Why it takes a village – helping young adults to build good long-term relationships & marriage (Pt 1 of 2)

FSAC_It takes a village text

Before the obvious educational establishments, before the rise of the Internet Search Engines, books and libraries were used to increase humankind’s knowledge.
Before that, it was word of mouth from family members and community elders, along with cave and wall paintings.
Books have lasted the test of time and are still used by those seeking to ‘learn’ and the family unit, is an institution which will continue until the end of time.

This post covers a section of the book concerning family and community, it has been one of the more difficult posts to complete, for a number of reasons.
It overlaps with so many other areas and I’m trying my best to minimise duplication of content.
It’s also hard to reduce the content (leaving the majority for the book) as it contains the necessary framework providing the context, in order for the subject matter and post, to make sense.
Above all, the subject matter is close to home, I’m sharing real and honest accounts and it’s one of the many sections of the book which will understandably raise a few eyebrows, by those who are related or know me off-line.

Historical origins of the family
With regards to our Genesis point, people fall into 4 categories: –

  • Those who believe the origins of humankind descend from Adam & Eve.
  • Those who have a creation story from other religious beliefs.
  • Those who believe they evolved from apes.
  • Those who are not sure.

I’m taking our Genesis point reference from the first couple (Adam and Eve) who had the first family.
With the world being re-populated (after the world flood) by Noah’s 3 sons and their wives, the origins of all human nations. Genesis Chapter 9
The great flood was a repercussion of the actions of Cain and his tribe and the rest of Seth’s descents who followed their actions and practices, which also resulted in a change in life-expectancy for humankind, being reduced from the previous hundreds of years (the last person living over that age was Noah) to a maximum of 120 years. Genesis Chapter 6 verse 3

So many points, so many possible questions
If you haven’t studied the Bible, or read the Apocrypha(like the Forgotten Books Of Eden) our historical origins will raise a few questions.
There are some excellent sites listed in my ‘God and science post’ which provide answers and information to conduct your own research.
I will also cover the specifics of other issues raised, in other posts, however, this post is all about family.

The saying (proverb) is based on a truth.
The Africa proverb ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ makes perfect sense, to those of us with family/friends and good relationships with our neighbours, schools, doctors and local business owners.
Obviously it would be ridiculous to expect every person in our towns, villages and cities to be involved with the raising of our children.
It’s logistically impossible, potentially dangerous and sadly, there are a lot of bad people out there.
In addition to their parents and guardians, children need the interaction of others in their age-peer group, as well as good and decent adults, to help them make sense of the world around them.
It’s the parents and guardians roll to train and help their children to grow and learn, teaching them how to think and work things out for themselves…More on that later.

Leadership and parenting
Leadership expert John Maxwell has stated that some of the best leaders, are those who were/are ‘initially’ reluctant to lead.
I understand that statement, I believe, anyone who is too eager to assume leadership, possibly has megalomaniac tendencies and should be treated with caution.
I also feel a reluctance to lead, comes from taking the time to correctly ‘consider’, weighing up the pros and cons, having the realisation that leading carries a great deal of responsibility, which should be respected and not taken lightly.
I felt that way about becoming a dad, father and active parent, I’ve said this before, believe it or not, becoming a dad wasn’t a task/roll I ever wanted to undertake.
If you were to look at my family as is (my wife and the 5 children still under my/our parental guide) you would think we were people who came from a long generational line of marital perfection.

Breaking negative stereotypes
Admittedly, I take a great deal of pleasure disproving generalised negative stereotypes, which are and have always been, largely perpetuated by MM and certain governments with divisive agendas.
I’m a straight, red-blooded Black male, a man of faith, who got married first, then had all of my 6 children, with my wife.
Being married and having children with ones wife, should be a norm for all men who become parents, irrespective of colour.
However, like most, I did not have the perfect start and that tends to affect the choices we make and their eventual repercussions.

My family lines
On my paternal side, the Gayle’s are a very large family in Jamaica and have travelled to the UK, USA and even further.
My Dad doesn’t appear to know much about his background and as much as I probed and questioned my grandmother (when she was alive) she was very vague with the details.
I do know that my dad was a product of an unmarried relationship, before my grandmother became a believer.
As to whether or not my grandad is still alive, that can only be answered when I take a trip to Jamaica and do my own research, research which apparently may also lead me to the USA.
My dad came to England after my grandmother and great grandmother arrived and went through the secondary school system here, spending most of his time living with my great grandmother.

