A Man's Role

International Men's Day kind of came and went without much fanfare here, even though the darn thing was actually "inaugurated in 1999 in Trinidad and Tobago".  Who would've thought?  Especially in light of the fact that Trinidad and Tobago, the birthplace, so to speak, of this global international event, seems hell-bent on cutting men out of the equation, particularly when it comes to parenting.  The irony of it is astounding: the 2011 theme of International Men's Day is "Giving Boys the Best Possible Start in Life" and here we are forcibly removing dedicated dads from the bedsides of their sick children.  The official website of International Men's Day quotes Mahatma Gandhi ("If we are to have real peace, we must begin with our children") and John F. Kennedy ("Children are the world's most valuable resource, and its best hope for the future") as part of the rationale for this year's theme, but I'm afraid I have to disagree with them a bit.  *Gasp!*  Yup, that's me, the bold-faced West Indian, disagreeing with the global icon for peaceful resistance and perhaps the most lauded U.S. president in history.  

But here's The Thing.  And let me say that before I actually tell you what The Thing is, I did not come to this conclusion all on my own.  It's actually the wisdom of my former school principal who has gone on to do tremendous work here.  After decades spent educating children and thinking that the upcoming generation would do exactly what Gandhi and Kennedy hoped for - make the world a kinder, more peaceful place - Sr. Paul D'Ornellas realised that children were not the fix-all solution everyone thought they'd be.  In fact, children could not change a thing unless the adults in their lives - their role models - changed first.  Unless they set the example.  Which is why she has dedicated her "retirement" years to re-educating adults in an effort to spark authentic personal transformation and by extension, social change.  

Of course.  It makes perfect sense.  We shouldn't want to raise our children the way our parents raised us, no matter how idyllic our childhood memories may be.  We should want to raise our kids better so that our world can be better.  To do that, it takes effort, dedication, commitment - to spend time with our children, to get to know them, to help them to understand who they are and what their unique purpose is in this world.  And that, cliched as it may sound, takes a village and the men in that village need to be given the opportunity to step up and play their role, especially since some men, particularly the West indian brand of the species, are a little confused about the post-feminism reality.  Yes, women can do everything a man can do, I know the story - and lest I get any heated comments about being anti-feminist, I'm not belittling the challenges or the achievements of women in any way.  I have great respect for the sacrifices made by generations of women before me so that I can sit here with the freedom to write what I'm writing.  I also have the deepest respect for single mothers whose monumental task often goes unacknowledged.

But I also know this: women can't be fathers.  It's a man thing.  By mere dint of their gender, guys bring a different and valuable perspective to the business of bringing up children, whether they happen to be biologial parents or not.  So why are we denying good men their role? A colleague recently told me, with a concerned look on her face, that "we're losing our men".  Her feeling was that Trinbagonian males seemed to be disappearing into the background, uncertain of their part to play, frustrated about it - and here's the clincher - not at all willing to talk about it.  Which of course only continues the vicious cycle.

In the end, it's all about balance.  That's what creates the stability that children need to actually step out on a limb from time to time, to get a little off kilter.  The masculine and the feminine; the yin and the yang: the combination of these influences will help make kids grounded enough to one day rock the boat, upset the status quo and create a different - and dare I say, better - world.  

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