The weight of being a firstborn son

I believe being a firstborn is not a matter of birth order but one of divine ordination.

Photo credit: Igah

In many African communities, the firstborn son is perceived as the “enfant terrific”. He is the child that often gets the best from the parents; from toys and educational opportunities to big boys’ toys. In our days, he was given pet names such as Papa, Daddy, or Boyi.

When this bouncing baby is born, the parents’ minds go on overdrive. “Papa will be the child who will take the family to the next level.” “Daddy is the child who will bring the family laurels.” “Boyi is the son who will make the family proud.”

We all mean well for our children. But that’s too much responsibility to put on a child. It may also cause other children to feel less appreciated or unseen, as the spotlight is always on the firstborn son.

Sometimes the prophecies over the lives of firstborn sons come true. Other times the parents’ good intentions resemble the pronouncements of many so-called modern-day prophets; hot air.

A blessing and a curse

Being the firstborn son can be both a blessing and a curse. A blessing is an endowment to succeed and prosper. This means that the one whom this status is bestowed upon must work to turn this spiritual declaration into material reality.

But then again, all children are a gift from the Lord. This means that every child has an equal opportunity to reach their full potential.

Some parents have favourite children. The irony is that, in some cases, the least favourites may seem to be the ones who are blessed. That is, if we look at blessings as goods and chattels.

Being the firstborn can be a curse if it gets into the elder child’s head – swearing they are the favourites - and they think they can lord it over other siblings. Being the firstborn can become a curse if the bearer of this position believes they are better or more loved than others.

The first bother

What happens if the firstborn son turns out to be the “first bother”? What if he does not turn out how the parents want him to? What if he is the one who brings the family untold grief?

This sad twist happens to many families. I have a friend who’s a middle brother. He’s the one who’s picking the ball that’s been dropped by the firstborn brother.

“Each time I receive a phone call from my mother,” Middle Bro confessed, “I go into panic mode. I already know what it’s about. Big bro has messed up. Again. And guess who’s been called to clean up after him?”

“Why don’t you just refuse, man?” I asked.

“I’m doing it for my mother, not my brother,” Middle Bro replied resignedly.

In another case, a friend – who is the lastborn son – has been given the unenviable responsibility of bailing out his two elder brothers. These Terrible Two were pampered and enabled by their parents since they were babies. Now it’s payback time; on parents and Lastborn.

Divine order, not birth order

I believe being a firstborn is not a matter of birth order but one of divine ordination. And it’s not just the famous story of Biblical twins, Esau and Jacob that come to mind, but also dynamics I have witnessed in some of my friends’ families.

For some of us middle and lastborn sons, God will give us the responsibility of bringing light and life to our families. Some of them will be fought by siblings and other spiritual forces. But we must faithfully carry on, firm in the belief that we were created for such a time as this.