The Siren: When generosity to your family members is abused - Evewoman

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The Siren: When generosity to your family members is abused

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On Monday last week, the world woke up to the sad news of the sudden death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant in a horrific helicopter crash. Tributes have been pouring in from all over the globe as fans recall moments from his stellar career.

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I must say in life Kobe never really grabbed my affection like Michael Jordan or recently LeBron James - that however does not take away from the fact that he was an amazing player.

What really made me like Kobe is a letter he wrote to his 17-year-old self where he bravely confronted an issue that affects many (especially Africans). In his letter, he appears to call out his family members for assuming that his fortune is ‘theirs’ and therefore they should not be subjected to hard work.

If we conduct research today, we would find many young men and women here suffer different variations of family expectation syndrome. I think African socialism and ‘family first’ concept is often abused in situations when one member finds success especially of fame and material. There is some unspoken understanding that whoever ‘makes it’ owes community, siblings and clan.

What is more tragic is that this entitlement comes up even in instances when the said family members have made zero contribution to the person’s success. The person might have made it through support from random strangers who came to the rescue following failure of parents and relatives to meet their obligations for basic needs like education and shelter.

Once the gods favour the once neglected person, the family brigade checks in citing the Almighty, tradition and curses as reasons why they must share in the spoils.

Parents are usually first in line when it comes to goodies entitlement syndrome. They demand a relatively huge pound of flesh when their offspring makes it in life. They usually see any good fortune that visits their children as a fusion of divine favour (Mungu ametuoenakania) and a poverty-eradication programme. They expect that this new found favour will move them from just ordinary citizens to become the envy of their neighbours and the community.

So, they quickly make their demands known - water tanks, grade cows, trips abroad and of course a new abode. In some cases, these demands are communicated very explicitly, but in many cases, they are delivered through back-handed comments and reports of “gossip.”

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Some parents will make ludicrous claims about how the entire village is talking about the state of their house, yet they have “‘sired children with means.” Parents have been known to display serious levels of animosity to anyone who they imagine is coming in between their entitlement, even when that person is their in-law and the mother of their grandchildren. All these behaviours are geared towards making sure the “favoured” offspring issues a blank cheque of sorts for the family kitty.

(Photo: Shutterstock)

Based on Kobe’s letter it seems that he too was suffering from the transfer in parental responsibility. African parents usually transfer their parental responsibilities usually to the elder child or to the child who has made it.

The parents usually expect the selected offspring to shoulder all aspects - be it fees payment, discipline and general counselling. The problem with this arrangement is that the siblings just like their parents develop a very weird sense of entitlement where they think their sibling owes them.

Parents and siblings have this weird belief that their more endowed sibling should be generous at all times with cash, connections and time.

This sibling should be a bottomless ATM, a mortal who overlooks all mistakes and responses by throwing money at the problem. So, when errant siblings fail to keep their jobs, make more babies without a plan, get into trouble with the law, they still expect their endowed relative to come bail them out.

In fact, in many cases these siblings do not understand why anyone should expect them to earn their keep, to hold down a job, to cease having babies for after all they must drink endlessly from the gravy train that is their relative.

Once again, dare the endowed relative even suggest withholding support especially in moments when those receiving support are squandering opportunities and resources. Such suggestions are met with abusive vitriol and often the parents will intervene, asking the endowed child to overlook such sins and continue with support for the sake of family.

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Just like Kobe, most endowed siblings naturally feel inclined to support their families and uplift their standards of living. The downside is that generosity usually comes back to haunt them as family members sit back, drop all attempts at working to earn their keep as they wait for the goodies to keep flowing.

This leaves the endowed family member feeling used and abused. That is why some like Kobe write letters and, in some cases, cut off their family members. In this side of the world, such actions are seen as an invitation for curses. So many endowed family members suck it up and put up with family.

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The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of

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