A day to celebrate parents? Yes, tomorrow!

BY: By Ajoa Yeboah-Afari

Tomorrow, Sunday, July 25, is ‘National Parents’ Day’.

You’ve never heard of it? I’m not surprised!

I, too, had never heard of this observance until a few days ago when I stumbled upon it on an Indian web site.

“National Parents’ Day is observed on the fourth Sunday in July … to honour all the parents who play a vital role in the lives of children. Their unconditional love and sacrifice for their children can't be measured”, the JagranJosh.com site explains.

Intriguingly, a similar ‘Global Day of Parents’ is on the extremely long list of UN commemorative days and is observed on June 1; and it is also observed in South Korea and in the United States.

I imagine that ‘parents’ doesn’t mean only biological parents, but includes guardians too.

Incidentally, I find some of the UN Days quite peculiar, to say the least.

For instance, to mark Parents’ Day, one may buy them gifts or treat them to an outing; or even just send a special greeting card, but how does one pay tribute to, say, bees, or tuna?

The whimsically-named Days include: The International Day of Human Fraternity – marked on February 4; World Thinking Day – February 22; International Day of Happiness – March 20 and the World Migratory Bird Day – May 8.

Others include: World Bee Day – May 20; International Tea Day – May 21; World Tuna Day – May 2; and International Mountain Day – December 11.

But why so little prominence to honouring parents when the role of parents and parenting is so essential to life, not to mention the well-being of individuals and, collectively, the world?

Furthermore, in the present era of always preoccupied parents, is enough attention being given to how children are raised?

A worldwide problem, it’s often discussed but with few satisfactory answers, if any.

Earlier this week, a Ghana News Agency report published by the Ghanaian Times underscored one of the consequences of inadequate or bad parenting, teenage pregnancy, which appears to be escalating all over.

The Agency quoted the distress of the chief of Abirem, named as Obrempong Kwesi Amoh Kyeretwie, over the soaring teenage pregnancies in the Birim North District, Eastern Region.

The District Girls Education Officer of the Ghana Education Service, Ms Juliet Frempong, explained: “investigations by the GES about the causes, uncovered that the pregnant girls lacked parental care and guidance; and that there was also no effective communication between parents and the girls.”

As noted in a previous column, people of a certain age can’t help lamenting that so much that enriched Ghanaian culture has vanished, or is rapidly disappearing: including respect for elders; traditional foods/dishes; cultural dances; social behaviour; clothes and even language.

Certainly, society is dynamic and modern life, the daily struggle that occupies most of us from dawn till dusk, shares a lot of the blame for the parenting shortcomings, but should we lose all our traditions in the name of modernity?

Our children and grandchildren now hardly know how to count in the vernacular, or know the meaningful, inspiring traditional greetings because we’re not teaching them.

Nor are they learning things like it’s a taboo to greet with the left hand, or give money, or point with the left hand because the left hand is generally viewed as the hand for cleaning bodily waste and is thus regarded as ‘unclean’; therefore, not a hand to use for any kind of social interaction.

Another topic that has been on my mind for some time, again, something I have highlighted here before, is the vanishing custom of saying an additional ‘thank you’ a day after receiving a present or a favour from someone.

True, the adaptation of practices from other cultures has long been chipping away at ours. But should we just accept that?

Surely, we can’t afford to lose such important features of our culture.

They are essential to who we are, our Ghanaianness.

Misbehaviour usually highlights someone’s character deficiencies, leading to questions about their background, and issues as to whether they were brought up or ‘dragged up’.

Here in Ghana delinquency usually elicits the biting question “don’t you have elders in your family/ home (to advise or correct you)?”

Of course there are people who chart their own course, no matter how hard their parents try to put them on the right path.

Nevertheless, usually such conduct is not excused as an individual’s character; it tends to affect the family name.

This reminds me again of a BBC interview in America with a woman in a supermarket, in June 2016, months before the US elections that brought Donald Trump into the White House.

She was asked: “When you hear the name Donald Trump, what comes to mind?”

Her reply underscored that she was no fan of Mr. Trump’s.

Memorably she asked: “Did he get any parenting?”

I still reflect on her simple but very profound question.

Obviously she meant that in her view, Trump’s behaviour didn’t indicate that his parents had done a good job raising him.

On the other hand, a parent can only teach their child what they themselves know.

As others have observed, parenthood seems to be the only human endeavour which anybody can jump into without any preparation.

Thus the question that arises is: how would a parent know what to pass on if they themselves didn’t have the right upbringing, values, in the first place?

Sometimes it seems that some of the parents too actually need to be given tutorials in order to teach them how to raise their children.

Strange that so much fuss is made about celebrations like St Valentine’s Day as well as Mother’s Day; and yet there is such disregard about a Day to salute Parents, despite the UN prompting.

Anyway, Happy National Parents Day tomorrow to all parents reading this – even if Ghana is yet to institute this particular, clearly important recognition of the parenting role!

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