Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Parents Care More About My Sister’s Engagement Than My Acceptance to a Competitive Master’s Program”

I’m a 27-year-old woman working two jobs to pay the bills. I was accepted into an incredibly competitive master’s program this year in a cutting-edge field. I was so proud to tell the rest of my family when I was accepted, but I only got mixed reactions, especially from my grandparents. I have been seeing, for three years, a wonderful man who proposed recently; we have been waiting to tell my family until I go see them in person this weekend.

I also have two sisters, one 26 and one 20. My 26-year-old sister has graduated college, works for her university, and is talking engagement with a great guy she’s been seeing for four years. I couldn’t be happier for her. My 20-year-old sister, on the other hand, is still in undergrad, has changed her major four times, and has lost her scholarships due to poor grades; she’s so behind she can’t graduate on time. Roughly six months ago she started dating a Marine who recently graduated from Annapolis and is being sent overseas soon for his first duty post. I had dinner with them last Friday and they never indicated there was anything out of the ordinary going on. However, she visited my parents this past weekend, and on Sunday night I got a call from my parents during which I found out — through the excited squealing of my grandmothers in the background and the pride in my father’s voice — that my 20-year-old sister is engaged to the Marine. They were all excited in a way that they have never been for me. Ever.

I don’t feel happy. I feel angry and hurt. The youngest has wasted most of her college years partying and blowing my parents’ money. She won’t be able to support herself with her current major if she does graduate because her field is shrinking and the jobs don’t pay well. Meanwhile, my other sister and I have put our noses to the grindstone to support ourselves in burgeoning fields… and all our parents care about is that baby sister will be the first to put a Mrs. in front of her name.

To make it all worse, now my fiancé wants to wait a few months to tell my family about our engagement so as not to “steal my sister’s thunder.” He even wants to delay our projected wedding timeline so as not to conflict with hers, even though I’m the one working around a tight grad school calendar!

I am so upset! Please, tell me how to deal with this. — Hurt Sister

First, congratulations on both your acceptance into a prestigious master’s program and your engagement to what sounds like a thoughtful and loving man who clearly cares not only for you but your whole family. You, my dear, sound like you’re going places, and you should be very happy and proud. I’m sure your parents are proud, too, but, at the moment, their pride is overshadowed by what is likely a lot of relief that their youngest daughter has found someone who will help support her financially and emotionally in a way she probably needs much, much more than her two older, more responsible, ambitious, and driven sisters. And she didn’t find just anyone — she found a recent graduate of the highly-regarded Naval Academy who will have a secure position in the United States Marine Corp. — something that for a lot of people — probably including your parents — commands immediate respect and admiration.

As an officer’s wife, your sister will have a life of adventure and relative comfort — certainly more than she likely would as a single, struggling college drop-out without many opportunities or much focus or direction. As a military wife, she’s also going to face a lot of challenges you will likely be spared: long and frequent separations from her husband; moving a lot; feeling lonely and unsettled; maybe raising future children on her own a lot of the time; being far away from family and friends; worrying about her husband while he’s deployed in dangerous places doing dangerous work.

I say all this because it’s clear you’re feeling resentful and jealous of your sister, and, though I understand why, I hope you can try to see her life and her position from a different perspective. She’s kind of a fuck-up with two older sisters who do everything right. Imagine how that must feel. Probably as bad, if not worse, than how it must feel to work as hard as you have and still not be able to impress your parents.

I have two kids — one is 4-1/2 and super smart and ambitious (he taught himself to read when he was two, he does second grade math workbooks for fun, and he’s learning to count in as many languages as he can by watching YouTube tutorials before school), and I have a nine-month old baby who just learned to wave. And let me tell you, when the baby learned to wave, she might as well have spontaneously started counting to ten in Arabic like her big brother did a few weeks earlier — that’s how excited and impressed we were.

“She can wave!” Drew and I exclaimed. “She’s waving, she waving!”

“I can wave, too!” Jackson chimed in, “See?!”

