Merge Father and Mother’s Days: In Favour of Parent’s Day

In Ghana (and elsewhere), many fathers complain that they are not given as much recognition on Father’s Day as is given to mothers on Mother’s Day; Father’s Days are not as hyped as Mother’s Days. In trying to resolve this imbalance, on Mother’s Day this year I posted a Facebook status that said, “Happy Parent’s Day” instead of “Happy Mother’s Day”. Immediately two females commented. One reminded me it was Mother’s Day; the other asked what my status meant and that I should allow mothers to be celebrated.

There have been arguments justifying why, generally, mothers are cherished more than fathers. And there are several stories of some fathers deserting their families. I wasn’t surprised to see a comment from a man who said that he considered his mother as his father because he had nothing to do with his biological father. But we also know of several examples where many fathers have been indispensable in the lives of their children; and where, on the contrary, some mothers have abandoned their children.

I do understand that for many years, mothers generally have been at a disadvantage, so it makes sense that they be cherished beyond measure. However, things have changed now. My wife goes through a lot as a mother, but I also go through a lot as a father. My mother went through a lot to bring us up, but my dad also went through a lot. The difference is that because we were often with our mum, it was easy for us to see what she went through to take care of us, but it was difficult to see that of our father. Things only made sense to us when we grew up.

The point is, despite the limelight increased contact with their children places mothers in, the role fathers play cannot be regarded as second fiddle. And I strongly believe that the two distinct celebrations, rather than acknowledging the equal role played by both mothers and fathers, puts mothers on a pedestal and relegates fathers to the background. But what kind of future do we want to see if the current generation of fathers-to-be feel their role will not be as much appreciated? Evans Adu Gyamfi, author of A Toast to Fatherhood: Sons and Daughters Appreciating the Fatherly Role, has argued that appreciating the institution of fatherhood cannot be ignored if the current fatherhood crisis is going to see an end. Thus, it is important that we acknowledge equally what mothers and fathers do to bring up their children, and not transfer our experiences of the past onto the institution of fatherhood.

But that’s not the only point. I think the current distinction between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, with the recognition of the former as more important than the latter, creates friction—friction in homes and in society at large. It creates some sort of competition, envy, jealousy between father and mother, and it strains our efforts at redefining gender roles and advocating gender equality. I also think that it does not foster forgiveness in situations where fathers or mothers might have hurt their children. 

Instead of having two separate days—one for mothers and the other for fathers—I propose a single day to celebrate parents (including single parents). To make the proposal effective, I suggest that neither the day assigned currently to mothers nor fathers should be used; instead a different day should be designated as Parent’s Day. This way, parents can receive equal recognition. I believe this will be a step towards valuing equally the roles mothers and fathers play, and it will encourage fathers (and uncaring mothers) to be more interested in the affairs of their children. 

What is more beautiful than reaching out to both parents, if there are, and wishing them a Happy Parent’s Day, and using that day as an opportunity to reconcile differences between mother and father and between parent(s) and child? The need to reunite our families is long overdue and it must start now!

So, on this day I wish all parents a happy Parent’s Day. As long as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day exist, I will celebrate a double Parent’s Day—one in May for both my mum and dad, and the other in June for both my mum and dad. You can also join the cause.

Disclaimer: My wife Patience G. Okyere Asante, with whom I author this blog, does not agree to the merger of Mother’s and Father’s Days into a Parent’s Day, but she does recognize the need to cherish fathers and mothers equally.

Photo Credit: Siir Koby Photography

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.

The Value of Human Life: Pregnancy, Childbirth and Childcare

She embarks on a long journey. For nine solid months she is not herself. She cannot eat her favourite foods nor enjoy her delicacies. Her body plays funny tricks on her. She feels hungry this moment and the next minute she is vomiting.

She has troubled sleep. Her favourite sleeping posture is on her belly but she cannot do that anymore. Sleeping on her back too gives her backache. She however manages through the nine months journey. I have not mentioned the swollen feet and the rising blood pressure and increased body weight.

WP_20160421_14_55_06_ProHow she prays hard that the days will move faster and that her long journey will finally come to an end. However while they approach, she dreads what lies ahead of her—the unimaginable pain, the possibility of losing her own life.

Finally the stranger she has been nurturing all along arrives through a huge cut, one that has to take another three months to completely heal to enable her do her normal lifting.

She sits on a plastic chair in the children’s ward looking into the incubator. Her stranger’s weight is too low; he has to be observed and put on medication for a while. She is allowed to breastfeed him from time to time.

