Jamaica Gleaner / “Five pickney an no fada. Wa Bruce (Golding) expec wi fi do?”
– Single mother at demonstration, 2008.
Last week, I was one of the recipients of a disturbing video showing a woman beating a child with a cutlass. Her anger and the child’s writhing placed the child at considerable risk. The video went viral.
My first impulse, on these occasions, is to snoop. That’s how I describe my unscientific investigations. I tried to find out what others were thinking. I forwarded the video to four persons I knew to be in a stable family environment. The response was, uniformly, one of revulsion. I sent it to persons I would describe as ‘others’. I got responses like “Lol”, “dwl” “dwrcl” and “good, wen har mada done she shuda xxx”.
When the mother was taken into custody, the responses were instructive. They were angry! The responses were so similar. It was as if all single mothers were reading from the same script.
It is necessary, therefore, to share the experience of only one of the women with whom I spoke. She didn’t finish school. Unemployed, with no marketable skill, she has four children for four invisible men – eerily similar to the case of Doreen Dyer, the Bath, St Thomas, woman charged.
This respondent cannot understand how the cutlass beating matter comes to be the business of the police and the Government. Her reasoning runs something like this. The children are mine. Them not helping me to look after them. Them don’t know the daily hell we have to go through with these cussed children. Is not like me killing them.
Sharing some of her personal experiences, she points out that today’s children are exceptionally rude and must be beaten regularly. The relationship with her neighbour is strained because they accuse her of being cruel to her children. I ask her to describe what she means by ‘rude’. What is described is normal child behaviour – playing, running about, exploring, shouting to each other. Quiet children need help. I point that out.
She explains that she is in a state of constant stress and can’t deal with noise. She has to figure out ways to get the next day’s lunch money. She has borrowed from everyone she knows. She has hypertension. She worries when the phone rings, when a vehicle slows down near her gate, when there is a knock, because it could be the landlord or a disconnection. She has a constant headache, and sometimes while she is beating the children, she is not sure why she is doing it and is sure she is going crazy.
Hearing these single mothers speak, one gets the distinct impression that some mischievous, malicious monster sneaks in these burdensome bundles into their bedrooms late at night on an annual basis, leaving them to be cared for. There seems to be little recognition of the fact that one person, devoid of resources, trying to raise children is a disastrous erosion of how a family is intended to function.
In Ephesians 6, Paul encourages children to “obey your parents”. ‘Parents’ is plural, isn’t it? He goes on to say, “Fathers, bring your children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
This is one of several clear indications that mothers are not expected to father children and that there are separate and distinct roles for each parent.
Children look to mothers for love in the form of emotional security. They look to fathers for love in the form of protection and instruction. He must validate their emotions and praise their successes – or they may spend a lifetime searching for it in strange places.
In describing the ‘rude’ things her children are doing, several activities of one child – inattention, impulsiveness, etc – strongly suggest that that child is suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). I inquire and she admits that a teacher had suggested that he be tested, but she did not follow up. ADHD is a neurological disorder.
The victims have absolutely no control over what it is causing them to do what they do. Yet many of the kids in this country that are being battered senseless are paying a price for something over which they have no control. Can there be any greater form of cruelty?
I invite all who have a copy of this video to steel themselves and take another look. While you are viewing, ask yourselves this: Can any child that is made to endure this type of cruelty on a regular basis be expected to function normally in society? Isn’t this likely to inform their behaviour going forward?
When we catch up with the misfits that this culture breeds, we usually shoot them on sight. So critical research can only be explored through indirect and incomplete data. Elsewhere, where these matters are carefully studied and documented, the results are frightening.
It is these victims that become the world’s most celebrated serial killers, mass murderers and political dictators. There is Donald Gaskins, who killed 100; Ted Bundy, who killed between 30 and 42. Aileen Wournos. Charles Manson. John Wayne Gacey. Of course, if they go into politics, they can officially kill more – like Saddam, Hitler, Stalin, Osama, Napoleon, Kim, all of whom suffered various forms of childhood abuse.
MISSING IN ACTION
In nearly all of these exhibitions of barbarity, the father, the ordained protector and provider, the capable caretaker, who is central to the emotional well-being of the child, is missing. Empirical evidence the world over, including research on 17,000 schoolchildren by Oxford University, shows that children with involved fathers have a distinct advantage – socially and academically – and have fewer problems.
What this matter has revealed is that a large number of Jamaicans – particularly single mothers – support the beating of children. This woman in the video is likely to surpass Sista P in popularity by month end. It is important that the State send a clear, unequivocal signal that abuse of children – in any form – carries serious consequences.
Violent crime is this nation’s biggest and most costly problem and this wickedness that is being meted out on helpless children is not just barbaric, it is the tap root of that problem. Both parents should be ordered to attend a counselling and guidance programme and comply with any other discretionary conditions specified by the order.
Parenting is teamwork. Fathers must play their part and the State must offer greater assistance to mothers to make sure this happens. Their responsibility includes not only the physical protection of the household but attention to financial needs and a display of healthy authority in the home.
No insect, no wild animal, will reproduce unless the conditions for the healthy survival of those young ones is assured. What in God’s holy name is going on in Jamaica?