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Opinions of Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Columnist: Appiah, Gifty Andoh

My Lay Point Of View: If I Were Essien’s Father…

In the newsroom at the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation somewhere in 2009, an elderly man who had been a single parent, proposed a feature on single male parents. I volunteered to do that feature and the hurdle I went through to get single male parents was enough to confirm the assertion that there are more single female parents than males. No wonder the first thing that comes to mind at the mention of single parenthood is women. The issue involving ace Ghanaian footballer Michael Essien is just one of thousands of single parenthood cases across the country and probably all over Africa. Mothers who have single handedly struggled at the expense of their lives to give meaningful lives to their children are splattered all over.

Since the issue concerning Michael Essien and his father arose, the debate has raged on and on and one can hardly substantiate the truth. Whiles some ridiculed Michael Essien for neglecting his father, others, including the father, blame Essien’s mother for ill-advising him. The rest think that the senior Essien after shirking his fatherly responsibilities is simply seeking public Sympathy. Whichever of the rumors are true, one thing remains known about single parenthood- women are almost always the sufferers.

It may sound gender biased but take a thousand men and you are bound to come by an interesting proportion of those who did or do not play any meaningful roles in their children’s lives except experience the pleasure in the baby-making process or the pride in naming them. Some do not accept the pregnancy at all and others can tell they have a child or children but will have no idea as to their whereabouts. Some regret much later in life (usually after the children are well-off) and some parade their children after they have become, with the expression, “this is my son oo!” or “this is my daughter oo!” and continue with a long list of their achievements as though they inspired them to become. And it pretty much seems, only well established people get this kind of reaction from their initially irresponsible parents.

One Ghanaian proverb literally means “if your parents watched you to teeth, you should also watch their teeth come off”. This means to take care of your parents in their old age just as they did when you were a baby. Good advice. For me however, it portrays children more as an avenue for investment rather than people to whom parents owed obligations. I think that the more parents recognized what they did for their children as an obligation, the better for both parties especially the parents because then, one will take more serious steps towards working at a comfortable retirement or future rather than rely on what the children can do for you.

I do not seek to assert that people should not care for their aged parents. Far from that. My point is that Children are more of an obligation than investment. They will have problems and children of their own and parents have a duty of ensuring that they have the best in life. It only follows logically that once people are well positioned in life, they will appreciate their parent’s efforts’ in their successes and support them as and when they ought to. The other side of the coin is that, people only harbor ill-feelings for their parent’s inability to position them correctly. Such people forever blame their parents for their misfortune and will lend a helping hand either at their convenience, out of necessity or to prevent public ridicule. Treating your children as an investment venture is like putting all your eggs in one basket.

IF I WERE ESSIEN’S FATHER If I were Essien’s father, I would simply thank God for my son’s life and find fulfillment in the fact that he is well established despite my inability to fully contribute my quota towards his being today. If I were him, I would ask for forgiveness from my son and his mother so I can find peace within myself especially at this critical age. Perhaps there is more to the issue than the general public has access to, but whichever way it is, I would have been proud of my son and allow him to live his life in peace.

If I were Essien’s father, my demands would be more of appeals and will always be devoid of the media because I will find it so un-necessary to attract public attention to issues between me and my son whom I barely took care of. At such a fragile age, I will not even harbor the thought a law suit to demand that my son stops using my name as his surname. I would rather bless him with the words of my mouth and count it all joy like they say that my son has lifted my name up high both locally and internationally. I would rather pray against the fear that he would curse me for imposing my name on him and barely being there for him. In my mind, I would be so ashamed I was not part of my son’s success. if my opinion is anything to go by , I would rather Mr. Essien made peace with his son behind the scenes.

CONCLUSION

One would expect that that men who know within their hearts that pregnancies they rejected were their own, those who have favorites among their children depending on who their mothers are among others and those who prefer spending on drinks and women to the up-keep of their children will take a cue from Michael Essien’s case. That child you are neglecting today could be the one person who holds the key to your survival someday and no matter how long it takes, that day shall surely arrive.

As for women, I think they have learnt too many lessons from such instances to be told more. Indeed, some well established people have only their mothers to be proud of, yet the presence of the man no matter how poverty stricken he is, is particularly crucial and cannot be substituted. When parents give their all in ensuring the best of lives for the children they make, there will be a trickling down effect on generations and the reward will be self fulfillment, better societies and a better world.

To those who have been embittered by irresponsible parenthood, let it go and lend a hand to such parents if they are still alive. It shall bring peace to your heart.

GIFTY ANDOH APPIAH (giftdot@yahoo.com)