the annals, a reprint from 2005…
“Oh, and by the way, I’m going to be a father.” These were his parting words as he went through the door.
The young man’s statement evoked two responses. First, dismay: Was this bit of news merely an afterthought? And, second, relief: At least he hadn’t said, “My girlfriend is pregnant.”
That relief was closely followed by a long period of introspection about what it means to be a father and a mother these days; about the temporary nature of the boyfriend-girlfriend relationship and about the permanence of the child-parent responsibility or – for those unlucky enough – irresponsibility; and about skewed national priorities. …
Let’s deal with the last first and work our way up.
Fathers and mothers dropped the ball on two recent occasions that presented opportunities for serious discussion: First, on a Monday morning when parents were getting their offspring together for the still-new school year, the early news was that a 13-year-old boy reportedly had hanged himself.
While some mothers, especially, reported feeling an icy finger down their spines, the national discourse continued to centre around who had purchased, stolen or acquired land, and at what prices, thereby depriving generations to come of their patrimony. And despite the rebuke of one obviously pained caller-in to a radio show, the debate raged blithely on, the antagonists clearly caring little for the generation that already is.
Of what value is the earth if there are no meek left to inherit it?
Our children are beset daily by pressures we never knew: After years of being left up to the school system, they are, at ages 11-12, pressured to perform mental gymnastics to make their parents proud, then promptly ignored for the following four years. They are pressured by advertisers to consume the latest in styles and lifestyles; by their peers to experiment with everything, from recreational drugs to petty crime; and they are pressured by their own fears of not measuring up, of not being liked, of not fitting in, and the myriad other insecurities that plague all young people.
And when the pressures of their young lives get too much for them, where are the adults who should be watching and listening to them, reassuring and nurturing them? Posturing on national radio.
If the first opportunity was missed, then the second was squandered. Again, on radio last week, parents across the land were invited to share how they would handle the news, received directly from their child, that he or she is gay. Overwhelmingly, grown men and women chose to play the fool instead of rising to the occasion and exploring the issue in a mature and serious way.
Most galling to hear was the woman who claimed – for all the world, including her child/children to hear – that she would make him/her a “nice cup of Milo” in which she, the mother, had slipped a little Gramazone. Imagine! Now imagine one of her kids facing a serious problem and even thinking about consulting her. (We sincerely hope that she is not employed in any restaurant or kitchen where customers or co-workers are likely to tick her off.)
To his credit, another gentleman breathed no hint of violence or reproach, but taking the discussion out of the hypothetical and into the actual, offered that his son “is a village ram.” Which statement begs the question, “Is heterosexual promiscuity a preferable alternative?”
What has happened to the notion of parents being their children’s first and last line of defence? Is it that in this age of casual sex, casual pregnancy, and optional responsibility, children and their challenges have become disposable? It is time that we adults face up to the fact that in many, if not most, cases, our children are what we, ourselves, have created.
A few weeks ago, Natalie Clark-White shared, on air, a poem reflecting on the state of our youth. Paraphrasing a couple of her lines, the poem described a young man, his trousers drooping about his hips owing to the absence of a belt – the belt of his father’s authority. The imagery and the truth behind it remain an indictment of the men who sire and abandon children as casually as a person tossing dumps seeds out a car window, never knowing if and where a tree will grow from his unthinking action.
It is our hope that the other young man, the one at the top of this article, will hear, truly hear what he said – “I’m going to be a father” – and become his own self-fulfilling prophecy.