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Being an ever-present father

Ricky Jordan

Being an ever-present father

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I don’t make a fuss about Father’s Day, but last weekend provided for me a timely lesson in parental understanding and the importance of simply being present as a source of moral support.
I had the unusual challenge of having to attend two graduation ceremonies on the eve of Father’s Day. My daughter was graduating from my alma mater and my son from a school whose principal and principles I have come to respect in the last five years. Therefore, I could not not miss either function last Saturday without a solid excuse.
Both events, though bitter-sweet with the mixture of sad goodbyes and uncertainty going onto a new journey, were inspiring.
At the first ceremony, the two young ladies who gave the students’ address were chosen to do so not because they had accumulated the most marks in the academic arena or soared to the highest point on the athletic field. Rather, they were selected because they were a lesson in second chances; a lesson in the need for understanding, forgiveness and hope – especially when you are a parent.
The girls were both young mothers of babies now seven and eight months old; and from the podium in their renowned school hall, they spoke of the understanding of fellow students and teachers, which helped them immeasurably in being able to return to the classroom, finish their exams, and receive the secondary level certification that will equip them for further study or the initial step into the world of employment.
It is of no comfort reaching a point in an academic career where the possibility of dropping out of the system is acutely real, thereby tainting a student with the regret of wasted years, as well as the possibility of being so burdened with having a child that there is no time for further academic pursuit.
This is where parental understanding can make the difference between a high school/societal dropout whose self-esteem can be ruined for life, or a bright young woman brimming with potential whose mistake can be forgiven and hope of a bright future restored.
I do not know the full story of the two girls, but their demeanour – interspersed with the tears of remorse and the joy of knowing that their beloved school was there for them in their time of uncertainty – spoke volumes.
It not only brought home the reality of what any father could be forced to face from a teenaged daughter, but also made me aware of how much it took for those two girls to surmount their hurdle and mount the stage, without shame, to speak to their classmates, teachers, parents and the society.
Their lives, as my school song says in part, are still in the making, as these students “press with eager feet up and on”.
Upon reaching the other ceremony through pouring rain to see my son graduate among 100 plus students, I was immediately struck by the entire class melodiously joining voices to render The World’s Greatest, followed by the school song, whose hookline is its Latin motto, translated “through adversity to the stars”.
I make bold to say that the principal and father figure of that school can identify with the process of struggle at the national level and reaching major heights, having been almost pilloried by colleagues and the wider public for taking a stand on what was arguably best for the teaching profession and for his students who love him as dearly as a father. The school’s outstanding results continue to speak for themselves.
And as my son’s face lit up when I walked over to him at the end of the ceremony, I could only whisper with a mixture of pride and relief: “It is good to be here!”
My joy, like that of many other “daddies” present at those ceremonies in St Michael and St Peter, stayed with me into yesterday – Father’s Day – causing me not to ask not what my children can do or say to make me feel special, but what examples have I shown them so far.
Have I made them feel special? Have I quit when the going got tough? Have my sacrifices been enough? Have I valued the sacrifices the mothers make in rearing them? Do I value the essential role of their teachers?
Do I approve or disapprove of their friends? Does my old-fashioned no-nonsense approach run the risk of alienating me from them? My children and I have come a long way, but could we have done it without God?
While many of us fathers grapple with such questions, we should each insist on one thing: do my part without expecting anything in return. This is my motto as a dad.
Congrats to the Combermere and Alexandra classes of 2011!