Absentee parents- raising adult babies
Chronically late as usual, I arrived to my very first PTA meeting as a new pre-schooler’s mama. I was impishly instructed to the designated seat (a dolly-sized chair), and doggedly squeezed my generous rear-end into the poor but surprisingly sturdy piece of furniture. Taking a look around, I was shocked to see that only 14 other parents were present out of the 41 students at the school. The following day, the outgoing PTA secretary at my school called me excitedly to tell me that there was large turnout at their elections. In a secondary school with a student population of 630, 27 parents were present. Based on reports from the National Parent and Teacher Association of Trinidad and Tobago, this is a familiar occurrence across the nation. This reality smack got me thinking; we are often too busy to get involved in things that matter. School involvement through PTA activities and parents’ days are a thing of the past. We ignore the calls to get involved in our schools, dismissing parent meetings as mere fundraising initiatives, and ignoring the potential to get proactive against problems. And sadly this indifferent attitude is sustained in parenting out of the school environment.
In lieu of my experiences as a secondary school teacher, I would identify the singular cause of breakdown of youth society to be the lack of responsible parental involvement in their lives. And I emphasise the term “responsible”, because too often we are slapdash in our parental approach.
We’ve developed a “latch key” society today. Compounded by a rise in single-parent responsibilities, the heightened costs of living, consumerism and job market saturation; there is an amplified need for careers that are not family-friendly. Working parents’ professions require a routine of children being left at home on early mornings to send themselves off to school, until late evenings where they arrive home earlier than we do. We are left chasing meagre salaries on long hours in a demanding job market. They are left in the company of television sets, the internet and the music media; a playground for mischief, and the breeding ground of decrepit values. It irks and saddens me to see how much shallow rubbish is fed to new generations through broadcasting and popular culture- my students adore and are constantly raving about nonsensical, IQ- dumbing shows like Jersey Shore and the Keeping up with the Kardarshians, and musical icons like murder-accused Vybes Cartel whose lyrics glorify sex, drugs and violence.
There has been a reduction of the quality of what is valued, and consequences of abandonment and negligent parenting are constantly splattered across daily news headlines. Police reports have reported a disturbing rise in sexual offences against children, and sadly, countless crimes against our nation’s babies occur under lax adult supervision. Many of our society’s parents are becoming increasingly complacent, and opt for easy way outs, letting their guard down on parental duties or avoiding it entirely.
Recently I met with a fifteen year old, single mother of a beautiful baby boy. She is a child I know from around my community, who bears the markings of a gentle-spirited, obliging and extremely responsible young lady. Her mother abandoned her in infancy, and her young father shouldered the responsibility of solely physical provision. She is just one product of constant under-supervision, with a life lacked of appropriate adult guidance and control. Increased juvenile sexual activity and teenage pregnancies are plaguing our society, sustaining the wretched cycle of babies raising babies. When social investigators enquire, their finds are usually that these children are products of dysfunctional families or absentee parents, who search for love in all the wrong places. And in an existence lacking proper care and attention, who can blame them?
Undeniably, the old adage “it takes a village to raise a child” has profound merit, but sadly this has become a practice of the yesteryear. I mourn the loss of those valuable old values where more emphasis was placed in the collective act of fostering life, rather than the accrual of its self-seeking pleasures. In the end of it all, we live in a society that places high esteem in convenience and consumerism. Our societal structure is more about climbing up ladders than nurturing and empowering others to do so. In lieu of this phenomenon, parents are becomingly increasingly absent and children are left to raise themselves, further contributing to the vicious cycle of social degradation and adult babies.
“If I had my child to raise all over again,I’d build self-esteem first, and the house later.I’d finger-paint more, and point the finger less.
I would do less correcting and more connecting.
I’d take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes.
I’d take more hikes and fly more kites.
I’d stop playing serious, and seriously play.
I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars.
I’d do more hugging and less tugging.”
~Diane Loomans, from “If I Had My Child To Raise Over Again”