She has to weigh him before and after breast feeding in order to know how much milk he has fed on. She has to note all the figures down and plot a graph to help track his development. He is on a drip so she carries him with one hand and pushes the drip stand with the other hand.

At night she has no bed to sleep on in the children’s ward. She is not the one on admission but her little stranger. Finding no bed to sleep on, she sits up in the night to watch her little stranger. She dozes off once in a while. She has her own surgery pains to battle with and the sitting up makes it worse.

She misses home and she prays silently for the day when she will finally leave the hospital. The day arrives.

Nyamedea at hospital“You can go home today; your baby is better now. He has picked up weight over the past days,” the doctor on duty tells her. “Thank you Lord!” she smiles and says.

Little does she know what awaits her. A fat bill! What! How on earth is she going to take care of this and why such a huge bill? Well, the Caesarean section alone cost so much aside from her own medication and that of her baby.

Her savings together with that of her husband are gone by the time she leaves the hospital. What happens to the little stranger’s upkeep–his feeding, his diapers, his clothing and other hospital bills? Family and friends step in to help.

 

Dear friend, I will leave it for you to judge the sacrifice, efforts, sweat, wealth that would have gone into this life (boy) by the time he is five years old, ten years old, twenty years old, thirty, fourth and fifty.

Yet a lot of us treat human beings as if they are a piece of paper or trash? We insult, mock and disrespect people. I have not yet talked about God’s efforts and plans as far as a single individual life is concerned. Let us repent today and learn the true value of human life including ours.

The narrative I have given are the experiences of three different women—myself and two others I shared space with in a hospital ward. This is not fiction at all. I know that other women go through worse things during pregnancy and child birth.

I wondered whether there could not be any easy way out of creating human life. But no, there is no other way or easy way because of the value of human life.

Until these experiences, I saw other people and myself as just some other human being. I had little knowledge of my own value and the productive hours, efforts and wealth that had been expended in my life.

My Pregnancy, childbirth and keen observation of other women’s lives have altogether moulded my view and perception of the value of human life which is enormous, and most valuable of all things that exist on earth.

Value your life! Value other people’s lives. They are too precious to be taken for granted.

Letters to Young People: Preparing Towards A Holistic Family Life (2)

Dear Kwesi,

It is refreshing to hear from you. When you saw Adwoa’s letter, you asked what you could also do to prepare yourself adequately for marriage and family life. I was excited about your question because it takes two well-prepared people to build a fruitful home.

I must confess that your question is quite difficult to answer compared to Adwoa’s even though it is the same question. Hmm, when it comes to marriage and family life, I think the biggest responsibility falls on the man. This is because God has made him the head of the family and if the ‘head’ is sick, there will surely be disaster in the family.

So, you need to first of all train your ‘head’. I am very happy that you have had a good education. Your certificates will pay off in your search for employment. Aside from that, the knowledge you have acquired will be useful in your daily decisions. Interestingly education has a way of sharpening one’s life. Please tell your friends who do not want to go to school because they feel it is a waste of time to do so because it will pay off for them in the future.

I am even more elated to know that you love reading. Keep reading a wide variety of materials. Your reading list far exceeds materials on marriage, relationship and parenting. It should cover materials on financial management, entrepreneurship, marketing among others. You need to be versatile. A time will come when you will need multiple sources of income. So train yourself in that regard now.

Secondly, get your hands busy. It is refreshing to know that you are hardworking. A lazy man is poison to his generation, so when you meet young men like yourself, tell them to quit ‘sleep’ and vain talk and get their hands busy in productive ventures. Do not let your education prevent you from any productive thing you can learn or do with your hands.

And for someone like you who wants to enter into full time ministry this is fundamental. Your able hands will help you earn some money for your family alongside ministry. You remember Paul’s example? He was a tent maker and did not beg for his upkeep. He enjoyed freely from the generosity of God’s people without compulsion and reproach.

Kindly tell the young Christian brothers that their desire for full time ministry does not mean they cannot do anything productive with their hands. All they need is to identify, learn and establish some productive ventures they can run alongside ministry. God’s people must not beg for bread.

Financial prudence and abundance belong to God’s children; it is high time we appropriated it. As a man the financial responsibility of your family falls on you, of course with support from your wife. You do not have to fail at this major responsibility. That is why you need to take your time to plan and lay some good foundation financially.

