DEAR AMY: I have a sister who is much younger than I am. I’m now in my late 30s, she’s in her early 20s, and we live on opposite sides of the country. Because of the difference in age, we never really connected much as we were growing up. It has only been recently that we began exchanging emails or connecting on social media. She casually mentioned that she’d like to come visit, so I offered to pay for her airfare and hotel, and then sent her the money. She gladly accepted, and then a few days later sent me an email asking if she could bring a friend along with her, because her friend had never been to this part of the country before. I was bothered by this, and told her no, that I’d prefer it if it was just her, and that I wanted the two of us to spend some time together for once in our lives. I got a surprisingly angry response, where she told me that she’s no longer planning on visiting, because I was clearly not welcoming to her friend, and she didn’t want to be around my “negativity.” She made no mention of the money that I sent her, and has not responded to any subsequent emails, calls or text messages since. I told our mother about this, and her response was that she would reimburse me for the money herself, and to basically “drop it” to preserve the peace. Even after declining her offer, she seems to want me to forget this entire thing. This bothers me on so many levels. Any suggestions on how to respond?
Frustrated with Family
DEAR FRUSTRATED: My instinct is that one reason your sister responded the way she did is because your mother would rather clean up her mess than dive in to mediate and correct her.
I think you should consider conveying to your sister (you might want to “cc” your mother): “Mom offered to reimburse me for the money I sent you. I was too embarrassed by your behavior to accept this from Mom, but you should consider the consequence of your choices. I hope you’ll be brave enough to visit another time.”
DEAR AMY: We are four grown siblings just back from a week’s vacation with our extended family, including our dad (70s) and his girlfriend “Jenny” (60s). We’ve always tolerated Jenny as an exclusive companion to our dad since our mom died a few years ago, especially since we all live in other cities. Our dad and she are not married, but they have dated for several years and go everywhere together. She seems to desperately want to be a part of our family. In recent years, our tolerance toward Jenny has worn thin. In a group vacation house of several adults and kids, she never lifts a finger nor does she offer to pay for anything. She dominates conversations. We have suggested to our dad that he just come alone, but his response has been that “she’ll want to come.” Friends have advised us to bear with her because we may appreciate having her in his life in the future. We don’t want to squash the relationship — just end these painful vacations with her. How do we tell her and our dad that we don’t want to include her on the next family vacation? Right now, it is just assumed she will go along everywhere we go. Any suggestions for doing this successfully?
DEAR FRUSTRATED: “Jenny” should be considered your father’s partner, and so yes, she will go where he goes. If she is not included, your father may want to stay home. The risk is that you will erect a wall between your father and yourselves.
You should try to deal directly with Jenny. Tell her that she is a de facto family member and so the same things expected of other family members will be expected of her. Any shared costs, chores or duties associated with this vacation should be shared equally. Otherwise, yes, you will have to tolerate her.
DEAR AMY: I’m responding to the question from “Probably Overprotective Mom,” who was concerned if her son had fathered a child with his unstable ex. This woman needs to better parent her son! She shouldn’t be instructing him how to get out of this responsibility, she should be guiding him through it. He seems like a real winner and maybe his ex is better off without him.
DEAR UPSET: Many readers agree with you.