You be the judge: should I stop covering for my brother’s lack of effort with our grandparents?

<span>Illustration: Igor Bastidas/The Guardian</span>
Illustration: Igor Bastidas/The Guardian

The prosecution: Ololade

Just because I’m the eldest doesn’t mean I should always be the one to send them gifts and cards

I love my grandparents on my mum’s side – they’re the only ones we have left – but as the oldest sibling, it feels like it’s always my job to keep up the relationship on behalf of me and my brother. I’ve been doing it for years, but I’m 28 now, and tired of it.

My younger brother, Babatunde, makes me do all the general relationship admin, like texting them at Christmas, thanking them for our gifts, and sending cards for their birthdays. Our grandparents are great but they don’t live near us. They have certain expectations around staying in touch, and Babatunde can’t be bothered to meet them. They don’t know that it’s always me sending them thank you notes and cards. Babatunde is their youngest grandson so he gets away with doing the bare minimum. Mum spoils him as he’s her only son. I’m the eldest daughter, and it feels like I always have to be more responsible.

Last Christmas I did lose it with Babatunde. As a gift, our grandparents sent us money straight to our accounts, and Babatunde didn’t even notice the transfer. Our grandparents called me a few weeks later to complain that he hadn’t thanked them at all. My grandpa was like: “What is the point in giving him money?” I had to apologise on his behalf and tell them that he doesn’t check his bank account regularly. It was embarrassing.

Our grandparents are in their 90s now, and it’s important to stay in their lives

I sent a thank you text on the same day, and was in the process of organising a visit to them, too. Of course, Babatunde wasn’t available to join me. He’s only a year younger than me but sometimes I feel like I’m his keeper. When he realised our grandparents were mad at him, he was really apologetic, but asked me not to tell our mum. Obviously I obliged, but I did tell him to call our grandparents on the phone and say sorry. But he didn’t even have their number, and when I gave it to him, he just sent a text instead of calling them.

I think Babatunde needs to make more effort. They’re in their 90s now, and it’s important to stay in their lives. I’m also going to stop covering for him because I’ve got my own life to lead.

The defence: Babatunde

I’m the baby of the family – that’s just how it is

I definitely know that I should make more effort with our grandparents and I do want to try to be better. With the money thing, it wasn’t that deep. I just don’t check my accounts like that. It’s not like they gave us thousands of pounds: it was £200. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful but it didn’t register because it wasn’t a life-changing sum.

Lolly (Ololade) had to call them up and apologise on my behalf because I didn’t thank them. I feel a bit ashamed of that, but it honestly wasn’t intentional. She told me to contact them to rectify the situation and I did, but then she got mad at me because I didn’t call. But what can I say? I’m not the most communicative guy.

Lolly is the chatty one in our family. She’s always been better at staying in contact, filling our extended family in on what’s going on. She gets the gossip from our cousins and makes an effort with everyone. It’s what she’s good at.

Lolly threatened to tell my mum about how bad I’ve been, but I’ve covered for her loads of times

I do appreciate that she sends the thank you cards to our grandparents at Christmas and on their birthdays. She’s playing her role as the dutiful granddaughter. But in making us both look good, she’s making our family look good, too, so her actions benefit us all. Lolly has left out that I have sent my grandparents cards in the past – probably about three times, maybe four. She says I get away with everything because I’m the baby of the family. That’s just how it is. My grandmother spoils me and I think it annoys Lolly that she always has to feed information to them about me. I do text them, but for sure I could be better at it. Or pick up the phone, or even organise a visit. The last time I saw them was when my mum made us all visit last Christmas, but Lolly sees them more often.

Lolly threatened to tell my mum about how bad I’ve been recently. That would have contravened our unspoken sibling agreement not to snitch. I’ve covered for her loads of times before: she snuck her boyfriend into her room when she was 24, for one. Our mum would have hit the roof. But there are just certain things you don’t tell.

The jury of Guardian readers

Should Ololade stop covering for her brother?

Ololade needs to stop covering for Babatunde and call his bluff on the blackmail threat. This 27-year-old “golden child” should be responsible for his own admin.
Dorothy, 65

Lolly has been covering for Babatunde for far too long. A frank conversation is needed – she needs to step back and he needs to step up and take responsibility for himself and his family.
Dermot, 54

Babatunde should make more effort with his grandparents but the real issue here is Lolly’s resentment. On the surface it might seem this is about her brother’s selfishness, but it’s actually about her feeling taken for granted. She needs to look inside herself, not at her brother, and focus on building honest relationships with her family. People-pleasing can become toxic.
Lily, 50

Babatunde knows how important it is to his grandparents that he is present in their lives, but he doesn’t care. He acknowledges he is wrong when he says he doesn’t want his sister to tell their mother how he’s behaving.
Tarciane, 35

Babatunde may love his sister and his grandparents, but he doesn’t respect them. He expects them to just put up with him being a bad communicator while selfishly relying on Lolly. How will he feel when he’s 90 and his grandchildren barely contact him? And the Lolly’s boyfriend scenario is not remotely comparable – Babatunde’s behaviour has been poor for years.
Claire, 50

Now you be the judge

In our online poll, tell us: should Babatunde send his own thank you letters?

The poll closes on Thursday 28 June at 9am BST

Last week’s result

We asked whether Barry should stop asking Mandy to reveal which party she plans to vote for in the general election.

81% of you said Barry is guilty – he should get off his ballot box
19% of you said Barry is not guilty – Mandy should stand up and be counted