Father & son bond
GROWING UP IN VERMONT, a village in St Andrew located on the leeward side of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Elvis Hamilton had no father to show him how to be a man.
That did not make him bitter or angry. In fact, it was quite the opposite. He revelled in the love and guidance shown by his mother, grandmother, his aunt and her husband, who instilled in him a sense of pride in self and work, the importance of helping others and working together as a community.
He described them as “good mentors” and noted that he did not miss not having a father. When he was at his aunt’s house and his uncle spoke “everybody had to get their act together”. They shared in their responsibilities and the rewards too.
Elvis came to Barbados in 1982 for a visit and it was his aunt who suggested he stay here as there were no other relatives in St Vincent as his granny had died.
He lived with his cousin and sometimes, when she had to work late he took care of her children, giving them meals and making sure they did their homework and chores until she returned home.
“I remember from my earlier days I had to look after my little sister when my mum wasn’t there . . . . So I had that connection from there and with my cousin I fit in there and helped her out,” he recalled.
Now the father of four children, ranging in ages 27 to 14, Elvis believes in setting good examples not only for Julia, Carlos, Miguel and Malik, but for their friends, making it clear he did not tolerate his children or their friends being rude or misbehaving.
The love for his children resonates in his voice and the pride with which he spoke about them was unmistakable. His was a conscious decision to be involved in their lives and not stay on the side lines watching them grow up.
Saturday was their “special day”. He made the time to take them to fairs, national festivals and other events that were taking place because it was important to him to create those memories and it is or was not unusual to see him in the pews at church, at Parent-Teacher Associations meetings, at sports meets, and other extra-curricular activities, watching and cheering them on.
“From the first one down through to the last one, I still have to maintain that connection with their education and be a part of what they’re doing. I can’t start from the first one and drop off with Malik; I had to maintain right through,” he said with a laugh.
“As a man growing up I didn’t have a father there for me back then. I saw how another family member in the environment I grew up with get involved. Some didn’t, but I decided that I would work with the best of what I saw in fathering my children so I decided I would be a part of their lives and whatever they’re involved in.
“I would work with them and give them advice depending on the activity. They had the choice when they left primary school to continue but some of them did not fall into any activity at secondary school but whatever it was I still tried my best to be there to give them that support.”
He balanced his work obligations, whether labourer, or artisan and now tyre technician, to be there for them, sometimes taking the day off to attend the events or using his lunch break to pop in at school to speak to their teachers to see how they were performing.
Elvis told EASY magazine that in order to be a better parent, he enrolled in parenting sessions at PAREDOS as he realised that not all children learn the same way at and the same pace and he wanted to do better.
There are a few lessons that he taught his children in the hope that they would pass it on to their children.
“Manners is one of the things that I was taught as a young boy and I make sure that they’re part of what I do and I instil it in them. Have good manners when you go into a place. Say hello to people, good morning and good evening, excuse, sorry. Use those phrases that are very important. Whatever the situation, manners should always stand out.
“I also tell them do their best in whatsoever they put their mind to do. And don’t let me tell you to behave yourself more than twice, if I have to tell you more than twice they understand what will be coming next. In the environment I grew up in, these were things I saw and how my grandparents and my aunt operate in the homes with their children. I learnt some of those, because you know what the next thing was . . . ,” he said before bursting into laughter.
He laments the direction that some children are heading like rudderless ships at sea. He believes that gadgets are taking over instead of books, and he encourages all children to read.
“Books are like poison to children. I try to encourage my son Malik to read, whether it’s the newspaper or a book, he could pick up tips on punctuation or writing or learn a new word that he can add to his vocabulary. Reading is key. Reading is knowledge. I also tell him to pay attention in church because he might learn something.
“I try to do my part and if someone asks me or help I try even in my church the Church of the Nazarene in Collymore Rock. You need strong men in the church and in the home. Children need guidance.”
His advice to men who want to be involved in their children’s lives but don’t know how for one reason or another was simple.
“Every man grew up in a different environment. So there must be some reflection on how their fathers were with them or how their parents were. Maybe they can find something they can change and go from there and be the best they can be to their children.
“It would be a blessing for men now to step up and take a more serious interest into their daughters’ and sons’ lives. They can’t be there for everything but at least take time and support them, which is very critical. That’s the best advice I can give.” (GBM)