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Calling all parents . . . yeah, right! (2)

Sherwyn Walters

Calling all parents . . . yeah, right! (2)

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WE WUK WE WAIST (IN PUBLIC). It is a Bajan thing, by way of Africa, they tell me. We jerk our knees – another Bajan thing.
Knee-Jerk Responses R Us – that’s a Barbados public company with no shortage of shareholders. So when a young fellow steals, we shout, “Parents”. When two opposite-sex eight-year-olds are caught in a primary school’s bathroom “doing naughtiness”, we conclude: “Parents”. When a 15-year-old swings a cutlass at another, here we go: “Parents”.
When a child vandalizes property, same cry: “Parents”. When a 17-year-old is cursing “like a pirate”, the refrain: “Is de parents”. When two young men decide to firebomb somewhere, hear de tune: “Parents”. And when troubling numbers of people do any of these things or when crime strikes in a spate, look out: the cross hairs know only parents.
Even on a slow news day, somebody is going to jump up and shout, “Parents”.
And we are right. Not right enough, though.
Blaming anybody is easy. And blaming parents is no less so. But facilely calling on them to clean up their act is not smart. It is not the product of much thought and it offers no broad-based solutions.
We have to do much more than instinctively shout “Parents” – even if it is to some extent true.
Someone once said that doing the same thing the same way and expecting a different result is insanity. If that is so, a lot of people in Barbados are mad. Let’s say that in 1968, we saw some things going wrong and we blamed parents.
In 1975 things got worse, but our response was the same: parents. In 1984, in a further deteriorating situation, we had only one diagnosis and prescription: parents.
Ten, 15, 28 years later, the you-know-what hitting de fan, and flying all ’bout de place – even in our faces – and all we have to offer is “Parents”. We may be loony. It is time to stop relying on what clearly is having little or no impact.
You know, in court they make you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. To simply shout “Parents” is to fail to tell the whole truth.
We must tell ourselves the truth that external forces have a significant impact on what both children and parents do.
Let’s take off our rose-tinted spectacles, look back and correct a misconception. The misconception is that in the “good old days” individual parents, all by themselves, got the job done. Not so!
The schools were a great help – but you know what? Both the parents and the schools were bolstered by a society that had a strong, some would say primitive, unanimity about what was wrong, dead wrong, no ands, buts or ifs, and an irresistible united response as to the punishment, some would say cruelty, that should follow transgression in the area of the dead wrong. That, my friend, was the mighty bulwark for parents.
But the largely informal – and serendipitous – congruence broke down, as it was bound to, for times change. Now there is growing feeling that there are no absolutes; pop psychology and its nexus with international bodies and TV shows confuse, if not insidiously demean and demote, parents; the unpoliceable Internet entices unpoliceable children; and the church is a kind of laughing stock when it suits people, but they will find it when a relative dies or appeal to it to save the society – but not them.
Through various means a parent’s power over a child has been reduced (for instance, you, parent of a minor girl, don’t have to be notified if your child is seeking contraception or an abortion); there is the pushing of an equality of child and parent. And parents are now trying to raise children who have been more indoctrinated in their rights than in their responsibilities.
As the tenuous help of the past dissipates, it has not been replaced by the requisite formal response.
If the goose that lay the golden egg (an acceptable level of social discipline) died – either of “old age” or because of murder – how do you still get golden eggs? What, other than a forlorn, impotent crying of “Parents”, did we replace the goose with?
Thank God, more than a few parents do well. But then some people say: “If I/he/she could do it, everybody else could.” How we get so foolish? Why, then, is there nothing in the world that everybody does just so?
Careless readers may want to tag me with being easy on parents. But I suspect that those readers are more likely to be charged with perjury (or lunacy) than I. I am just trying to tell the whole truth. So that we can do more than just lay blame.
I en done.
• Sherwyn Walters is a writer who became a teacher, a song analyst, a broadcaster and an editor. Email [email protected]