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Why You’re Strong Is No Longer A Compliment I Want To Hear

“You just be the strong one, my daughter, and let me share what is going on,” my father told me over the phone, sounding overwhelmed and helpless after my inebriated sibling had reached out to him at 4am asking for money again.

As a first born in an African family, with a sibling who is 10 years younger than myself, the narrative that the eldest child is expected to be a role model/pseudo parent to younger siblings is something I’ve grown up hearing and living with repeatedly.

While living in Germany, I remember a family emergency which meant that my parents had to travel to Kenya together. I was 14 years old, and I had to co-parent my then four-year-old brother for the four days they were away. I remember feeling very clueless but also the weight of responsibility and if anything were to go wrong, I would be held accountable.