On the maternal side, my mum was born to married parents but grandad also had children outside of their marriage.
Some years after my mum, aunts and uncles came over to England, my eldest uncle died in a swimming pool in Hornsey north London and my grand parents later divorced.
The moment my mum arrived in England, she wanted to go back to Jamaica, she also started and completed secondary school here but she didn’t devise a plan, work hard, save her money and head back to Jamaica.
Life moved too quick for mum and due to her choices, she and dad got together, had me and a few years after my sister, unmarried teenage kids, having kids.
Both sides resided in the North London area (specifically Finsbury park, Hornsey and Archway) and I was born in December 1970 in a Finsbury park hospital.
My 17 year young Mum had a couple of offers to put me up for adoption but she took responsibility, rejected them, put on her big girl pants and went into mother mode.

Being the eldest grandchild on my paternal side and the 4th eldest on the maternal side, I grew up not seeing any direct and close examples of good marriages.
My mum lived her version of contradictory religious Christianity, which involved having 7 of us with 2 different dads and no marriage.
My ex-step dad is a Rastafarian who (with his brothers) decided their brand of that religion involved having as many “baby mothers” and children as they possibly could.
However, they didn’t actually inform the women they were with about their polygamist plan.
The brothers C, decided to deceptively achieve a patriarchically enforced polygamist setup.
Obviously, when my mother received concrete confirmation, that she was being played (after ignoring a few early warning signs) as a 9 year young child, I witnessed the affects of betrayal and then watched her be ‘strong’ to bring up the 7 of us by herself.
My siblings (the 5 children he had with my mum) were part of 13 by 3 different women, including my mum.
Remembering my behaviour (at times) towards my mum in my early years, maturing myself, then seeing the attitude of my younger siblings and hearing the ungrateful talk behind closed bedroom doors, definitely did not inspire me to ever want to have any children.
Mum would always tell me that my chores and ‘big brother’ duties would help me in the future with my own children and I would cheekily tell her there was no way I would be having any children.
Oh the irony, as they say…God has a sense of humour.

Lois’ background
Lois’ side of family had more examples of marriage, they are an older bunch, her parents (like mine and my grandparents) both came from Jamaica in the 1950s, however, they met in London.
Lois is the youngest of 5, however, her eldest sister has a different biological dad and her mum was pregnant with her second eldest sister, when her parents got married.
Up to that point, when we first started dating, Lois and the 2 siblings before her, were under the impression that their dad was unable to attend registration at the registry office, hence her mum having to give her eldest sister her maiden name.
Although her mum claimed the exact setup of her family was known to Lois and all of her siblings, the revelation of the biological family setup only really came about when a 20 year young Phil asks a 20 year young Lois, why her elder sister has the mums maiden name and not the dads surname, like the rest of them.
Some would say that was none of my business, however, I was brought up to ask questions and be open and honest when you are unsure of something.
My curiosity was obviously pricked, as I had serious intentions, believing Lois was ‘the one’ therefore needing to know what I was potentially marrying into, especially after my previous relationship.
To me, due to my family background, it was really not that big a deal, I was open about my life and background, especially after being regularly quizzed by Lois’ second eldest sibling.
Lois’ dad (Mr W) was there for Lois’ eldest sibling since she was a toddler, therefore, as far as everyone is concerned (including myself) he is her dad.
I can categorically say that life was never the same for the Ws and Js, after they met me.

Genuine marriage and marriages of convenience
Speaking of Lois’ parents, there are marriages and then there are marriages.
It took me a couple of years to learn and see that her parents (married for many years on paper) had a love for each other but didn’t actually love each other.
Those with maturity and relationship experience, will understand what I mean, it wasn’t something I was happy to discover, as it dented my picture of them, thinking they were a long-term ‘loving’ married couple.
That, in addition to finding out that it had been years since they celebrated their wedding anniversary, as other couples do.
That maybe a minor detail and no big deal to some, however, most couples (who still love each other) tend to be grateful for their union and celebrate each year as a significant milestone.
They were obviously in love at some point and obviously had to be intimate, however, at some point somewhere along the line, that changed.

Lois’ family setup continued
When we first started dating Lois’ eldest sibling (15 years her senior) and her other 3 siblings, were all unmarried and still living at home.
Admittedly, I found that really weird at first, all those grown adults still living at home, however, it wasn’t until my conversion and deeper study into the Word of God (aka Bible) that I understood that (despite most of them being acknowledgers and not believers) that particular part of their family setup, was actually as it should be.
Unlike myself, Lois always wanted to be married and experience being a mother & parent before she died.
She by and large, had a mixed childhood with more good times than bad, ‘happy-ish’ by all accounts.

My early view on life
Please don’t misunderstand me, my childhood was ‘happy-ish’ too, being the eldest and male obviously was a mixed bag of experiences, I was expected to be responsible and when I wasn’t, I felt the repercussions.
On the other hand, I had freedoms given (when I was shown to be trustworthy enough) so the usual highs and lows were compounded with the pressures of having to deal with and look after younger siblings, at times.

