The best quote I have read among dozens in relation to Father’s Day while preparing for this article is this: “By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he’s wrong.” At lunch during last week, my elder son, who has a nodding respect for my legal acumen, even though it (the legal acumen) is at best modest, if it has even reached that level, and who consults me frequently, pronounced once again that he has a dim view of politicians. I asked him what about his father. Without missing a beat, he responded: “No exceptions.” On the other hand, my younger son, who has a less positive view of my legal skills, and perhaps he is closer to the mark, but who consults me far more frequently than his elder brother, is interested in politicians, political developments and political history. He maintains a keen interest in the political life of his grandfather.

Father’s Day celebrates and honours fatherhood and emphasizes the importance and influence of fathers in society. The day is generally celebrated by children recognizing the importance of their fathers in their lives by showering him with gifts, their favourite food and much affection. Whether they say so or not, they recognize and reward their fathers for being present in their lives, for ensuring their well-being as children and for guiding them through life. The celebration cannot be achieved without generous assistance from the mothers, particularly where the children are not yet adults and do not have the resources to purchase gifts or mount a celebration. It’s a family affair and reinforces the unity and strength of the family.

Over the past fifty years, research into the role of fathers has shown that they play a very important and distinctly separate role from mothers in the development of children. A father’s different parenting style encourages independence, risk-taking and competition. The influence of a father results in the development of an understanding of rules, fairness and justice. Fathers encourage competition and engender independence. These lessons learnt by children as a result of their fathers’ presence in their lives assist them to prepare for the challenges of life. It has been demonstrated by research that even in the case of divorced parents, traumatic though it may be on children, the fathers’ continuing presence in their lives has an important and positive influence on their development. It is not that a mother’s influence does not inculcate these lessons. It is merely that a father’s presence in the life of the child is more likely to strengthen these tendencies. In certain States in the US, contact is encouraged between imprisoned fathers and their children, particularly daughters.

Countries like Guyana, which are emerging out of colonialism, face monumental problems generated by the legacies of slavery and colonialism – poverty, crime, unemployment, and insufficient resources to devote to the resolution of social problems, much less to devote to social issues. The daily struggle for survival for a large portion of the Guyanese population leaves little time to address the niceties of a father’s influence on the lives of his children. For example, one of the most baleful consequences of slavery is teenage pregnancy and absent fathers, which is more prevalent in African Guyanese families. Among Indian Guyanese families, a dominant consequence of indentureship is alcoholism among males, even though women are also ensnared, and the consequent inability or unwillingness of fathers to nurture their children.

These social problems about which little or nothing is being done and to which no resources are devoted, seriously disrupts the roles of fathers in the lives of children. The absence or limited roles of fathers in the lives of children caused by these social issues and problems often result in children growing into adulthood without the beneficial influences of fathers in their lives. They are less capable of developing ambitions, or if they have developed ambitions, they don’t have the drive and energy of overcoming the challenges to achieving those ambitions. There are many children who overcome these obstacles but the successes of some ought not to detract from the large number of children who are unable to reach their full potential because of absent or distracted fathers. Many of these children drift into unsociable activities.

During the course of today, while most middle-class Guyanese families are celebrating Father’s Day, we should spare the time to contemplate the lives of children who do not have male influence in their lives and who, as a result, have difficulty in overcoming the challenges they face in living productive lives or achieving ambitions and what we can do about them. One worthwhile project which has been growing in developed countries and costs nothing is to pair children, who have no male influence in their lives, with male mentors who volunteer. Volunteer programmes such as this, and other innovative programmes which social workers can develop and would be appropriate for Guyana, would cost very little to implement. If actively promoted, it might surprise officials how many volunteers would sign up.


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