There’s always that one sibling who is different

Depressed man

In most families, there is always that one sibling who is different.

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • There is always the sibling who said to hell with education and dropped out of school.
  • There is also that one sibling who is always in need of bailing out

I have mentioned before that I enjoy listening to other people’s stories. In a group, I will be the silent one listening in rapt attention, only interrupting with comments such as, “Ati What?!” or “You’re lying…” “Wacha jokes!” or “She did what again?!” or “You’ll kill me with laughter…”, or “You mean?”, Kenyanese that only Kenyans would understand.

A week ago, a colleague, who I would also describe as a friend, returned to the office after close to two years of working from home. During that period, we’d met only once, and after that one meeting, even though we didn’t voice it, we decided to wait out Covid-19 and socialise on WhatsApp. Covid-19 was real and it was killing people, the less face-to-face contact we had, the better.

Anyway, she passed by my desk to say hello, and being a talkative person, she took close to 20 minutes updating me about what had been going on in her life, and would have gone on if I hadn’t had a deadline to meet.

“So, how are you? What have you been up to?” She finally paused to ask me.

“I’m fine, nothing much has been going on, kazi tu…” I said.

She looked at me incredulously, “Okay, but surely a lot has happened in your life in the past two years…” she prompted.

I was at a loss of what to say. I am one of those people who believe that whatever happens in my life day after day is simply part of life, that things that happen or happen to me are triggered by the daily decisions I make, and are, therefore, not worth making a big deal out of. Okay, fine, there’s also the fact that I am unable to casually discuss my life...

I remember commenting, “Daisy, by now you know what kind of friendship we have – you do most of the talking while I do most of the listening.”

She laughed, because it was true. Which brings me to the topic for this week. In the process of listening to others, it long occurred to me that in most families, there is always that one sibling who is, ehe, different. I don’t want to use the term ‘black sheep’ because it would not entirely apply to all the stories I’ve heard.

Anyway, there is always the sibling who said to hell with education and dropped out of school, much to his/her parents’ dismay. While his siblings are doctors or lawyers or teachers or accountants, all he has to show is a primary school certificate or secondary school certificate with the kind of grade that you don’t go around showing people.

He earns a living doing a variety of jobs and may either be doing well, or is constantly broke. There is also that one sibling who is always in need of bailing out, the one that the others regularly hold frustrating meetings about, to find out how he can be helped to break his consistent bad luck.

Did I mention the happy-go-lucky one that cannot be bothered to get a job, to hell with the future, thank you very much, it will take care of itself? This is the one that still lives in his parents’ homestead, in the small room that his father built him when he outgrew the main house (where I come from, we call this tiny room cubu, a corruption of the word cube, which denotes the shape of this room), he still eats his mother’s food and relies on handouts from his well-to-do siblings.

And there is almost always the family drunk, the one that is always inebriated because he ‘drinks’ every cent that comes his way and has never done anything meaningful in his life. In many cases, his wife long left with the children.

All these examples, and others I left out, got me thinking, (and worried too because I am parent) why this is often the case in many families – is it a case of bad parenting? But if it is, why did the others turn out ‘right’? Or could it be just the nature of this particular child, and if it is, is biology to blame then? If you have already arrived at the answer, please enlighten me. 

The writer is editor, Society & Magazines, Daily Nation. Email: cnjunge@