Well, of course he can wave. He’s four. He can do a lot of stuff — certainly much more stuff than his sister can do. She’s just a baby. And we’re only beginning to watch her learn new things and grow and become a little person. And it’s thrilling and fun, and our excitement over seeing her wave or watching her crawl sometimes eclipses the pride we very much feel over all the accomplishments of our first-born because we already know how incredible he is. Our expectations for him were set pretty high, pretty early, and, because of that, sometimes we don’t show the level of excitement and sheer surprise that new accomplishments might otherwise warrant in a four-year-old. Maybe that’s not fair, and in reading your letter, I’m reminded that, in regards to my son, I must never discount or in any way discredit his accomplishments and hard work simply because they were expected. They are worthy of my excitement as much as my pride. And your accomplishments and hard work are certainly worthy of your parents’ excitement and pride, too.

I’m only a few years into this parenting thing and I already needed reminding to show excitement for my ambitious and tenacious kid’s accomplishments. I bet, after twenty-seven years of parenting, your folks might need some reminding, too. So, tell them. “Mom, Dad, it hurt my feelings that you didn’t show more excitement when I shared the news about my acceptance into the master’s program. Do you know how competitive the program is and how hard I worked to get in? Aren’t you proud of me?”

Parents are people, too. They don’t always say the right thing or make the right choice or react in the best way. Maybe yours will get better — especially if you give them some gentle prompting — or maybe they won’t. But the good news is, regardless of how they respond to your major life events, at 27 you are already on a great path and have, what many would consider, essentially won the life lottery. You seem to have enough privilege supplementing your strong work ethic to get you into a prestigious master’s program, and you’ve already found the person you want to spend your life with when many people your age have years of searching ahead of them (a search that isn’t always very fun and can be pretty soul-sucking).

If you take nothing else from my advice to you, please take this: You will be a much happier person with stronger, better relationships if you learn to communicate with the people you love when you feel hurt and to accept that everyone is flawed, that expressions of love differ, and that we all have limitations in our ability to meet the needs of people we care about. You will be a happier person with stronger, better relationships if you practice gratitude for the many gifts given to you while accepting that some things can’t change and some people don’t love us exactly the way we would prefer to be loved. There will be times when you’ll choose to leave relationships and friendships that no longer serve you, and there will be other times when you’ll choose to accept the relationships for both the gifts and the limitations they present. And when limitations exist, you’ll have to look elsewhere to fill your emotional needs, and, if you can get your emotional needs met elsewhere, realize that you are a very lucky person indeed.

P.S. Tell your family about your engagement when you want to, and, if you decide to plan the wedding around your “tight grad school calendar,” you’ll have to accept that everyone else has a tight calendar of his or her own, too, and that your wedding may not fit into it (especially if there’s another family wedding scheduled to work around what I’m sure is an even tighter calendar for an overseas military posting!).

***************

Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at [email protected].

67 comments… add one
  • Portia

    Portia April 14, 2016, 8:26 am

    WWS x 10000. I know it can feel like your accomplishments are being overshadowed right now. But based on your parents’ reaction, your achievement at getting into your master’s program was going to be overshadowed anyway by your engagement. That’s so common and in some ways it sucks that the reaction to our professional accomplishments are dwarfed by personal life events. But at this point, you know that’s going to happen, so you’re setting yourself up for disappointment if you’re going to be miffed that the reaction to your engagement is going to be bigger than your master’s acceptance.
    .
    I received my PhD and got engaged within a month of each other – guess what my family was overwhelmingly more excited about? But I was prepared for that, I knew that the reaction for an engagement would be much bigger, so I made sure the PhD came first. And made sure to celebrate it in style with my friends. (I have one grandparent left and I’m not sure he even knows I have a PhD and I don’t remember his reaction to me getting it. I’m pretty sure he thinks I went to a whole other school.) Anyway, like you, I was also lucky enough to have a supportive partner that understood how big of a deal it was and celebrated my accomplishment with me – I hope you appreciate the heck out of your guy.

