Absent fathers: the pain of separation

back of taxiOne morning I got into a taxi: I was in a hurry as usual! After an exchange of greetings and asking me where I wanted to go, the taxi driver, who had given my lifts on a number of previous occasions asked: “Forgive my curiosity, but aren’t you a professor?”

“Yes, I am a psychologist.” (Usually, after such a pronouncement, taxi drivers don’t engage in conversation much, fearing that I know what they are thinking!)

“Oh, how I need to speak to a psychologist!”

“Are you serious? Why would that be?”

“Because I am an absent father.”

“And why do you say that you are an absent father?”

“Well, I am no longer together with the mother of my son… so much has happened and I can no longer see him… Well, last night, yes. He stayed in my house, or rather my parent’s home because early this morning his uncle and his cousins arrived from Spain and we went to meet them at the airport. Now he will be sleeping at his grandmother’s.

“When he was born we found this house where he now lives with his mother. We chose the house because it was near a square where he could go and play. Luckily it was also near enough to the school that he could walk there. I used to take him to football lessons two or three times a week.”

We were about to arrive at my destination, so I said to him: “You said to me that you were an absent father but all you have told me is how you have cared for him, even before he was born.

“You are a father who has cared for his son in practical ways and you know where he is and with whom. Last night, for example, you brought him to your home so that you could go together and meet his cousins arriving at the airport. That is very important for him, to feel part of his family!

“Do you think so? Seriously?”

“Of course! It is you, yourself who has told me! Although you don’t live in the same house as your son, you are not an absent father. You have been very attentive and the practical care of your son means that you are very present in his life.”

“It’s true… I hadn’t seen it like that.”

So why is all this so important? Well, because what we identify and recognise is the strong bond: we should keep repeating this to people, families and communities.

I am part of Red Viva Paraguay. For a number of years, we have drawn up agreements for the promotion of good treatment within families. This is fundamental for an environment that protects children against different forms of maltreatment, abuse, abandonment, exploitation and exposure to child trafficking.

IMG_2655resizedA study in Paraguay has revealed that six out of ten children have been maltreated in the family environment and this has been increasing, (BECA-UNICEF 2011).

The experience of my conversation with the taxi driver, and others like him, poses many questions about how it is possible for family life to deteriorate into violence and abuse if children don’t have the love of parents – even if one parent might appear ‘absent’.

I challenge you to read Luke 2: 40-52 and discover how Jesus’ parents demonstrate a practical approach to good treatment in family life.


This is an abridged, edited version of an article originally published in Spanish in Viva Latin America’s magazine Revista, June 2016.