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Raise Your Daughter, Love Your Son?

A tale of African parents and their beloved sons

BY STEPHANIE KAPFUNDE

Mar 18, 2021, 01:47 PM

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If you ask an African mother, she will tell you, "Don't be silly. Of course I love all my children the same." You know, with a straight face. And yet in many homes, a woman will keep giving birth until she has son even if it takes twelve children to get there because boys mean more.

Many African parents are riddled with Baby Boy Syndrome. It is the special love they have for their beloved son that leaves vast space for mistakes and redemption for them but no room for the same if you're a daughter. It could be the eldest or the youngest child, it doesn't matter, a son means the continuity of the family name and, of course, speaks to the father’s quality seed.

Grace is a 40-something friend who has battled with the unspoken assumption that she would never achieve as well as her brothers
"As the only girl out of a family of three boys, my late father kinda believed in Baby Boy Syndrome until he realized I was the highest achiever. He respected me for that until his death a month ago. But it took a while to get there."

Diagnosing Baby Boy Syndrome 

Baby Boy Syndrome is difficult to spot and a definite diagnosis is often only possible when it is too late. Signs of a problem usually start developing around the time he's in high school which, unfortunately, is often attributed to the usual adolescent rebellious behavior. Serious symptoms often come to light as the son progresses in age and starts moving into young adulthood, which is when the real trouble starts. 

Baby Boy Red Flags

Because the only thing worse than experiencing Baby Boy Syndrome in your family is dating the Baby Boy it's something to watch out for. Signs you're dating a Baby Boy include a lack of appreciation for any help or advice you give him; a general lack of direction in life; a need to indulge in excess partying and women; an inability to support himself; and a tendency to use people for their own benefit. 

Something Palesa can testify to. 
"OMG! Yes, I've dated a Baby Boy thrice! The first one was really spoilt, a bit of a baby and selfish, the second one was okay but he wasn’t into commitment." 
But perhaps they aren't all bad because Palesa is dating another Baby Boy right now.
"Third time is the charm it turns out... this one is a sweetheart..."
While I wish her the most luck out of love; Mandisa doesn't recommend dating in this pool of brothers, saying: "It was like he had no sense for himself and in the end, all he did was do what his mum would say."
 
Lerato highlighted that there is a thin line between Baby Boy and Mama's Boy Syndrome, saying: "It was more like I was dating the mom and her expectations. I felt drained half the time. We couldn't plan anything without his family's direct or indirect input. It really felt like I was dating the whole clan."

African Parents As Enablers

In a bid to show affection many African parents make life too easy for their Baby Boys, denying them the life experiences that build character, resilience and a sense of ambition. When everything you have ever wanted is simply given to you, the idea of working seems silly and farfetched. More often than not, the Baby Boy becomes entitled to his parents’ belongings, so views stealing as simply taking back what is rightfully his. 
"Since you're not a Son, you could be a better daughter", or so says a misogynistic proverb."
Baby Boy Syndrome is a reality the daughters of Africa have come to accept and endure as a concrete double standard. There are set yet unspoken rules of the game that we daughters are expected to follow.