Sunday, August 28, 2011

Single parents are brilliant...Often!

Today I received a tweet from someone called Alison (she goes under the name of @plus2point4 on Twitter). It was retweeted to me by someone I follow.

Anyway, she's promoting a website called Single Parents are Brilliant. It's in reaction to the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, basically laying the blame for the recent riots in the UK on people who've been brought up by single parents.

Now I guess what he's saying is that boys (in particular) who come from fatherless households (or households where the male isn't their father, and isn't married to their mother) are likely to be the young men in society who get into trouble. To an extent, I don't disagree with this view. I believe that society is in a dangerous place in terms of bringing up heaps of young men without a father in sight. The same thing is happening in New Zealand, and is a cause for alarm here too.

However, what's happened is that Cameron seems to have lumped all young people who've been brought up by single parents under the same grouping, and this is what's got people like Alison hot under the collar. When I first saw the tweet, which basically consisted of: Today we are launching the new campaign to show the world how BRILLIANT Single Parents are, I was at first inclined to lean towards Cameron's point of view.

But then, of course, I had to stop and think: I was brought up by a single mum! (It was a long time ago, admittedly, so I've a kind of right not to have thought about it straight away!). My father and mother split up when I was three - my understanding is that my mother thought he would follow her after she left him, but he didn't. My mother was fortunate to have had the support of her own parents, who welcomed her back into the family home - even though she herself felt she'd made something of a failure of her marriage. It wasn't the done thing to walk out of a marriage in those days (I'm talking about the late forties.)

Suffice to say, here I am, 60 plus years later, and as sane as most men. I think the help of other family members made a big difference, but that doesn't change the fact that I grew up essentially fatherless. (We never had any communication after he and my mother broke up.) The lack of a father hit me emotionally when I was in my mid-twenties; until then I'd sailed along without it seeming to be much of a problem. I guess I dealt with it by writing about it - and eventually marrying someone who was also brought up by a solo mother! We declared that we would hang on in there so that our children wouldn't have to go through the same emotional ups and downs we had experienced. And we have.

I was also fortunate, when I was living in London in my twenties, to be asked to do a bit of 'fathering' for a boy who was himself being brought up by a single mum. Luckily this boy and I got on like a house on fire, and we're still in touch today. He's now a happily married man, doing a high-powered job.

So, yes, I have to agree that single parents can be brilliant. Sure there will be some disasters - it's the nature of life on this planet. But there's no simple box into which all single parents can be slotted - many make a really good job of parenting. Some do struggle. And a host of other factors come into play, just as they do in any walk of life.

So, Mr Cameron, it seems you might need to find some other 'reason' for why the riots happened in your country....
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