Learning, growth and changes
I actually didn’t think growing up in a single parent family, with the responsibilities and pressures I had, was that bad.
Before the revelations of 1980 concerning my ex-step dad, I learned so much from him, learning how to tell the time fully, how to correctly wire a plug at 8, reading any book he would give me to test my literacy skills and learning the fundamentals of algebra.
I’ve always been a sponge, eager to learn, I was full of questions and after my mum said enough was enough with him, those questions continued with my aunts, uncles, grandmothers, friends of the family and any adults around me.
I didn’t realise it at the time but it was natural for me to study behaviour, ask questions and make assessments, an anthropologist in the making.
My love of learning in my home life, translated to school, I was an all-rounder, I had no problems with successfully completing the then 11+ exams.
Those results obviously gave me the opportunity to attend a grammar school but not knowing enough about the education system, I went to a comprehensive school where a family friends child attended.
My headmaster at primary school wanted my mum to allow football scouts to see me but she refused, preferring me to focus on my academics.
Secondary school was the same, with the head of PE wanting me to represent the school for football and athletics but mum stood her ground.
Back then I was annoyed about the restrictions to my athletic abilities but in seeing the struggles Black British athletes had, the limitations imposed once you were injured or unable to play and the Black ex-footballers struggling to obtain top management/coaching roles today, I’m glad she did put her foot down.

Stereotypes and actions
I was a model student, never hanging around on the streets, always having somewhere to go (martial arts club) or I stayed at home and got on with my homework.
I started working part-time when I was 13, never taken drugs, never been in trouble with the police, didn’t steal, never mugged or raped anyone and never been a gang member.
So no, I didn’t fit any of the negative stereotypes, which the ignorant have concerning children from single-parent families.

On the other hand, I thought I believed in God and was mistaken in thinking that I was brought up as a Christian, not realising I had an acknowledgement of God, and a flip-flop religious Christian upbringing, as sadly many do, even if they claim Christianity.
My mum was wise enough to personally dedicate me to God in prayer (Luke Chapter 2 verse 23) and she also had me blessed at a Church service when I was a baby.
However, she had relaxed actions (before becoming a born-again believer herself) which would not be considered, in line with the teachings of the Bible and she allowed us (especially me) to do things which were also not in line with the Bible.

I’ve had a few scuffles and fights at school, I had started my girlfriend experiences at 16 and with every new girlfriend (although not many) my sexual experiences were going further and further.
My language contained swearing (only when angry), I went against my mothers wishes (at times) but always told her where I went or got up to, eventually.
In my teens, I had sneak-watched a couple of 70s/80s “movies” from one of my mums friends, video collection.
I had been privy to watching a similar hardcore film round a friends house, one lunch-time and seen a couple of top-shelf magazines, which others had brought into school.

At 19 I lost my virginity to a girl, whom I thought, was ‘the one’ and entertained the lies she told her parents, in order to keep seeing me.
We had an adult relationship without full maturity or marriage, we even got engaged, in the hope that it would persuade her parents to see how serious our intentions were but it wasn’t enough to change their xenophobic views.
After ending that relationship, at 20, I started dating my now wife Lois (aka Lady G) and within a few months, that also became a sexual relationship, however, still no marriage.

Depending on what side of the fence you stand, I was either a good child/young adult or one in need of salvation, as no true believing child/young adult would be doing the things I did, no matter how good I, or others thought I was.
I did all of the above and yet I still prayed regularly, read my Bible, attended the odd Church service and from the age of 13, I knew that if I was serious in becoming a believer, I would need to get baptised.
I made a range of decisions, taking responsibility for my actions (mistakes & bad choices) along the way.
There were some major incidents which stood out (more on that another time) however, by and large, that was my life.
I delayed getting baptised for one reason, silly when I think of it now but it was a good enough reason at the time, as it was all consuming. I found out two things, 1 I like sex and 2 I’m good at it.
Throughout my early years, one thing I was certain of, due to all the adult relationships I’ve witnessed, my ideal and ambition was never to be a ‘player’, I wanted a lifetime love and wife.
I was actually prepared to date someone from school days, to present but the girls I dated at school were not ready and didn’t have the vision to see long-term.
It didn’t work with the my previous partner (who I met at college) but thank God, it worked with the next one.

Male sperm & female egg = baby
We shouldn’t be surprised, if we have sex (barring an hysterectomy, vasectomy, contracting the stealth STD, Chlamydia or low sperm and egg count) there is always a possibility of the female becoming pregnant, no matter what ‘precautions’ we use.
I was not perfect, a very serious situation happened with my ex-girlfriend, the facts of which I found out years down the line, later on in life.
The serious nature of that situation requires its own space to share it, however, what I can say is, I would have been (a repeat of my dad) conceiving a child in my late teens, before being married.

