Family discord dampens the joy of Christmas
The joy of being in the company of your larger family singing, enjoying sumptuous meals and washed down with varieties of drinks surpasses everything in this world. And that is why most Kenyans use every coin and troop to their villages where they congregate with other family members for this special season.
But while the majority gear up to travel upcountry, this is just, but a dream for some because of the family wrangles between parents and siblings.
Evelyne* is one of the people who never look forward to Christmas due to the divisions in her family. It started when she got a job in Dubai in 2016 and left her child with her mother back in the village. “I was jobless for some time and when that opportunity came knocking, I took it. After discussions with my mother, I chose to leave my daughter with her,” she says.
At first, everything was smooth and mother and daughter even started discussing how to develop themselves using the money she was earning in the Arab nation. Evelyne says she would send her mother three quarters of the money she received, which was to cater for her daughter’s school fees and upkeep and partial payment of a land the mother had identified, which was to be paid in installments.
Everything went well until her mother started making demands of more money, which she did not have. “She knew I sent her almost every coin I earned, but in between the months, she would call saying they do not have food or the girl has been sent home for school fees and many other demands. It got to a point where she threatened to take my child to her deadbeat father if I did not comply,” she says.
Evelyne says this pushed her to do extra work in order to get the money she was being asked for back at home.
At the same time, her siblings were always on her neck asking for money.Whenever she informed them she was broke, they would go to social media and insult her for allegedly refusing to assist her family. The mother of one says the last stroke that broke the camel’s back was when her mother chose to transfer her daughter from a private school to a public one without her knowledge and she had a huge fight with her.
Instead of understanding the situation, her siblings ganged up with their mother against her accusing her of disrespecting their surviving parent. “They told me to immediately organise with someone to pick my daughter because she was no longer wanted in our house or else I would find her in the streets. I had to convince my boss to give me leave to go and attend to the matter,” Evelyne notes.
She says she was lucky because her boss was understanding and gave her a two-month break. “When coming back, I did not inform anyone and I went straight home to where I found my daughter totally neglected. Her situation broke my heart. I did not expect my mother to treat her granddaughter the way she did because of our fight,” she adds.
But this was just the beginning of her disappointments as the family had more surprises for her. When she requested to be shown the land, which her mother bought on her behalf and which she sacrificed a lot to pay for, she was informed that the land never existed.
Upon further interrogation on the person who sold the land to her, it was discovered that the land had been bought, but in the name of her eldest brother! Evelyne went ahead to confront her mother and brother.
“That is the day I saw how greed can change people. My own mother told me I do not deserve to own land and if I was not satisfied with her decision, I should leave her house. My brother and sister ganged up to beat me and threw me out of the house,” Evelyne says.
“Since I left that house in 2019, I have never gone back. I have never talked to anyone in my family, I don’t know whether they are alive or dead and I do not plan on forgiving anyone of them or going back there,” she says.
Evelyne says while everyone discusses how they will be travelling to their rural home for Christmas and New Year celebrations, she finds herself lonely.
A UK-based author of the book No Family is Perfect, Lucy Blake says family gatherings often bring out the worst of its members and that is why the majority choose to steer off family gatherings, especially during festive seasons.
Blake, in her book says the real-life consequences are no joke as they range from feeling isolated to feeling shame and being judged.
Modern fractious family
She further says victims of such fractious family relationships often feel resentful of themselves and social media has further worsened their sense of isolation, especially when they see their friends rejoicing and celebrating.
Psychologist Ken Munyua says the majority of the conflicts in families obviously began as small arguments, which then escalated to fights and divisions within families. Munyua says the current generation is short of resolving these wrangles within themselves thereby causing a discord, which mostly reflects during family gatherings.
“Our current generation has failed to amicably resolve family wrangles and that is why Christmas is spent apart. But that was not the case years ago where families would cross oceans to be together during that season. Let there be another reason for not coming together during festivities, but not family wrangles, ist is wrong in all aspects,” he says.
Munyua says the saddest part has been when the parents pass their grudges to their children, which then leaves children also hating each other and the wrangles move from generation to generation.
He adds “The worst part is when you see other families rejoicing together while your family cannot see eye to eye. Let people use this season to heal from the past and embrace each other. No matter what, family will always be family.”