Yes, you do not need all the money in the world before you get married, but you need a workable plan and a regular source of income. Please note the adjectives—workable and regular. Please do not ignore this advice. Without adequate finance for your daily upkeep, your marriage can land on rocks. I always tell young men who are not ready to work not to think of marriage. This is because they will let innocent women and children suffer unnecessarily.

Also get your vision right so that the woman God blesses you with can support you in that regard. No wise lady wants to follow a man who does not know where he is heading towards. So please be very sure about that and tell your friends to do so too. Think hard, plan well, write down your goals. Where you need more direction, pray to God, but don’t live in total darkness and uncertainty in the name of faith.

I know of young men who say they want to marry spiritual ladies so that their wives will pray for them and raise their children in the way of the Lord. I always laugh when I hear this. The man is the spiritual head of the family. He is supposed to be on his feet interceding for his family like Isaac did for Rebecca. I am glad you have trained yourself to be a prayer warrior and an intercessor. When you finally get married, make sure you do not push the prayer needs of your family to your wife.

Regarding your children, purify them with the word of God together with your wife. I am glad your feet are deeply rooted in the word of God. Please teach your friends and the other young men to get the word of God into their heads and hearts. It will save them in days of adversity.

Now learn as much as you can about women. You are blessed to have sisters and to know how to relate with them. But for the sake of your friends who like to read your letter with you, let them learn how to respect women and honour them. Tell them to give up autocratic and selfish tendencies as these are not attractive to young ladies but detrimental to healthy family life.

Visionary ladies are attracted to young men who have given themselves to good personal grooming. You do not need to have too many clothes but you need to wash regularly and iron them nicely.

Some young men do not take their personal hygiene seriously. Their body odour and bad breath can cause you to faint. Tell your friends to take note of these things. I wonder why some of them do not want to shave their underarm hair and trim their nails. These are some of the reasons why the church ladies do not like dating the church guys.

Please permit me to end here because baby Nyamedea needs attention now. You will hear from me again regarding this issue. Until then, take note of these things and teach your friends to do same. Stay blessed and keep shining.

Yours,

P. G. Okyere Asante

Letters to Young People: Preparing Towards A Holistic Family Life

Dear Adwoa,

I trust you are doing great. This letter is in response to your question on how to prepare yourself holistically for family life. I was excited to hear you ask such an important question.

First of all I will encourage you to train your physical body for the task ahead. By physical training, I mean developing the discipline for daily exercise. This will keep your body strong and in perfect shape for the task ahead especially for the daunting task of pregnancy and child birth. It will also keep your mind alert and sound.

Secondly, you need to train your hands. Acquire skills that will be useful now and in the future. Put your hands to the task of learning how to do some good cooking.

Some say that not knowing how to cook does not make you less of a woman. Yes this may be true, but if you can cook for yourself and family, you will save yourself from most of the junk foods on the street that are contributing to the rising burden of chronic illnesses in Africa and for that matter Ghana.

You may ask, “How about I get someone to cook for me?” Yea, that is a good idea except that you can’t completely control what goes into that food. For instance, I don’t put magi or any other spices in my food except a lot of onions, ginger and garlic. But I have no control over these things whenever I eat from outside.

It will also be financially impracticable for your family to depend solely on food sold on the streets. Regarding the issue of a maid cooking for your family, let’s talk about it another time.

Let your hands be skillful, swift and malleable. Learn a little of everything at your disposal: bead making, baking, stitching, etc. Learning to do these things will not make you less of an educated woman. It rather increases your opportunities of earning multiple sources of income in future. That way your family will never lack no matter what.

Thirdly, attain head knowledge. By this I mean you should acquire as much information as possible about family life. Grab books on relationship, marriage and parenting. Don’t wait till you get there before you read. It may be too late as you may have already committed some mistakes.

My friends used to tease me that I loved marriage too much (aware3 y3 wo d3 dodo) because I read a lot about relationships. I had piles of books on relationship and marriage and few ones on parenting.

It was not only because I loved marriage and family but also because I wanted to help other people in this regard. I felt that family life is too precious to be ignored. How else would we secure the future of the human race if we downplayed the essence of family life? So please prepare yourself in this regard.

Fourthly, train your heart for today and the future. By this I mean submit your heart to love.  Love God, love your neighbour. Family life is built on love. Without love, there will be no meaningful relationship, marriage and family.

Learn to respect and appreciate everyone who comes your way for the value of human life is enormous. Learn good interpersonal and communication skills. These are not only important for marriage and family life but also for your professional life. Learn some financial prudence too. It will pay off in your single and family life.