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      SpaceySteph April 14, 2016, 9:34 am

      Hah I’m totally with you on that being how family is. My grandmother visited recently and went on and on about my brother and 2 cousins (all unmarried) and when they would find someone. When mentioning their careers (all of which are pretty good) it was only that my one cousin moves so much (i.e. she went to live in London to work for her company for a year, which is super cool) that she’ll never find a guy and my other cousin works so much he’ll never find a girl and my brother just moved to Kansas (again for work) and there’s no Jews there (of course my sister and I both married non Jews so whatever).

      It’s likely a generational thing that marriage is more important than career. Or maybe it’s because when our older relatives look back at their own lives, they derived more enjoyment from family than career and so they want that for us. But whatever the reason, I think you have only set yourself up for heartbreak by expecting them to be any different than they are.

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      • Portia

        Portia April 14, 2016, 11:19 am

        First of all, high-five for reverse shiksas! (That’s what I choose to call myself – is there a term for Jewish girls who marry non-Jews? Although if there are, they probably aren’t that great…)
        .
        I agree that it is probably a generational thing and setting onself up for heartbreak. I I think I got lucky with my parents since they were visibly proud of me for both, even if it was a little uneven. My mom got both a fancy bound dissertation and wedding photobook, I hope she displays them equally proudly, but if not, it’s not the end of the world, right? My sister, on the other hand, has dealt recently with feelings of perceived rejection from this type of thing. Like, my parents are proud of her for her job and accomplishments, but they’ve been less effusive about that around her and their newer friends recently. I also think it’s harder on her because she was always much closer to our mom.

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        SpaceySteph April 14, 2016, 11:57 am

        My first thought with “is there a term for Jewish girls who marry non-Jews?” is “not one they’d say to your face!” Haters gonna hate!

        It’s hard to feel like your parents aren’t proud of you. Especially because it sounds like the LW may be from a family that places a lot of emphasis on hard work and making your family proud so she’s maybe been programmed to tie her self worth to that.

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        Sue Jones April 14, 2016, 12:30 pm

        I guess I am a reverse shiksa too! Haha. I had some of the same problems. I am the youngest of 3 and it always felt like when I came around and accomplished things my parents weren’t excited because they’ve already seen it 2 times before and it was old news. Even my doctorate degree was like “yeah, yeah, whatever, your brother got his PhD 4 years ago but he’s already married with children so you’d better get cracking! Having siblings while growing up can be hard! And despite my accomplishments it seemed I wasn’t considered a real adult by my family until I was married. My parents’ behavior towards me definitely changed for the better once I married. That was their generation though. Now we know better I would think.

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      • Portia

        Portia April 14, 2016, 4:39 pm

        Go team! Haha.

        I’m the oldest and I think my parents purposefully tried to guide us into different areas so my sister didn’t feel like she was in my shadow, like sports and acting, things that made it harder to compare the two.

        I’m not sure if my parents’ behavior has really changed since I got married. Only been 6 months, though…

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      Sketchee April 26, 2016, 9:41 pm

      Definitely agree with you, Portia! My mom is from a foreign country and I don’t know if that’s why. Sometimes I just have to tell her “Mom this is a big deal and very exciting!” or “Tell me your proud!” It’s something I’ve carried into life is that it’s okay to tell people the kind of support your looking for. And also sometimes even if you tell them and they understand, they’re still not going to be a totally different person just because I want them to. And I wouldn’t want that anyone.

      Or when I moved out, my mom as very excited for me and proud that she raised a responsible kid. Then my sister calls and says “Mom is so sad you’re moving out!” and I’m sure she did feel both of those things.

      I’ve just tried to practice seeing praise and support as a gift. If loved ones are unable to give it, find that elsewhere like Wendy said. Once in grad school, there will be a lot of people around the LW who equally see the importance of the program.

