By Elizabeth Sitotombe
BEING first has always been every human being’s desire. Coming first gives pride in knowing that one is good at what he/she does.
Even in fertilisation, scientists have shown that the sperm is in a race to fertilise an egg.
Among the millions produced, only one gets the distinct honour of reproducing.
Most couples are overjoyed in the birth of their first child, who soon becomes an adopted ‘assistant parent’.
In most African setups, the first child is entrusted with the family secrets and or belongings.
Although many children take pride in being heirs and inheriting the family responsibilities, some are not comfortable with the ‘extra responsibility’.
For those who resent their given roles, it is like freedom and independence has been taken away at a young age.
It is even worse if the parents are to die while siblings are still young and of school-going age.
For parents, it seems, having their first born child translates to having an assistant father or mother.
Responsibilities put on the first borns, if not administered well, may result in a lot of hostility and conflict among children and the family as a whole.
First borns seem to have no choice over their lives, as most of their childhood appears to be a dress rehearsal of the roles they are to assume as they grow up.
We quote from an emotional letter on social media:
It is very wrong and sentimental to give birth to children and think the oldest will take care of them.
They didn’t force or send you to bring them into this world; you ushered them in, please it’s still your work to take care of them and no, when you’re taking care of your children, its not a privilege, it’s their right, it’s what they deserve, so do it with all manner of responsibility and commitment.
Parenting isn’t about how many children you have but how well you treat them, how much can you groom them?
Quantity is needless when resources is unavailable.
Stop heaping needless responsibilities on children that should plan their lives and focus!
Give all your children equal opportunity to face their lives and career.
Ain’t saying they shouldn’t help each other,
It’s called ‘HELP’ not ‘RESPONSIBILITY’. Help is out of love or compassion..It’s voluntary.
Your eldest child is not an assistant parent.
Yes, they are supposed to do well, and have others follow their legacy
I understand that all these play out as a result of frustration and inability to fend for your children, and that’s why I’m attacking the root cause: Bear children you can comfortably fend for.
It is highly painful having one of your children give up on their dreams and entire life’s passion to spend his/her own life taking care of other siblings.
That’s a waste of destiny.
We all are here for our individual purposes.
First borns are becoming parents may God empower them financially”
Being a first born takes away the pleasures of being a child and having power over your own destiny.
They become burden bearers while at most times, the other siblings become spoilt.
Last borns will literally get away with ‘murder’, with the biggest of demands being met without a problem.
This alone creates friction amongst the children as the immediate interpretation is that of unfair distribution of love.
Shadreck (70) (not real name) speaks of how most of his life was spent taking care of his siblings.
Having grown up in the rural areas of Shurugwi, he trained as a policeman in the then Salisbury (Harare).
He had to take all five of his siblings to live with them and while schooling them on his salary, his parents back home needed to be looked after.
His responsibilities increased when he got married and still had his parents and two more siblings to take care of.
Said Shadreck: “I do not feel appreciated.
“It has been many years later and my siblings now have their own families but no one ever took time just to say thank you for the effort.
“In fact, even when I am in dire need of financial help, some of my well-off siblings will not give me a single penny to help me out.
“They even go to foreign countries for holidays.
“If not for the lockdown, two of them would not even be around right now.”
Being married to a first born has not proved easy as 29-year-old Fungai attests:
“I got married at the age of 25 and my husband is the first born.
“We have two children now.
“My husband was the breadwinner in his family, with two siblings who are both working.
“Because of the economic woes, my husband lost his job and has been pushing a cart, selling vegetables.
“We can hardly make ends meet but he is expected to still maintain his parents who are pensioners and siblings who have come of age.
“But it is basically impossible, we simply cannot afford it.”
Indeed, first borns often feel unloved and unwanted and unfortunately, the cycle often repeats itself when they have their own families.
It has somehow become an approved societal ‘curse’ that haunts all first borns.
Pundits contend, putting parental responsibilities on another child is not only psychologically unfair but presents a lot of challenges for the children as they relate amongst themselves.
It is a matter of debate that one can never draw a definitive conclusion as first borns appear to be well equipped with life skills that will be of much help in future.