“Stop asking why they keep doing it and start asking why you keep allowing it.” – Unknown
Who is the Golden Child?
I used Golden Child as a pejorative to describe one of my paternal first cousin was clearly identified as the favorite member of our shared generation. This is what I have been told – information I largely got from my father and drunk-turned-confessional relatives – his mother died in the 1970s unexpectedly. Once rushed to the emergency room for when death seemed imminent, my dad believes the doctors did not really try to save her. She was a poor, unwed, single black mother – adjectives my dad believes sealed her fate more so than what was reported to have taken her life. With the history of this country’s inhumane treatment of black folks in the healthcare system, I do not challenge this assertion one bit. It is entirely plausible.
Only weeks old, the Golden Child was motherless and fatherless – his dad was not in the picture at any point in his life from what I can remember. Our shared grandparents took on the role of his parents. My dad and his siblings decided to avenge their sister’s death by supporting their parents’ raising the Golden Child. I find this to be courageous and admirable. Not only did they care for their own children, spouses or significant others, and households; they committed to taking care of the Golden Child too. Aside from the many disagreements I have had with my father and his self-righteous siblings, I must commend them on caring for the Golden Child in solidarity. Well then, why am I blogging disparagingly about him?
From where does my annoyance originate?
Doing a noble thing does not exonerate a person from well-deserved criticism – especially if that noble act wreaks havoc on others. My paternal family elders believe only they can dole out rebukes that should go unchallenged because – insert implausible reason. I personally see an effort to quell my response to their criticism as a green light to pick apart every word of it. Why? Usually their criticisms are shoddily grounded at best and willful intolerance to the truth at the very least. Family elders references the 10 children my paternal grandparents had – five girls and five boys. My father is number two of ten and the oldest of the five boys. Unfortunately, two of the 10 have died – the aunt I referenced earlier and one of my dad’s brothers in the early 2000s.
One of the most damning critiques I have for my dad and his siblings regards the choices they have repeatedly made in their helping to raise the Golden Child. Their version of raising him – being loving, accessible, and supportive at all costs – manifested as enabling bad behavior, perpetuating double standards, saying one thing yet doing another, doling out cash at the drop of a hat, and holding their own children to stricter behavior standards than the Golden Child. Maybe holding their own children to higher standards signifies they loved them just that much more. Such a supposition is hogwash.
They held us and the Golden Child to inequitable standards because of an unfounded notion the Golden Child would break if held to the same pressures of make us proud as their own children. My dad and his siblings believed the Golden Child was made fragile because of his mother’s death and father’s absence. I think it is an excuse for ignoring bad behavior. Harsh? Maybe, maybe not. Just the other day my father accused the Golden Child of being slow in the head because he took longer than my dad deemed appropriate to answer a question while sitting on the porch. Neither I nor my father have ever touched one edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – a thoroughly sourced volume defining mental disorders – let alone completed a medical degree program. Yet, I know for sure the Golden Child does not have a mental condition. He has spoiled-adult-brat-itis, a condition my dad and his fearless siblings made into a superbug over the past 40 years.
Keith, are you jealous?
Today? Within the past decade? Not a chance. As an adolescent? Sure, probably. Nowadays, there is nothing about the Golden Child’s life I find desirable. As a child, I idolized what then seemed like the epitome of what a young black man should be – the Golden Child. He seemed funny, confident, well-liked, a good storyteller, good with the ladies, athletic, and overall cool. This seems typical of a younger male (pre)-teen views of an older male cousin. As I got older, I realized during my phase of idolization I did not know what I did not know – which turned out to be a shit-ton – giving new meaning to the phrase dumb kid.
I internalized as worthlessness and inferiority what I saw my father give to the Golden Child and other boys around my age – admiration and favoritism. My dad and his doting siblings fawned over the Golden Child as if he were a wounded puppy featured in late-night money grab commercials. The wounded-son part of me construed what I witnessed as my dad intentionally pandered to these allegedly more relatable son figures – partly because they represented what he really valued in a male descendent. Masculine. Active. Confident. Acting black enough. Interested in cars. I had also convinced myself my dad secretly knew I was gay and hated me for it. The details of these feelings – which I can neither confirm nor deny as my father’s true thinking – are for another blog.
I mentioned these unsubstantiated feelings here because I also believe in my hearts of hearts the Golden Child understood the motives behind my father’s alleged pandering and glorification. He perceived them just as did I. He used this attention to his advantage, shaking down my father at every turn. Well, you cannot shakedown the willing – neither my dad nor any of his siblings who were repeatedly financially stung by the Golden Child are victims by any stretch of the imagination. I cannot know for sure if the Golden Child capitalized on my father’s alleged preference for a better type of son – the one I was not becoming in the 1990s. However, this impression rests in the orbit of possibility given our Family Operating Procedures – and has for quite some time.
You keep bringing up financials, why?
For decades, my dad and his siblings – not all yet enough of them – spent thousands of dollars catering to the Golden Child’s every whim. One of the most offensive to me and other non-favorite relatives were repeated acts of the Golden Child getting new cars the auto loans for which they would cosign. He may have gotten through a year of being economically responsible before his interests waned – abandoning the payments for insert inane reason. No need to fear! My dad and his siblings made bailouts notorious within our family way before the federal government did to the entire country in 2008 – facing the bank’s stern warnings of default. They financed purchases of ridiculous amounts of automobile stereo equipment from Circuit City, RadioShack, or other 1990s electronic stores because it apparently was all about that bass in the last decade of the 20th Century as well.
As with many American adolescents and young adults whose 23rd pair of chromosomes is XY – owning a cool motorcycle was something on which we believed our lives depended. For me, a bike was the ultimate beard! Hell, Larry and I discussed the pros and cons of getting one the other day while walking the dogs. This time it was not to hide my being gay; we just contemplated it for a bit. Our conversation quickly concluded with life > suffering catastrophic injury from riding a motorcycle – a clear pivot from our earlier days of it’s so cool. The Golden Child got one while I was in college – meaning he was in his mid-twenties. It was purchased under my father’s name – a person with a credit score that consistently hovered between 795 and 805 – who probably thought I did not know he got my cousin the bike or did not care if I did.
The number of automobiles for which my father has signed as the co-borrower for me? Zero. While in college, I asked my father to sign an apartment lease for me so I could move off campus. Granted, it was not absolutely necessary for me to move off campus, it was an option I had which I decided to pursue. I was too young and had too weak a credit score to sign it on my own. If he ended up signing it, Kermit the Frog did. What I got in return was an avalanche of word salads asserting he was “tired of being used by folks” and “will not put his name on anything else.” Here I was, a college student with a full course load and part-time job trying to make something of my life yet I was being accused of taking advantage of him. Yet, who was the first photo-bomber grinning in graduation pictures following my earning three degrees? The man who did not put his name on a single promissory note, lease agreement, auto loan application, or cellphone contract while I was struggling through higher education. How many pictures of the Golden Child’s graduation celebration did he photo-bomb? Zero, because no graduations occurred.
Nowadays the enablers are tired of the Golden Child’s shenanigans, yet continue to talk at him and not directly to him.
In the upcoming blog, Family Operating Procedures – You Made This Bed, I expound upon what I witness nowadays as my dad and his siblings being so over the Golden Child’s worst characteristics. Selective amnesia has them thinking they play no role in solidifying these terrible traits.