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  • avatar

    Diana April 14, 2016, 8:31 am

    I totally hear you, LW. It can really sting when your folks don’t give you the reaction you were hoping for. But consider this: even parents who went to graduate school back in the day may have no clue as to the competitiveness or rigor of modern programs. My own mother, herself an MSW, suggested casually that I should et a doctorate because I’d get to be “the first in the family,” as if that were enough cause to undergo five more years of rigorous academic work. My point, friend, is that their high opinion of you (which appears well-earned) combined with being out of touch with contemporary academia, may be responsible for their lackluster response. My suggestion is that you try to focus on gratitude and also give more weight to your own opinion of your accomplishments.

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  • avatar

    Ron April 14, 2016, 8:41 am

    Your parents are likely deep into wanting to be grandparents mode. Your grandmothers want their first greatgrandkid. Your acceptance into a competitive degree program is more of a personal achievement. Your parents aren’t looking forward to being able to watch you study.

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  • avatar

    JuneBugg April 14, 2016, 8:47 am

    I usually don’t comment on the letters, but this one is very similar to what happened to me a few years ago. I am the youngest and have a brother and sister, and it seemed that my accomplishments have always been overshadowed by theirs. A few years ago I received a huge promotion at my work. I worked very hard to get the promotion and I was so happy to share with my folks. From them I got a “oh, that’s great honey” while they went on and on about sister cooked a meal and they were so proud of her. Seriously, they were more excited that my 36 year old sister cooked a meat loaf than the promotion I received. I was furious, and asked why was my accomplishment was not even really acknowledged. Their answer was that they were excited for me but they knew that they didn’t have to worry about me, that if they died tomorrow I would be ok, but they weren’t so sure that brother and sister would. This made me realize that they were extremely proud of me and my independence, but they had to make a big deal out of the little things that brother and sister do to try to teach them the same independence that I already have.
    ~
    LW I think it is the same with your situation, they are proud of you and middle sister, more than you can know, because they know that don’t “need” them to gush over you. You and middle sister are going to be fine no matter what, while they have to worry over young sister because she may not be able to make it on her own. Hopes this helps look at their worries for your young sister.

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  • avatar

    artsygirl April 14, 2016, 9:01 am

    LW – I truly feel your pain. I am like you; I was able to graduate from undergrad and a masters program in 4 years with honors. My younger sister on the other hand had to drop out of undergrad twice for poor grades, ended up at a for profit school which cost my parents a fortune and didn’t even bother to take the state exam to be certified. She eloped with a man she had know for only a five months because they ended up pregnant (right before my wedding to a man I had been with for 7 years) and when that marriage fell apart she spun around and got pregnant by another man before her divorce had even gone through. It annoyed me to no end that she seemed to always get more support from our parents both financial and emotional. Wendy’s advice is spot on – as an older sibling you often want to yell that it is not fair but truthful life is not fair. My sister needed a lot more support because it took her a lot longer to figure out what she wanted in life. My mother once told me how relieved she is because she knows that she does not have to worry about me like she does for my sister. Good luck and congratulations on all the wonderful news with you and your family.

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      artsygirl April 14, 2016, 9:03 am

      On a quick note, my sister is now a highly accomplished and successful professional with a beautiful family. She did land on her feet, it just took her a bit longer to get there.

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  • MaterialsGirl

    MaterialsGirl April 14, 2016, 9:01 am

    Really lovely response, Wendy. I’ve experienced this with my parent’s too, and more emotion and concern was placed when I WASN’T over achieving, not necessarily when I was accomplishing something

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  • lynn

    Lynn April 14, 2016, 9:05 am

    LW, first, congratulations on your program acceptance and your engagement. That’s so exciting and you should be proud. But, IMO, I don’t think your parents excitement about your sister means they aren’t excited and proud of you. Parents generally want to see their children succeed, and they want to know their child will be OK without them. I’m sure they’re thrilled for your sister because she does seem to be marrying a decent man and she’s been kind of lost while in college. I’m sure more than anything it’s a relief to them – they’re probably thinking, “It looks like our daughter may be OK.” It may sting, and I would bet they have no idea how you’re feeling. I have a sibling who is a great person, but has just kind of taken several wrong paths before he got on the right one, and while my other siblings and I have our own great achievements, sometimes my brother gets more excitement from my parents because they’re proud as well as relieved. I’m not bothered or hurt by it because I know they’re proud of me too. Granted, I don’t know how your parents are normally, but I would suspect, it’s a bit of the same deal. I totally agree with Wendy’s advice – communicate with them, especially if you’re feeling this hurt.

