Thursday 12th June, 2008

Leela Ramdeen
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As we prepare to celebrate Father’s Day, let us ask God’s blessings on those to whom He has entrusted fatherhood; that they may be filled with wisdom, patience, and strength to undertake their responsibilities effectively.

It was Henry Ward Beecher who said: “The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.”

One can argue that this is not totally true as there have been cases of irresponsible parents leaving their young children alone at home while they go off on vacation etc.

One of the most moving memories I have of my father is the way he held my mother’s hand during her dying moments.

As the priest administered the Last Rites, Ma lifted her head and made the sign of the cross. She then sighed and was gone. Pa held on to her hand even more tightly.

They had been married for more than 50 years and had weathered many storms, including prejudice because of their mixed marriage.

They loved and respected each other unconditionally. This does not mean that their life together was smooth sailing. Like all couples, they had their ups and downs, but the foundation of their relationship was cemented in faith—he is Hindu and she was Catholic. Their respect for each other’s religion was critical to their relationship.

Today many fathers are not living with their biological child(ren) or with the mothers of their child(ren). The breakdown of family life challenges many communities around the world. Our task as a nation and as local communities is not to be judgmental but to put legislation and structures in place to strengthen family life; to assist boys/men/girls/ women to become responsible parents and to play a part in the lives of their children even if they do not live with them.

What are the qualities of a good father? Inter alia, a good father places God at the centre of his life or, if he does not believe in God, he lives a virtuous life; he is a man of integrity and character who guards his reputation jealously—both in his personal and his professional life.

Horace Greeley’s words are worth noting: “Fame is a vapour, popularity an accident, riches take wing, and only character endures.”

Many years ago a young girl, “Emily,” was rescued by my sister, Indra, in London. Emily’s father had fallen foul of the law in Trinidad. He was convicted and imprisoned here. Emily was forced to leave the private school she attended. She apparently had no one to turn to and nowhere to go. Indra gave her a home.

Emily’s behaviour deteriorated. As a therapeutic counsellor, Indra realised that, to a large extent, Emily’s bad behaviour was as a result of the trauma she was experiencing because of her father’s fall from grace and its impact on her life. Thank God Indra’s two children, Nicholas and Caroline, were empathetic.

Together with Indra they hung in there, determined to help this vulnerable young child. Emily remained with them for more than three years. Today she holds a top position in the UK and continues to make T&T proud. To maintain her anonymity, I will not state her position.

I share this experience to make it clear that fathers at all levels of society must strive to build their character if they are to be good role models to their families and communities.

A good father plays a pivotal role in his family and helps to foster morals and values that will underpin the lives of his children.

Recently Fr Jason Gordon was sharing with me progress being made in T&T’s Catholic schools with regard to the “Virtues and Values” programme that the Catholic Church is implementing.

Catholic fathers and mothers must participate in this programme as they have a duty to help their children to put on the character of Christ. Indeed, parents from all faith communities should be concerned to promote their children’s spiritual well- being.

All schools should implement programmes that will help to build children’s character and promote human development in T&T.

To assist children to internalise what they learn, parents and schools should provide opportunities for children to practise what they are learning, eg through social action; acting morally and ethically.

A good father works with his spouse/partner and children to build a “home” and to create a framework of firm, fair discipline that does not break his children’s spirits; he uses opportunities to praise and affirm his children, to lend them a listening ear and to act as their mentor; he is approachable and demonstrates his love for his family in a variety of ways; he promotes his children’s self-confidence and self-worth; he is reliable and trustworthy and finds time to participate—as a partner with schools—in his children’s education.

How many of you fathers read to your children or help them with their homework? While it is important for a father to help to provide financially for his family, simply “doling out” money to one’s children does not make one a good father.

A good father is concerned about the health and welfare of his children. He learns about tell-tale signs to determine if his children are abusing drugs or alcohol or if they are in possession of a gun.

A good father cares about being a father and does not see his children as accessories/bling.

He guides them and devises strategies to steer them away from the social ills that seek to engulf them, eg gangs, negative peer pressure, and criminal activity.

He seeks to empower them so that they will be able to make the right decisions and choices in their lives.

Finally, a good father puts family before political party and speaks out when necessary in order to build a better country for his family and for all of us.

Let us show that we value the role of fathers by honouring our fathers and creating conditions in T&T that will foster responsible fatherhood.

n Leela Ramdeen is a

lawyer and education consultant


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