Family is important.
This was drummed into us.
We were raised to think, family first; self later.
When we were young, ‘family members’ could come to our homes unannounced, and live with us. We never asked the parents how long the ‘family member(s)’ would stay. Indeed, to do that would have been to get reprimanded for being rude; or a get a knock on the head for not being accommodating.
I remember instances when the parents would have something planned for us but would change plans when a ‘family member’ that we knew nothing of; would show up and say something as corny as; ‘my wife just gave birth and I have no money to get her discharged…’; (like he didn’t get the normal 9 months’ notice).
Father would then give the money he had proposed to use to take us out. Then, he would promise us bigger treats for a later day. Yes, we would quietly protest the inconveniences. But God help us if we made too much fuss over it.
We grew up giving up our bed spaces, our clothes, our shoes and other stuff; because one family member needed it more. More often than not, we were never consulted before or even after. The parents often had to make available extra comfortable accommodation, bedding, food and clothing for our unannounced visiting family members.
Months ago, when my siblings and their families were coming over to my home to spend a few days; they notified me weeks ahead.
They called to find out if it was going to be convenient for me; even though they were coming packed with food and other fun things. Never mind that I had stocked up the house. They were still mindful of the fact that a few extra mouths might just be a tad harder to care for than I expected.
Of course, I told them it was okay. It would be great to have my nieces, nephews and my kids under one roof for the first time ever. My home was spacious enough…or so I thought.
So, I made my own preparation but after a few days of their arrival, I was completely overwhelmed. Our kids ate like ravenous locusts and I soon ran out of virtually everything.
Thankfully, my siblings were quick to step in before I could ask for help. I immediately began to wonder what our parents went through when cousins and aunties and so-called family members just dropped in on them unannounced and they had to accommodate them.
As a matter of fact, the culture of call-me-first-before-you visit should no longer be considered Western. It is courtesy. Look at my situation, despite the long notice, I almost buckled. Imagine if there had been none.
So, I understood better when my friend who came back from visiting family in the US complained bitterly of how he was treated by his family and those he called ‘friends’.
“It was like they were just waiting for me to leave. There would be no food in the morning and they were generally stiff.”
‘Did you inform them you were coming?’ I asked
‘Yes now, they knew I would be in town. Where did they expect me to stay? They didn’t even come to pick me from the airport.”
He neglected to tell me he only gave them one week’s notice. I told him he should have put aside something for a hotel…Just in case or he should have given money to his host to help tide them through.
Now, though family is important, we live in an individualistic society. Also, we are raising kids who are very individualistic, which is why the extended family is extending over the horizon.
– Our kids don’t go to our families for holidays; because we always think they just might be a burden on the family they will visit;
– The kids don’t know we make sacrifices for family because all they see around them are dad, mum and themselves. The guest room remains empty for years;
-No longer do we let our brothers or sisters or cousins live with us. Instead, we would rather pay outsiders to mind our kids than our own relatives;
– Grandmas are no longer needed in our homes; grandpas are a lot of trouble; sisters are difficult because they would go to tell the village how we are “managing” our lives in the cities.
Now does that mean our families are bad?
No. We’ve just become more individualistic in our approach to life; it’s to your tent o Israel!
I hear people of my generation say their kids don’t show the same kind of love for family like they do. For instance, a cousin lamented; ‘I don’t know why I practically have to beg my kids to call my parents just to greet them.” The kids are 18-year-olds.
Were grandpa and grandma part of their growing up years? Did they holiday with them?
No, they only visited.
A friend who sat close by added his bit; “My kids claim I report them to my family every time they do something wrong. Is it not family that will help me correct them?’
His kids are also teenagers, who prefer to meet up with friends than follow their dad to family gatherings.
Again, I asked, ”how close are they to these ‘family members?’ Have they heard positive stories of how these family members have helped you in the past. How close we are to them?
So here’s my theory. Yes, we grew up loving family and all. But once we became adults, we rebelled by raising children who are individualistic and while we still pursued family ties, we didn’t translate the same values to our children.