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      zombeyonce April 14, 2016, 10:58 am

      I really liked how Wendy upended the perspective for LW. By reframing it into the parents being relieved about the news rather than just more excited about a wedding vs. school accomplishments (which is very likely the case), it should give LW a less resentful way to look at it.
      .
      My sister and I are very different and the paths we’ve taken in life reflect that. Our parents are proud of us for different things. She and I know that our relationships with each other and our parents are infinitely better when we appreciate everyone’s different views and are happy for each other’s good fortune (like very different types of gifts from our parents) even if it’s something we would have liked to have.
      .
      Basically, your parents being happy for your sister don’t reduce how proud they are of you, even if they don’t show it as obviously. There’s no set amount of pride they have to give away; her receiving it doesn’t take away from you receiving it.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom April 14, 2016, 9:16 am

    I learned when I was very young to be my own judge of my own accomplishments. I never got validation from my parents and never will. The fact that you have hurt feelings about this means you have greater expectations of your parents than I ever had from mine. The best you can do is to be happy with yourself and your soon to be fiance. Know the value of your own achievements and your own success and then if you get some validation elsewhere it is an unexpected extra.

    I’ve seen in my own extended family how mothers especially favor the child that they see as the weakest. They help them, coddle them, bail them out of situations, save them from their own mistakes hoping that sooner or later they will turn into a responsible adult. Sometimes this is to the point of ignoring and minimizing the achievements of the more successful kids because they don’t want to hurt the feelings of the weak child. I have seen this be such an ugly hurtful things that as a parent I have consciously tried to be even and fair with both of my kids. We support everyone in what they do.

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      em April 14, 2016, 9:54 am

      yep. I was gonna say this is a good example of “squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom April 14, 2016, 9:18 am

    @Wendy This would be a good time to get out pictures of Jackson when he was a baby and show him that you were proud of him when he was a baby developing new skills and tell him about some of the things that really stand out in your mind as things that make you proud of him. Also tell him that the baby won’t remember that you were proud of her for doing those things because we don’t remember our time as babies and that he doesn’t remember the things you were proud of when he was a baby because he was a baby but you were a proud mom. This could also give you a bit of special time between the two of you.

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  • avatar

    RedRoverRedRover April 14, 2016, 9:27 am

    The other thing is that this is a valuable lesson for all of us with kids, as Wendy realized and mentioned in her response. My mom was one of 5 kids, and she was the lowest on the totem pole in terms of being recognized or praised for anything she did. What she took from that was that she was going to treat all of her kids as equally as possible. Of course if one kid needed more attention because, say, they were floundering in school, they got that. But you should see her Christmas planning. She makes sure everyone gets the same amount within, like, $5. It’s the grandkids now and not the kids, but it’s the same principal. And she always celebrated all our achievements equally, and showed us all that she loved us equally, etc. It was great. I’m going to try to do the same thing with my kids.

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      RedRoverRedRover April 14, 2016, 9:34 am

      And to add to that, my mom was super relieved when my sister married a great guy, because she was floundering at that time and now he’s sort of “steadied” her and she’s gotten her life in order. Before that, my mom didn’t know what was going to happen to her. She had a lot of loans, couldn’t hold a job, couldn’t even decide what she wanted to do, etc. So there is probably a lot of relief mixed in to the happiness they’re feeling for your sister.

      And on top of that, if they’re somewhat traditional or conservative, a woman’s marriage might always be a bigger deal than a woman’s professional achievements. Sadly, there are still many people who think this way.