Lastly, I will say that add prayers to all these things. I love to pray because prayer makes the impossible possible. Prayer moves the hand of God, and makes rivers spring up in deserts. Prayer has caused miracles in my personal family life. That is why I cannot end my letter without emphasizing the need for prayer as you prepare towards your dream marriage and family life.

If you trust God and let Him lead you towards His direction, you will have no regret. I have told you time and again that there are no regrets where God leads. Feel free to let me know if you need clarification on anything.

Yours,

P. G. Okyere Asante

 

 

Taken for Granted

The hospital environment has a humbling aura. It has a way of opening one’s mind to the realities of life and how we have taken important things for granted. How we take ‘the granted for granted’ is amazing. It also reveals how awesome God is and how ungrateful man can be.

As I shared my observation with my sister, I mentioned how we take the air we breathe for granted. We jump out of our beds and often forget to say thank you to God. Then the next moment we are murmuring about the money we don’t have or something God has not done for us. Lord have mercy!

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With Nyamedea, just before he was discharged.

We are able to drink, eat, move our bodies, walk and even run. But at the hospital wards, especially at the emergency ward, one’s ability to lift a finger is a miracle. To be able to take a sip of water is a miracle. And to be able to eat, pass urine and talk are all miracles. Wow! And we always take these for granted?

I was humbled when in church someone shared the testimony of how God enabled her free her bowels. She had struggled to pass stool for a while, a condition which had serious medical implications. So her joy knew no bounds when God healed her.

One may say, “But passing urine and stool are normal everyday occurrences?” No they are not. It is same with the ability to breathe. You should have seen this little boy struggling for breath at the hospital. He had to be aided with oxygen.

Let’s learn to worry and complain less and abound more in thanksgiving. God’s mercies and goodness are without limit and deserve appreciation. My four-day stay at the hospital with my son opened my eyes to things we ordinarily take for granted.

Lord I pray that anytime I find myself in seemingly dark situations, help me to count what you have granted and not take them for granted.

PS: My thanks to all who visited, prayed and supported us in diverse ways.

Counting My Blessings: Pregnancy, Fear and God

The month of July, 2016 was a very reflective month for me. My eyes had been wet with tears in appreciation of God’s goodness. You know the feeling when you have been walking with God and trusting Him, then you encounter a situation where you thought your end has come and yet God comes through for you? That was exactly how I felt.

I have always known God for His faithfulness, but He has demonstrated it towards me and my family in ways that are dumbfounding.

WP_20160315_10_18_17_ProWhen I picked seed in my first month of marriage, I had not adjusted to my new role as a wife yet.

Coupled with my first pregnancy, the experience was quite overwhelming for me. I asked God for grace daily. You could hear me say aloud ‘Lord help me!’

Then came the nightmares. I had dreams where I had miscarriage. There was one dream where someone told me that no matter how long I carried the pregnancy, they would abort it. All I could do was pray and keep trusting God. I read a lot about pregnancy from babycenter.com and the more I read the more I became afraid of what awaited me in labour.

I had to go through a Cesarean Section because I developed preeclampsia (pregnancy-induced hypertension). But God outsmarted the enemy and helped me through a safe delivery of a bouncing baby boy on the 21st of April.

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About the same period of delivery my dad got seriously sick and remained so for a long time. The enemy bargained with me to choose between my dad and my son but I rebuked him. I chose both my son and my Dad. The devil wanted to cut short the joy that the new child had brought into the family but Jesus said NO. God saved us from sorrow; He did not permit that I wore black instead of the white I was supposed to wear as a new mother. Glory to His name.

There were petty issues of unforgiveness in my family that created a doorway for the enemy but the blood of Jesus spoke on our behalf. At instances where we did not know how to pray and were weak in prayer, the Holy Spirit interceded on our behalf. He revealed whatever was hidden and helped us handle them through prayer.

When we chatted as a family, laughed together with my dad and played with my son, all I could do was to raise my eyes to heaven and say ‘Lord indeed your faithfulness abounds’.

In the month of July, I graduated with an MPhil in African Studies from the University of Ghana—a journey purely made on divine provision.

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We had the naming ceremony of our precious angel, Nyamedea (he truly belongs to the Lord) which coincided with our first marriage anniversary—what I call the triple blessings!

We owe it all to Jesus. His praise will continually be on our lips. If there is something I will never stop doing, it is trusting God with my whole being and relying on His will and directions for my life. The journey has just began; we rely solely on His abundant grace to keep us going and winning, all to His glory and purpose. I urge you to also count your blessings and give Him the praise He deserves.