Focus | What I told my sons when they turned eighteen

I have three sons; two have passed the age of eighteen. When they reached that age, I spoke with each of them over time and said words that went something like this.

You are eighteen years old now. Under our laws you are adults. That means that you have the privilege of determining your own direction in life without having to get anyone’s permission; not even me or your mother. It means that you can sign legal documents, vote, get a driver’s license or drink at a bar. All these things and more are your decision to make or not. You are the decider-in-chief of your life. I cannot direct you anymore; I can only give you advice. You can take that advice or reject it; it is up to you.

With these privileges, also come responsibilities. You now have adult responsibilities. You have the responsibility of accounting for your own actions, good or bad. You have the responsibility of making your own way, whichever way that is. You have the responsibility of supporting your own needs and wants, whatever they are. You have the responsibility of further developing your knowledge, skills, understanding and personal value so that you can excel in the world.

What I do for you now, I do out of courtesy rather than obligation. There are now only two things I am duty bound to do for you. I am duty bound to love you, for I owe that to every man. I am also duty bound to support you to a first degree because that was a commitment that I made to you and I will honor my word. Beyond this, what I do for you, I do out of the generosity of my heart. You are free to ask me for anything, but I am also free to say no, if I so choose. If you pride yourself in your freedom to decide your own way, then pride yourself also in making that way.

You may stay in this house if you wish; if you do not wish to do so, you don’t have to do so. If you stay and you are not studying full time, then you must get a job and from the proceeds of that job, you will contribute to the financing of this home. You will also help in its upkeep and maintenance. You can go in and out of this house as you please. I have but one rule, be considerate of the community that lives here. Both in terms of safety and hours you come in at nights, communicate what you are doing.

If you go to college, when you return for summer breaks, you must get a job so that you can earn some income for your return. In school, you should search for a job to support your way there. Also, you cannot drop a class without consulting me. You cannot do anything with financial implications without consulting me because my money is involved.

I was elated on the day you were born. I am proud of the men you have become. I look forward to the good you will do in this world. You can come to me to speak about anything, anytime. I am here for you. Now, go out into the world and make your way with grace and wisdom.

My first born and eldest son has graduated the University of The Bahamas with a bachelor’s degree in finance. He has a good job and is pursuing a personal passion of his. He pays his way and is building a life of his own. My second son is in his third year in university, studying finance. When he comes home, he works, sometimes in construction and sometimes in an office. In school, he has found a little something to do. These are my men. They make me proud. I pray for their continued growth and that of all our Bahamian sons.

• Zhivargo Laing is a Bahamian economic consultant and former Cabinet minister who represented the Marco City constituency in the House of Assembly.

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