Support for May as Family Month

SAVANNA-LA-MAR, Westmoreland — At least two groups have given the nod to a suggestion that Father’s Day be celebrated a month earlier, in May, which would then be a celebration of the entire family. The suggestion came recently from president of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) La Sonja Harrison.

“If I had the power, I would perhaps lobby for us to move Father’s Day to the month of May for a truly family month. Because if we’re celebrating the children, and we’re celebrating the mothers, why not celebrate the fathers in the same month as well? I think it would make sense,” Harrison said.

She was addressing a church service at St George’s Anglican Church in Westmoreland on Sunday to mark the start of Education Week.

As in most countries, in Jamaica Father’s Day is celebrated on the third Sunday in June. Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in May. The entire month of May is celebrated as Child Month.

On Monday, in a quick reaction to the JTA president’s suggestion for Family Month, National Parent-Teacher Association of Jamaica (NPTAJ) President Stewart Jacobs said the call is in keeping with the association’s embrace of the nuclear family structure, even if it is often absent within the Jamaican reality, and its message that family is the foundation of a strong society.

“The other thing that I like about it is that we accept too much, in society, this distinct type of separation of mother and father. It should be encouraged that mother and father are seen as one and the child in the centre there: Mother and father surrounding, protecting and fortifying the child and the family,” explained Jacobs.

“Also, realistically, the activities combined showcase what it is that our society needs at this time. So I totally encourage, endorse and [am] in full agreement with the president of the JTA,” he added.

For his part, general secretary of the Jamaica Council of Churches Reverend Newton Dixon described the suggestion as “interesting and insightful”.

“I think it does point to two important issues. One is that parenting is best done when there is collaboration, coordination and cooperation between the two persons who are responsible for bringing the child into the world. And so bringing Father’s Day alongside or close to the time we observe Mother’s Day is a sort of implicit message that says, ‘We must promote the cooperation between the mother and father in the larger issue of parenting’,” Dixon told the Jamaica Observer.

“But, I think more particularly, the message is also that they want to lift up and promote fatherhood, just as we do other aspects of family life; and highlight the importance of the presence of the father in the family. I think we’re all familiar with studies that indicate children behave or function when the father is present,” the churchman added.

The move to observe Family Month in May, he said, would also address some men’s longstanding concern “that fatherhood is not given the pride of place” that motherhood is afforded.

“In light of that complaint, putting Father’s Day close to the [celebration of the] mother would probably ease some of that stress that fathers complain about where this is concerned,” said Rev Dixon.

For head of the Ministry of Education and Youth’s Region Four Dr Michelle Pinnock, what matters is ensuring that students are supported.

“Parenting is a policy priority, and we are committed to enhancing the home/school relationship,” she told the Observer.

She said the focus is on celebrating all caregivers — mother, father, grandparents and guardians all year round.

“Currently we are offering parent empowerment sessions focused on providing parents and guardians with skills required to support our students,” Pinnock said.

During Child Month, she added, “we are engaged in empowering both fathers and mothers on how to provide an enabling environment for our children”.