Register here

Register using an email address

Terms & Conditions

Already have an account? Login here

Register using a social network


Login using your email address

Keep me logged in
Forgot your password?

Login using a social network


Read Letter

Great Expectations

My dear Jack, I think the problem you’re having has to do with coping capacity for your position in your family. Yes, you’re not the first born in your family but life has thrust that responsibility on you. You’re the political first born. The inability of your brother, the actual first born to rise up to the challenge of being first born has thrust the role on you. A first born has to be up and doing. He must have drive. His life must inspire his siblings. And he MUST be successful, or he loses strength. A first born can’t be lazy or lethargic. It conflicts with sociological expectations and duty. And nature abhors a vacuum.

 When a first born refuses to rise up to the challenge of primacy a sibling automatically fills the position. There are so many reasons a first born may not be able to rise up to the challenge of his birth sequence. Sometimes such kids are over-pampered growing up. That weakens competitive instinct. Then there are those first borns who are over-disciplined. That can make a child rebel, or make him fearful about life. There are two phenomena in biological parenting. To borrow biblical phraseologies there are “children of youth” and “children of old age.” Children born when parents are young and strong tend to have more attention and discipline. Efforts are concentrated on them. The parents have emotional capacity. There’s less such energy in old age and so children born late can end up being spoilt, last borns in particular. It’s why you can have so much disparity in a family – the well brought up and the spoilt rotten.
When parents over-pamper a first born they degrade his capacity to play leadership role in the family. He may struggle to cope with the demands of life. It’s not wise to bring up a child with a dependency syndrome. Dependency syndrome is the attitude and belief an offspring can’t solve his own problems without outside help. It is a weakness made worse by charity. Such a kid will expect his parents to keep taking care of him in adulthood. In some cases the parents end up paying school fees for their grandchildren. They take care of everything for their grown son. Because such a son doesn’t have the wherewithal to face life a sibling will rise up to fill the position of first born. That sibling thus becomes the political head of the family. Because that sibling has developed drive he will naturally have economic advantage. That advantage will further cement his role as the political first born. Everyone will start looking up to that younger sibling, including the actual first born. He’s economically incapacitated. Once every while there’s a family confronted with the scenario of a first born who is politically and economically weak and so loses his position to another sibling. There are also families that somehow manage to bring up their sons weak but the girls are bred strong. There are families in which the men are weak and the women are strong. And so there’s nothing sexist about leadership in a family. The role devolves on whosoever is bred for leadership, whether male or female.
I’ve taken time to explain all this to you so you understand how you landed in the role you’re in, why everyone in your family looks up to you. Naturally there’ll be great expectations of you. Everyone will pile in, including your parents. You’re the most successful in your family. In an African cultural setting that’s not going to be funny. The concept of family in Africa includes extended family. Which means all your aunties and uncles and cousins will also have expectations of you. They will place demands on you. You will always have to make the greatest contribution in your family. At the demise of your parents you will have the lion share of the funeral budget. Funeral expenses are extremely high in a place like Nigeria, especially the southern parts. You will have to accept all this with equanimity. It’s what the role demands. You’ll be tempted to feel sorry for yourself but you mustn’t. They will load you with demands for school fees, house rent, as well as stupid demands. Some aunties will bypass THEIR children and issue economic commands to you. They won’t place those demands on their children. It has to be you. You’re doing well. You have to have the strength to say no or ignore those commands. They’re obtuse demands.
And because it’s you the magnitude of demand will be raised. Because it’s you what should ordinarily be a $100 request suddenly becomes a $1000 demand. You’re the man with the money. Nobody imagines you have your own obligations. Everybody thinks of only THEIR obligations when they make those demands. They don’t even realise you have to aggregate so many other demands and allocate capital. And the faster you give the more it’s assumed there’s a money tree at the back of your house. Your efficiency in giving thus prompts more demands. What reward do you get for all these troubles and expectations you ask? Leadership is it’s own reward. But here’s where you really have to be careful. If you’re not careful you will have a poor marriage playing that role in the family.
In the past era some fathers placed the needs of their extended family above the needs of their nuclear family. The nuclear family was sacrificed for extended family. That is most unwise. If you have that disposition you will end up making your children resent you. They may even hate you. It’s a painful thing when your father doesn’t pay your school fees but pays the school fees of members of his extended family. There are acts of charity that are misplaced. You don’t ignore the needs of your family to cater to the needs of others. You take care of the needs of your family first. You dole out extras. You can’t ignore the needs of your wife and children in pursuit of appellation of goodness of doubtful pedigree. At the end of the day it’s your children you have. Those people you helped can’t replace your children. Don’t alienate your children from you through misguided philanthropy. What you don’t want is seeking to bond with your children in old age, after so much accumulation of damage through unwise alienation. Your old age will be needy and lonely if you pursue such a course. And if you keep pursuing that course you may lose your wife. Your family of course see your wife as conceptual roadblock. When you don’t dole up as you used to do they will hold her responsible.
You also have to be careful about the selfishness of your father. As it is he thinks you owe him a debt that you can never fully repay till he dies. Just for giving birth to you. Your family is No.1. If you don’t treat your family as No.1 you will lose your wife and lose your kids. That’s not saying you shouldn’t take care of your parents in old age. You should. They should not suffer in old age. You do all you can to make sure they don’t suffer. But these demands will never end. It’s why you prioritise your wife and kids. Your child can’t be sent out of school for non-payment of school fees while you earn cheap political points as Mr. Goodness paying the school fees of your siblings’ children. That’s stupid. You must create balance. You help those you can help in life but you prioritise your wife and kids. Those who don’t abide by this simple wisdom regret their old age. They alienate their wife and kids. You don’t want your children growing up feeling unloved by you. What that does is it’ll make them keep an emotional distance from you, even as they fulfil dutiful obligations to come and see you in your old age. They can’t trust you. They can’t open up to you. They’ll be careful about getting close to you. You’ve scarred their psyche.
We prepare for old age when we’re young. The quality of old age you’ll have will be highly dependent on the quality of relationship you have with your kids. There are many sad old people who neglected their kids in their prime. Their lives are full of regret and they can’t wind back the clock. Don’t treat your wife like a third party in your marriage. That’s the narrative of your extended family. You’ll be foolish to buy into it. Your wife is you. You’re your wife. Think what that means. One day you’ll realise many of those demands from your extended family are selfish demands – people are passing off their responsibilities to you. One day you’ll realise how many of those you think love you really love you; it’s your giving they love. Without your money they have no love.
Be a wise young man.
Your mentor, LA
© Leke Alder |
You help those you can help in life but you prioritise your wife and kids. Click To Tweet
We prepare for old age when we’re young. Click To Tweet
Tags : family responsibilities, dealing with extended family

Post Your Comments Here