Boys in the 'Hood' Editorial
Stabroek News
May 28, 2002

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Quite by coincidence, in the same issue last week, Stabroek News carried a letter from 'Helpless Parent' - a mother being given the run around to collect child support payments - and an announcement from the National Commission on the Rights of the Child (NCRC) that it would hold the first ever parenting workshop for fathers in Guyana on Thursday. Kudos to Chairperson of the NCRC, First Lady Varshnie Jagdeo, and its members. This is long overdue.

The press release from the NCRC intimated that this workshop would not be the first and only, as it stated that male representatives from various regions would be expected to pass on the skills learnt at similar fora in their areas. It is hoped that among the topics listed for discussion will be the need for fathers to not only love their children, but to express it. In fact it should perhaps be the underlying theme.

The letter from 'Helpless Parent' should be viewed as a cry for help. In it the hurt mother rails against an uncaring father who has only made one direct payment to support his child in three years. Between the lines emerges the picture of a child (maybe a boy?) who never receives a hug, a kiss, an encouraging word, from the man who helped make his life possible. No birthday or Christmas cards or presents; no ice-cream outings, sweets or pocket money; no playing ball, riding lessons, homework help; no going fishing, swimming, taking long walks; no bonding, no nothing. And this child is just one of many hundred, perhaps thousand children with absentee fathers - a statistic.

Court records, if they can be found, will reveal that the same problem existed 20, 30, or even 40 years ago. Is it any wonder that the cycle continues? Is it any wonder that boys in the (father) hood, masquerading as fathers, do not grasp the concept?

The word on the street is that it is fashionable to have a "youth". Some it would seem only require evidence of their fertility and move on once the deed is done. Other show up occasionally and strut around with their "trophy" until that palls. Yet others do double rings, diapers and dedication, but they are in the minority.

These descriptions do not only fit Guyanese. The problem is endemic worldwide. Different approaches have been taken to reducing the incidence. Among them are taking parenting classes into schools, in recognition that many children have no role models. Perhaps this can be explored here.

With regard to fatherhood, Father's Day is to be celebrated on June 17, this year. According to, Father's Day originated when "Sonora Louise Smart Dodd, of Spokane, Washington, heard a sermon on the merits of setting aside a day to honour one's mother. It gave her the idea to petition for a day to honour fathers, and in particular, her own father, William Jackson Smart, who had raised her and her five siblings by himself, after her mother died in childbirth. With support from the Spokane Ministerial Association and the YMCA, her efforts paid off, and on June 19, 1910, the first Father's Day was celebrated in Spokane. The rose was selected as the official Father's Day flower, and some suggest that people wear a white rose to honor a father who is deceased, and a red one for a father who is living. In 1972, Richard Nixon signed a presidential proclamation declaring the third Sunday of June as Father's Day."

The conceptualization of Father's Day was to honour a father who was both father and mother. However, the commercialization of the day over the years has put paid to that. But it can be different. Father's Day could the beginning of new relationships between men and their children. The parenting workshop for men could prove to be a wake-up call.