My heart goes out to this woman

About to conclude a column for So it go I am aborting it to write, instead, on a sudden impulse, about Helen Bartlett, a mother in Point Fortin,Trinidad, who is big in the news this week over a video of her beating her 12-year-old wayward daughter. First of all, the beating of a child is a particular blot on any parent’s behaviour, and it is to be condemned, as this mother is to be condemned, but having said that I also have to say that, as we say in the Caribbean, we should see with this woman; she was wrong in her behaviour, but as we condemn the act one has to also take into consideration the circumstances surrounding it.

The reality for Helen Bartlett, and many more like her, in the region and the world, is that the forces that come to bear on parents these days in bringing up a child in the straight and narrow are complicated and powerful beyond belief. I helped bring up two children from my first wife, and three from my second, and I know first-hand about those forces, as does any parent today. It poses dilemma upon dilemma for any responsible parent, and the struggle may ebb and flow but it is continuous; my experience so many years ago taught me that, and the parenting experiences now, in this more contentious and more dangerous time, are certainly far more onerous; both the scientific studies and one’s knowledge in one’s social circle confirm that reality.

so it goThe Point Fortin story is like that of so many parents now – persons in desperate straits, unable to cope with the vagaries of raising young children. Virtually every form of information or entertainment coming to us contributes to this array of negative influences and persuasions, acting on all of us, including the young, and by extension on parents trying to mould those young lives. It is not surprising that what most parents do is to simply give in; it is far easier on the parent and the child to do that. The young man on the softball team who wants the US$150 sunglasses all his team-mates are sporting is a formidable case. For a parent to say “no” to what all the other 11-year-old kids on the team have is to be made to feel like a heel. (I speak from personal experience with my second son, Bryan.) In your mind you have the rationale of the bad effects on the child of too much excess, but there is a strong urge in your gut to give in and buy the damned sunglasses for your son; in the immediate term, that is so much easier on both you and Bryan. The problem there is that the essential story of a life is found not in the immediate but in the long term.

That’s what Helen Bartlett was dealing with in Trinidad; she was looking down the road, probably with experiences from her own life or from her own circle, and seeing nothing but problems and very little hope. Certainly her decision to beat was wrong, but given the situation you have to feel for her, and it very telling that the majority of the respondents on an FM station in Trinidad were in support of the mother seeking to discipline while disagreeing with the method she used. Time and again we pour recriminations on a mother buckling under the strain, but are often strangely silent on the influences around her that constitute the source of her travail. And today, unlike the time when I was growing up, the parent cannot block out the enticements by locking the house door and bolting the windows, or, in the affluent home, taking away the car key. In this age, at the press of a button by your teetering youngster, the influences pour into your child’s room, unseen and unheard by you, and continue their work as you slumber unaware.

Everywhere one looks in societies now we see the influences lined up waiting to bend or deter or distort young minds and bodies. The streams are varied and powerful, and, particularly in the electronic age, constantly growing. Virtually every week there is an announcement of yet one more connection or application for mankind to show mankind, more than before, in more detail than before, and in more places than before, the various persuasions and opiates, and how to source them, or even, worst of all, how to find those who will be the provider in exchange for a favour to be later revealed.


In magazine articles, mainstream television, major movies, popular music videos and audio recordings, the same process is at work, and the parent is overwhelmed by that flood. The feeling is often one of despair. I remember sitting beside a single mother I knew slightly, in a doctor’s waiting room in Grand Cayman. I was waiting for a blood test. She told me she was waiting for her son who had been injured in an accident driving her car without her knowledge. Almost in a whisper, she said, “I can’t reach him. It’s so hard; I don’t know…” She broke off and put her face in her hands. Many mothers, in country after country, in families rich and poor, are putting their faces in their hands in similar despair. One’s heart has to go out to them. Before we lean too heavily on Helen Bartlett for her mistake, we must consider the load these mothers, often with Daddy absent, are facing. Under that burden, many mothers will understandably give in and turn a blind eye to the immorality or the indiscipline or the absence of obligation in the child. Helen Bartlett didn’t do that. She didn’t give in to her daughter’s meandering. She stood up and tried to stop it. In her dilemma your heart has to go out to this woman. Yes, she went too far when she resorted to beating, but we should consider that perhaps once she stood up she no longer knew where to stop.

default placeholder

Can Guyana afford parking meters?

‘Cities love meters – they are a “captive” income source. … unless you know someone or are a “public figure”, the city will tow your car if you have too many tickets.

20160629Development Watch29

Government spending and the economy

Last week the Private Sector Commission (PSC) urged the government to increase its spending to stimulate the needed aggregate demand to sustain business activity.

default placeholder

Peru’s president-elect demands freedoms in Venezuela

Peru’s pro-business President-elect Pedro Pablo Kuczynski won his country’s elections by a hair with the last-minute help of a leftist party, but — judging from what he told me in an interview — he won’t budge on his criticism of Venezuela and other repressive regimes.

default placeholder

Public financial management: 1966 – present (Final)

This is the fifth and final in a series of articles on the above aimed at highlighting the extent of our achievements in the post-Independence period.

LUCAS STOCK INDEXThe Lucas Stock Index (LSI) rose 0.54 per cent during the third period of trading in June 2016. The stocks of six companies were traded with 79,573 shares changing hands. There were three Climbers and one Tumbler. The stocks of Banks DIH (DIH) rose 1.98 per cent on the sale of 18,757 while the stocks of Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) rose 5.26 per cent on the sale of 41,667 shares. In addition, the stocks of Demerara Tobacco Company (DTC) rose 1.51 per cent on the sale of 13,603 shares. In contrast, the stocks of Demerara Bank Limited (DBL) fell 5.26 per cent on the sale of 4,324 shares.  In the meanwhile, the stocks of Guyana Bank for Trade and Industry (BTI) and Republic Bank Limited (RBL) remained unchanged on the sale of 222 and 1,000 shares respectively.

Massy and Guyana (Part 1)

Steadfast Last year, this writer looked at the Massy Group of Companies formerly Neal and Massy to gain an understanding of the operations of this company which has been doing business in Guyana for the past 48 years. 


Value-added performance of the forest sub-sector: Erratic, weak, declining

Erratic Last week’s column highlighted what I consider to be a most distinctive feature of the extractive forest sub-sector’s performance in Guyana’s economy, during the past decade.

default placeholder

The UK bids Europe farewell

On June 23 by a small majority, the British people voted to remove themselves from the European Union (EU). The decision has consequences for the Caribbean.

default placeholder

What would life be without sport?

I wonder what it would be like to exclude sport completely from one’s life for, say, one year? No playing sport, no watching it, no reading it no discussing it no thinking about it even.


About these comments

The comments section is intended to provide a forum for reasoned and reasonable debate on the newspaper's content and is an extension of the newspaper and what it has become well known for over its history: accuracy, balance and fairness. We reserve the right to edit or delete comments which contain attacks on other users, slander, coarse language and profanity, and gratuitous and incendiary references to race and ethnicity.

Stay updated! Follow Stabroek News on Facebook or Twitter.

Get the day's headlines from SN in your inbox every morning: