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Sister angry for undermining her own rules for her kids – Chicago Tribune


Dear Amy: My brother and I have always had a tenuous relationship.

Our father was abusive, but we are both in middle age and have lived fairly successful and stable lives.

I often have to walk on eggshells when talking to my brother because he always seems to read what I say or do as an attack.

Last New Year’s Eve, I was attending a get-together with my friends and he called me for a video chat.

I sent a quick message saying I was with my friends and we would talk later.

He texted me saying he was disappointed because he told his kids they could talk to their uncle (me) and that I was picking on my nieces and nephews.

He added that maybe he “should have let me know,” but he felt the need to share how I disappointed not only him, but my nephews as well.

I didn’t know how to respond, so I waited three weeks to text her and then wish her well on the anniversary of our late mother’s birthday.

It’s been three weeks and he hasn’t responded. We don’t communicate very often, but I feel like I’m being punished.

My question is, what should I do now? Should I keep trying to reach out?

I’m sure whatever I do will be wrong.

– get stuck

Dear Stuck: The constant dance of frustration between you and your sibling is a result of growing up with an abusive parent. Your relationship is unstable because you have both been trained since childhood to be on high alert. Children in abusive homes can never truly relax and allow themselves to make mistakes, be forgiven, and be natural. Yes, the floor is covered in eggshells.

This tension and instability now defines your relationship.

But there’s always an advantage to feeling like you’re doing the wrong thing. This saves you from having to second-guess your every decision because no matter what you do or say, it will seem wrong. So – do it anyway.

You don’t need to “reply” to your sibling to stay in touch. Just text him! Say: “Hey, I was thinking about you today and wondering how you and the kids are doing. I would really love to set up a FaceTime session with them. Is there any chance we can do this soon?

I suggest you step over those eggshells and do your best to be yourself. Your relentless efforts may inspire your sibling to finally relax and do the same.

Dear Amy: My husband and I do not have children. My sister is a single mother and has always been strict with her children. He has a rule for his children: When they turn 18, they must either pay rent or move out.

Her daughter turned 18, wasn’t grounded and wasn’t working, so my sister kicked her out of the house. He wanted to live with us and we accepted.

It’s going great in our house; He attends a local community college and works part-time. We like having him here. We don’t charge rent and encourage him to save money.

My sister is very angry at us for breaking the rules she made for her children. I don’t know how to answer.

– Caring Aunt

Dear Aunt: Your sister’s rule was to either pay rent or move out. His daughter moved away. Your sister’s basic attitude is that when her children turn 18, they should take responsibility for their lives.

As far as I can tell, that’s exactly what your nephew is doing. I appreciate your choice to offer shelter and support as you continue to mature.

I suggest you deal with your sister’s anger by emphasizing that your daughter is doing well. At your sister’s house, she makes the rules, at yours, you make them.

Dear Amy: “Sensitive Stepmom” wrote that her stepdaughters’ mother, who was mentally unstable and had been unable to communicate for several years, contacted the stepmother privately and asked her to arrange contact with the girls.

Thank you for responding to this with “absolutely not”!

My mother (similar story) found ways to draw others into her drama to get to us. We were afraid of him and we really needed the adults around us to protect us, not to open the door.

– We Grew with Gratitude

Dear Adult: Thank you for confirming my instincts on this matter.

(You can email Amy Dickinson at askamy@amydickinson.com or write to Ask Amy, PO Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or on Facebook.)


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