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Modern-day collective parenting

Police Field

So the Bermuda Police Service have decided to ban known gang members from playing football at Police Field. Also, they have decided to clamp down on the open consumption of drugs at football matches. Well, what do you think, Bermuda? Do you support this move or do you think that it’s the wrong thing to do?

Here is an anecdote for your consideration.

Weather permitting, on weekends I would seek 60 to 90 solitary minutes to smoke a cigar and to enjoy a drink. This is supposed to me “my time”. Solo. Mano y zero. No interruptions. Just me. I have enjoyed this ritual for several years, as it allows me to enjoy a book, do some writing or just clear my mind before another hectic week starts.

Unfortunately, this came to an end earlier this year. At first, one of my sons would sneak outside to ask me a question that really could have waited. And, just like a WWF tag team wrestling match, his brother would head out with another question the very second the first went back inside. Then there is the toy guitar. One of the boys would just have to show me this new sound he created. Again, this could not wait until after “Daddy’s private time” had ended.

Next, we have the latest skateboard stunt. Have you ever heard how much noise these things make when rolled over concrete?

Now, keep in mind, each time one of them did something of this sort, I tried to make myself very clear, in a loving, pleading manner, that they were destroying my solitary moment. But, oh no, that didn’t matter.

They gradually started to estimate how much solitary time I would have left by how much cigar remained. This, of course, meant finding an excuse to come outside so that they could inspect for themselves.

Now for the final straw. One afternoon I heard the porch door open, then there was silence. The silence was then pierced by the sound and sight of a child riding past me on his skateboard while playing his guitar. No questions were being asked, but he looked straight at me as if he was daring me to ignore him.

Clearly, on this day the kid simply wanted to be around his father. I wanted to laugh out loud because there was a test of wills going on. And although I managed to keep a serious face, he won. His reward was having me put out the cigar, receiving an instruction to bring a chair over and the both of us had a private conversation about whatever he felt like talking about.

It will be many years before I forget this turning point with my sons. On the one hand, it reinforced how important it is to give boys the opportunity to just sit and talk with their father about anything. On the other hand, it was a warning about how children push boundaries and therefore need a guiding hand to keep them on the right track.

This critical point brings me back to the police’s decision to clamp down on football. In my household, my sons do not get to play football if they are not on the right track. If their grades are not great, or if their behaviour is poor, they don’t get to play. The rule works with my sons very well, and thus I cannot comprehend why our community has allowed the complete opposite.

For years now we have heard Bermudians lament the loss of the days when if a child was out of line, a neighbour, friend or family member would step into the parents’ role and straighten the kid out. And if you did something wrong in one parish, there was a strong chance that your parent knew about it by the time you got home. Back then, child discipline was a collective exercise.

Today, some of us argue that the police’s decision is a heavy-handed, futile attempt to address symptoms instead of root causes of antisocial behaviour. Some of us propose that the decision is an illegal suppression of a person’s right — even gang members have rights — to move anywhere. Some of us have even called the decision a racist attack on young black men who deserve our support instead of our criticism. While all those views deserve due consideration, I am inclined to see the police’s action as a modern-day example of the kind of collective parenting that once used to keep our children on the right track. There will be no easy answers to addressing antisocial behaviour, but the line must be drawn somewhere.

And based on what has and has not worked with raising my own sons, especially as it pertains to allowing them to play football, I am strongly inclined to support institutions that make absolutely clear that antisocial behaviour is totally unacceptable.

•To reach out to Bryant Trew, e-mail bryanttrew@mac.com