Scars of our past
There are many people, who are still able to work, travel, socialise and fellowship in Church services, yet they carry deep emotional and psychological issues.
They are like functioning alcoholics, people who can put on a brave face to work colleagues, neighbours and associates but their observant siblings, parents and good friends know them and know they need help.
Thankfully I had overcome my concerns about being married (having been engaged previously) and I knew my issues concerning being a parent, were emotional.
All the experiences shaped me into being who I am (the rough and the smooth) like anyone else.
We can even learn from them and grow or be deeply affected by them and carry life-long scars, which only God and (in extreme cases) also a variable number of sessions with a qualified counsellor/mental health practitioner, can help with.

Leaving my teen years
After a discussion with my grandmother, at 19 I moved out of mums, to live with her, under the promise of her leaving her property with me as she planned a future move to Jamaica, for good.
I was warned by my mum, she asked me if I was sure, I ignored my mum and thought my gran would be a person of her word.
I also moved due to a lack of space at mums and was starting my degree in University so a fresh start was needed.
This was another fascinating eye-opener for me, gran left me to go back to Jamaica for a while, I quickly became accustomed to looking after the place, finally having my own space and becoming my own man.
I’ll cover more about this period another time but I will say it was short lived, nearly 2 years.
When she returned, I had a new girlfriend (Lady G) and upon her return, my grandmother began to act differently.
Gran decided that I had to leave, claiming that it was due to my non-Christian lifestyle clashing with her religious Christian values.
However, the other more important reason concerned the Council offering grants for tenants to leave the property and purchase their own place.
Money, or more importantly, the love of money, has always been a “thing” for my mums side of the family, which started with my grandparents, affecting most of my aunts, uncles, some siblings and some cousins but funny enough, not my mum.
In 1991 I had to move out of my grans and was fortunate that the council had made a conversion to my mums property, enabling me to go back home and stay in a recently converted box room, without windows.
I spent my 21st birthday back at my mums, had a big party but had to return to a windowless box room and not the flat I thought I would be living in.
That was some of the steepest learning curves of my life, which involved tears, anguish and questions, however, I did not realise my life was about to change dramatically and quickly.
Life has many twists and turns, as I later found out that my gran didn’t go ahead with the plan, (reasons unknown to myself) she left the flat to another cousin who ended up having to hand it back to the council.
The living conditions at my mums was just too cramped, I made a vow, had to leave university, applied for hundreds of positions before obtaining my first full-time job in the city in October ‘92.

The transformation
Thankfully my turning point came at the age of 22, by March ‘93 I purchased my third car, in May I was baptised and later that month Lois followed.
It was a surprise to cousins, friends and frienemies, when they found out, as they didn’t think I needed to go that far.
‘93-’94 were most definitely my healing years, my problems from my early years didn’t manifest the same way as my siblings, cousins, friends and frienemies, they wouldn’t, we are all individuals with our own unique experiences.
So what changed? Well everything, my way of living, thinking and behaving, some things were immediate, while others took a process of time.
I was unaware that I was starting to rapidly build my quotient-quadrant, which would prepare an initial reluctant parent, to become a parent.
I really had a true and real experience, I thought I didn’t have any scars from my youth to deal with.
By and large I didn’t, however, it would be a lie to say I was totally unaffected.
My new life as a born-again believer enabled me to see that repeating the errors of my parents, aunts and uncles wasn’t inevitable.
Witnessing the struggles of growing up on low income and watching my mum really stretch herself, using her artistic skills and talents to create, make and sell, in order to assist the little benefit helps she received.
Those struggles didn’t have to become my reality either and therefore, receiving my emotional and spiritual breakthrough freed me.
I’m usually a quick to ‘get it’ individual but I was slow in that area, I finally caught up to Lois in wanting to let go and let God become my family counsellor and orchestrator.

Previous to my conversion (while in my previous relationship) I made a vow to myself never to have children with more than one woman and ‘if’ I did have children, I would stay with the mother.
I’ve explained my childhood, I’m sure you can understand why I made that vow.
In my opinion, having children with more than one ‘living’ partner is messy, you set up a world of problems for yourself.
There will always be successful examples of blended family setups but without having specific figures, I would guess that those are a minority, not the majority.

Married with kids
As I’ve said previously, I will share more about these dramatic years of progression another time but to summarise.
In ‘91 I moved back to mums, in ‘92 gained my first full time job, in ‘93 purchased my 3rd car after and we were both baptised, in ‘94 we married and moved into our 1st home together and in ‘95 had our first child at 24 years of age for me and a month before Lois’ 24th birthday.

I would soon find out that romantic, sexual and marital relationships are no where near as ‘challenging’ as parenting…more to follow in the concluding part.

Phil Gayle
G Man

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