- The inadequacy of resources has always been a challenge for Ralston Wilson, but this was not a major hindrance to him when unfortunate circumstances abruptly flung him into playing the role of both mother and father to his two young children.
- Unfortunately, his son’s mother was killed shortly after their relationship ended; and his daughter’s mother, having fallen ill, died soon after child birth.
- A former security guard, the struggling father tells JIS News that following those tragic incidents, he did the best he could to care for his children with the help of close family members, like his mother and sister.
The inadequacy of resources has always been a challenge for Ralston Wilson, but this was not a major hindrance to him when unfortunate circumstances abruptly flung him into playing the role of both mother and father to his two young children.
Unfortunately, his son’s mother was killed shortly after their relationship ended; and his daughter’s mother, having fallen ill, died soon after child birth.
A former security guard, the struggling father tells JIS News that following those tragic incidents, he did the best he could to care for his children with the help of close family members, like his mother and sister.
“I had to try to be strong with the help of the Almighty. I tried to put those things behind (me) and just go forward,” he says.
He notes that this period was very difficult, not only financially, but emotionally as he tried to cope with raising two small children, on his meagre salary, and what he earned as a farmer, part time.
Mr. Wilson, who will soon be 58 years old, shares that he did not shy away from undertaking tasks normally ascribed to mothers, such as washing his children’s clothes, or bathing them when they were young.
He admits that he shares a very close bond with his 23 year-old daughter Kimberly, noting that he did his best to ensure she had all she needed “so she will never be in a position to depend on anyone else or beg or anything”. He adds that he is particularly grateful for the help he received from his mother in raising her.
The doting father says he is very proud of Kimberly who is now in her final year at the Northern Caribbean University in Manchester, where she is pursuing a degree in Mass Communication.
Though a student loan is financing his daughter’s schooling, Mr. Wilson laments that he is unable to help her with her other day-to-day living expenses as he would like to. He is however grateful that Kimberly gets some financial assistance from family members from time to time.
While limited finances are always at the forefront of Mr. Wilson’s concerns, Kimberly tells JIS News that she never felt deprived while growing up, as she was never short of the love and affection of her father, who is also her mother.
“He is an amazing parent, the most amazing father anybody could ever ask for,” Kimberly gushes, pointing to the close knit relationship she has with her father, where she freely shares “anything at all” with him.
Kimberly admits that not having known her mother “is a bitter sweet experience”, and is an absence which is normally felt more strongly during Mother’s Day. However, she says she is always able to cope because, “my father is always there for me”.
She notes that her father who has now taken up farming full time “went above and beyond to provide for me.”
Kimberly says her father is not highly educated, having not completed high school, and so he made sure she had a solid education. “He made a lot of sacrifices for me to go to community college and university,” she notes.
Kimberly says even now, though she is working, she can still call on her father for assistance whenever she is short on cash. She says he is always worrying about her and whether she is able to afford food and transportation to work and school.
The aspiring media practitioner says she appreciates that her father has worked very hard to provide for her, and she is now focused on completing her degree and getting a good job, so that she can take care of her father.
“He is who I am doing everything for…if I feel like giving up….I worry about “how will this affect daddy”…he works very hard, but he’ll have to stop at some point. So I want to ensure I will be able to provide for him when that time comes,” she says.
Mr. Wilson, who hails from the deep rural Potosi District in St. James, shares that his only regret is that he doesn’t have a closer relationship with his 33 year old son, Machel, who is a taxi operator.
Kimberly often acts as the mediator between the two men who sometimes don’t see eye to eye, which results in quarrels. “If they have a problem, they both call me and then I’d have to try and rectify the situation,” she says, noting that she sees her father’s approach as “tough love”.
Mr. Wilson says though he is not too pleased with what his son has done with his life after leaving St. James High, and how nonchalantly he deals with certain situations, he notes that he is “not a bad guy”. He just wishes Machel, whose mother died when he was 13, would try harder to have a more prosperous life than he did.
It is clear that this father loves both his children unconditionally, and only wants what’s best for them. This is the kind of responsible parenting the Government and other well thinking Jamaicans would like to be emulated and encouraged for a more cohesive society.
Admittedly, parenting is certainly not an easy task, and is even more overwhelming as a single parent. These individuals may feel there is nowhere to turn for support, but the Government has recognised the tremendous value of good parenting, and has put several initiatives in place to assist the nation’s parents.
Importantly, it established the National Parenting Support Commission (NPSC) in 2013 which seeks to increase national awareness on the various issues affecting parents, provide support strategies to help parents address these issues, as well as to help parents connect with other parents and community members in an effort to cultivate an environment of positive parenting.
In addition, the Ministry of National Security, through its Unite For Change Initiative, in collaboration with the NPSC as well as other private and public sector groups, has been working to empower parents in several communities across the island.
According to Director of Crime Prevention and Community Safety in the Ministry of National Security, Courtney Brown, under the initiative, there is a series known as ‘Street Talk to Real Talk’, geared at targeted communities.
“This involves…going house to house, corner to corner…and raising the issue of parenting and to hear from persons what are some of the challenges that they are facing in terms of parenting…and to engage them in a conversation as to how we can start to change how we approach parenting,” he says.
The initiative provides parents with support from several non-governmental organizations.
Importantly, Mr. Brown says, men are encouraged to not primarily be financial providers, but also extend themselves to other vital areas of child rearing, “being caring, being connected to that child, even in circumstances where you might not still be in a relationship with the mother of that child.”
Though sometimes overwhelming, being a father has been a rewarding experience for Mr. Wilson, and is a role he would never rescind.
In a matriarchal society, where there is a tendency for fathers to be deemed as not fully embracing their responsibilities, the value of a good father such as Mr. Wilson should be never be underestimated, but celebrated.