Unlike Mother’s Day, which garnered all sorts of heartfelt and sincere attention across Jamaica, Father’s Day seems almost non-existent. Except for one person on Facebook wishing her husband a happy day, I haven’t heard a peep about it.

Absent fathers are all too common in Jamaica; 8 out of 10 students in the YMCA’s Youth Development Program have no relationship with their dad. It is common for fathers to have visiting relationships with their ‘baby mommas’, bringing financial aid when they are able in return for a place in the home and bed, but when their money runs out, they usually bolt. There are many factors that have contributed to the absenteeism of fathers – legacies from slavery, socio-economic expectations of ‘male providers’ competing against poverty and unemployment, high incidence (85%) of children born out of wedlock – but the bottom line is that children in Jamaica with absent fathers don’t do as well as those who have a dad in their lives.  According to Dr. Michael Coombs, founder of the Jamaican National Association for the Family, “Research done in the United States and here in the Caribbean indicates that fatherless children are 11 times more likely to display violent behaviour, nine times more likely to run away from home, twice as likely to drop out of school, nine times more likely to become gang members, and more than twice as likely to experience teen pregnancies.”

My own father is the antithesis of this. I have been blessed with a dad who taught me to there was nothing I couldn’t do if I wanted to do it, and who encouraged me to place a higher value on happiness than on status. He has shown me how to balance security and responsibility with achievement and adventure, and it is because of his encouragement that I have had some of my most joyful experiences. He is the most reliable person I know, and as I live and work surrounded by people without fathers in their lives, I am especially grateful that I can always count on mine. Happy Father’s Day Daddy, I love you xo

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