My sister got pregnant in high school, kept the baby, lived with my parents and never attended college. Ten years later, she married a guy with one kid. She and her husband could never manage money. When they lost their home, my dad built a house for them on his property. My parents pay all of their utilities. Recently, my sister’s husband, a truck driver, lost his license because he was drinking on the job. Then my sister was laid off. Now she and my brother-in-law spend their days partying, even though she’s pregnant. My parents want to move my sister, her husband and their kids into my parent’s house and rent out the other home to generate income to help my sister and her husband. I think this is a lousy idea. What do you think?
I think that your parents like having lots of children around. That’s why they make choices that enable your sister and her hubby to remain adolescents. In the process, your parents drain themselves of life energy, monetary savings and serenity. They also gain a continual state of crisis that inspires them to cling to each other, worrying and grasping at solutions. But nothing will improve until your parents accept that no financial sacrifice can ever be enough to save your sister, her husband or the grandchildren. That’s because the problem is not money, it’s values.
Your sister and her husband need a reason to save themselves from their compulsive self-centeredness. They never even get close, however, because your parents insist on rescuing them. Parental love is the ability to extend oneself selflessly for the good of another. But the choices that your parents are making are not for the good of your sister and her family. It’s to keep your parents from feeling like failures at parenting. Hey, there is no perfection in parenting. Every parent is both a failure and a success. When a parent is not addicted to being liked or to making decisions just to exercise control, the scale tilts toward success. When a parent establishes reasonable consequences for misbehavior but doesn’t follow through, the scale tips toward failure. So as long as your parents are invested in being saviors, your sister and her husband will lack the motivation required to become adults.
If your parents want to begin the practice of loving your sister, they will teach her and her family the truth about managing the basics of living. This includes allowing your sister and her husband to fail and fall, while trusting they will stand again with the aid of some honest advice. Your parents can offer to care for the grandkids while your sister and her husband get on their feet emotionally and financially. Your parents can also file for temporary custody of the grandkids while your sister and brother-in-law get clean and sober. A family meeting, at which your parents confess to your sister that they have failed to raise her into adulthood, is a good place to start. Honesty is essential to changing the dynamics that have exploded into this reality-show-worthy drama.
I have been on several dates since my divorce and surprised at how often men will pull out their Blackberry or iPhone and check messages while at dinner. It’s so rude. Should I say something?
Yes. Tell your date that you would enjoy getting to know him then ask if you can do so without outside interruptions from his PDA. Or, if you feel spicy, ask him if he meditates. Then say, “It really heals the addiction to distraction.” Of course, if a date is really into you, he or she would treat you like a replay, not a rerun.