Turning the Hearts of Children to their Fathers: ‘A Toast to Fatherhood’

Book Review: Evans A. Adu-Gyamfi. A Toast to Fatherhood: Sons & Daughters Appreciating the Fatherly Role. Accra: Scopen Minds, 2016. 117pp. Paperback, ISBN 978-9988-2-2272-7. Review by Michael K. Okyere Asante.

I wish A Toast to Fatherhood had come at the time when I held offenses against my father; amongst other things, I had blamed him for my mum’s premature departure to her Maker. It will take me three years after my mother’s death, at a men’s conference, to forgive my father and to appreciate his role in my life.

Truth is he was not even aware I had this feeling of resentment against him. But when I understood the need to focus on the good, forgive and let go, and I saw in my own life that I was as imperfect and needed forgiveness, I wept and said to myself, “Dad, I forgive you.” That grudge nearly marred the 23-year beautiful relationship I had with my father.

This is what Evans Adu-Gyamfi’s book A Toast to Fatherhood seeks to do: to turn the hearts of children to their fathers. The book provides a solution to the fatherhood crisis we have in our nation and around the world. Many are bitter towards their fathers and have decided to focus on the negatives instead of the good. They might have been abused, neglected, rejected, provoked by their fathers, but Adu-Gymafi helps us to see a new possibility where this fatherhood crisis can be a thing of the past: focus on valuing the good of fatherhood.

While the agendum has been to turn the hearts of fathers towards their children, Adu-Gyamfi embarks on a reorientation that seeks to turn the hearts of children towards their fathers. It doesn’t always have to be fathers making the move. As Adu-Gyamfi notes, we can make the first step by being appreciative; by respecting and honouring our fathers; by learning not to berate but value the institution of fatherhood; and by choosing to be good fathers (and mothers) ourselves (Chapter 1).

In this book, the author’s definition of ‘father’ is not limited to a biological concept, but extends to anyone who plays a fatherly role in a person’s life; it can be a step-father, a father-in-law, a mentor, a foster father or even extend to religious leaders, teachers, and other people who contribute to our personal development. The author points out the importance of verbally acknowledging the role of fathers in our lives; that it takes personal initiative to do this.

The author advocates a direct, impartial and articulated appreciation, not one hidden in gifts but expressed in genuine words (Chapter 5). Fathers need to hear from their children and protégéswhile they are alivehow beneficial their roles in the lives of these ones have been.

Even for those who have had bitter experiences, the author encourages: ‘I remain grateful, knowing that my “past experiences, no matter how bad, are never a total waste!”’ (p. 18), and adds, “as we look back on life we must understand that whatever relationship we had with our fathers (whether they are alive or dead) was but to teach us a lesson or two about this life” (p. 21). The author shares several examples in that respect in Chapter 4 titled “Life Lessons from My Fathers”.

The book encourages children (both young and grown) not to transfer their experiences of the past onto the institution of fatherhood, for in many respects, even though they may have been neglected by their biological fathers, disappointed by a father-figure, or heart-broken by the actions of a potential father, they should make “a toast to fatherhood” and see fatherhood as an institution and not as individuals (Chapter 2).

What kind of future will this produce? Adu-Gyamfi writes, “…the fathers of the generations to come shall be better versions of what we have currently” (p. 5). Isn’t that great news? But this means that sons and daughters will have to beat the premature desire for freedom from their fathers’ supervision, what the author has presented in Chapter 3 as the Maturity-Freedom Matrix.

The book is of high quality, the design and layout and the weaving of stories into the writing makes it a delight to read. Adu-Gyamfi, an advocate of fatherhood and care for the aged, coupled with his experiences over the years, is indubitably qualified to bring this subject to the fore. The emphasis of his call is this: “let us turn the hearts of children to their fathers”.

I recommend A Toast to Fatherhood to anyone who has a reason or is struggling to be thankful to a father-figure (biological or non-biological) in their lives.

Copies are available at Challenge Bookshops, or click here to purchase online.

The review was first published in the Daily Heritage newspaper, April 13, 2017, p. 6.

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How Akua Agyekumwaa’s ‘Hurt People, Hurt People’ Opened My Eyes

Though I am half-way through Akua Agyekumwaa‘s Hurt People, Hurt People: Breaking the Vicious Cycle of Abuse, this is what I have to say already about the book:

Interspersed with stories of abuse, Akua Agyekumwaa explains in layman’s understanding the nature and consequences of abuse, and provides remedies for tackling abuse, pain and depression in whatever form they appear. The stories assure any victim of abuse that they are not alone in their plight and that healing is possible.

Until I started reading Akua’s book, I never knew that what I experienced as a child was the reason for my prolonged dislike for my dad and my low self-esteem during my senior high school days.

I once innocently lighted a paper with a match stick in our bedroom. As a young boy, it never occurred to me that the place could have caught fire. When my dad returned from work to learn about the incident, he got angry and for the first time (which will also be the last), I was given six painful strokes of the Nigerian cane.

The other experience involved my mum. I used to wet the bed a lot and so my mum decided that I sleep on a mat on the floor while my younger brother slept comfortably on the bed. Severally, she will scold me in front of him. Until my bed-wetting ceased, this was my plight. And as a way of ‘curing’ what my grandma termed as a ‘spiritual disease’, I was butted with an unripe finger of plantain by a ‘specialist’.

For many years after these experiences, I felt that I had been adopted or that either my dad or mum was a step-parent. I decided to look for evidence. One day when my parents were away from home, I searched through their belongings and found their marriage certificate. I verified the dates and found that my claims were false. Since then, I was assured that I was my parents’ child.

However, it still never occurred to me that I had felt this way because of the childhood experiences I have described above. After I confirmed that I was a biological son, I tried to understand why I had felt that way. I never got answers and so I settled for a spiritual reason. I told myself it was the devil putting ideas in my mind.

But after reading Akua Agyekumwaa’s book,“Hurt People, Hurt People”, I have gained an understanding of why I felt I wasn’t a biological son of my parents. It was the abuse (physical and verbal, but more psychological) that I experienced as a child.

Many people conceive of abuse as something physical and visible. People may want to see a mark, a scar, blood, etc. before they consider an action as abuse. But psychological abuse is so deadly that it can lead one to commit suicide. Akua opens our eyes to see how not only physical abuse is a problem, but also how psychological abuse is deadly.

As Akua notes, healing is possible and it is in the chapters on healing that you see Akua’s inspirational gift wrapped up in her writing. I am glad that as Akua touches on healing, she declares that Jesus is the Ultimate Healer. I recommend this book without any reservation.