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  • avatar

    SpaceySteph April 14, 2016, 9:46 am

    As the oldest kid, I totally feel you that younger siblings seem to get praised for things that aren’t even accomplishments (getting married is a big deal but it’s not really an “achievement”) while they just take for granted that the high-achieving oldest kid is doing just fine and it’s just expected that you’ll do well.
    However, I also think that if you step back and read this letter as if it’s from a third party, you’ll see that you’re being somewhat petty. Especially that last part about your tight grad school schedule– as if an about-to-be-deployed Marine has a LESS tight schedule? It’s very kind of your fiance to be willing to work around their wedding date given his upcoming deployment.

    And you obviously weren’t rushing to the altar yourself if you were already waiting a little while to tell them. So be proud of yourself and your own accomplishments. Accept that your family may have different priorities and may get excited by different things than you want them to. And be happy for your little sister the way you’d want her to be happy for you– give love to get it, you know?

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  • avatar

    Essie April 14, 2016, 9:47 am

    Wendy, that was one of your best. Truly. Parenting isn’t easy, but you’re navigating it with wisdom and a great heart.

    LW, I’m curious – did your mom go to college? Did she have a career?

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  • avatar

    Anon April 14, 2016, 10:03 am

    I just want to raise one possibility: It may be that the LW’s parents and grandparents are as proud of her accomplishments and her master’s degree program as they are of the baby sister’s engagement.
    .
    But it’s entirely possible — and I’d say likely — that they’re not.
    .
    LW, does your grandmother have a master’s degree? Was she married?
    .
    I’m betting that the answer is grandmother doesn’t have an MA, and maybe not a BA, but she did have a husband. Grandmother is acting all excited about the engagement because that isn’t showing her up, but grandmother isn’t all excited about your degree because you’re outshining her. Making her feel bad that she doesn’t have one. Accusing her, she may feel, by your actions. Implicit criticism of her choices.
    .
    Do your parents have highly competitive master’s degrees too?
    .
    It is unfortunately extremely common that when a younger generation achieves more educationally than the older generation(s) did, that the older generations aren’t happy about it. Many of them actively undermine the educational achievements of the younger ones. And when the younger ones succeed anyone, the older ones criticize, bully and ostracize the more academically successful members of the family. That’s especially true when the younger generation is the first to go to college.
    .
    It’s possible that the lack of excitement is because they’re proud of you but don’t say so. But unless your parents and grandmother are as academically successful in similarly competitive programs, I’d put my money on them not being excited because they’re jealous and fceling outdone.
    .
    We talk about the mommy wars and people feeling implicitly criticized by other people’s choices. The same thing happens, even more viciously, about academics and within our own families.
    .
    That’s what I’d lay my money on.

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      SpaceySteph April 14, 2016, 12:02 pm

      Wow, this seems way out of left field to me. Perhaps it’s true in a small subset, but I’d be willing to bet that it’s rare that people are actually jealous of their children doing better than them. That’s why people work hard, is to give their kids a better life.

      If they aren’t proud, and they might not be, I’d more expect that it’s because they have an old fashioned gender role in mind. They may be glad the LW works hard and supports herself and probably expected her to go to college, while at the same time expecting that she’ll let her career take a backseat to be a wife and mother one day and this grad school thing appears to be a postponement of that.

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        Anon April 14, 2016, 11:11 pm

        I wish all parents tried to give their kids a better life, and that parental jealousy of kids who outshine them in some way is rare. Unfortunately, it’s not.

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    Brise April 14, 2016, 10:12 am

    LW, if you speak to your little sister the way you speak of her, I understand it must have been difficult for her to cope with such elder siblings. You sound quite competitive yourself. Rejoice for her and let her have her wedding without interfering with yours which isn’t even announced yet. This is, for her who struggles with a low self esteem, a great personal achievement and pride. She will probably bloom as a family woman, and you should value that too. You should value her more in general. Start your program. Your time will come.

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  • othy

    othy April 14, 2016, 10:41 am

    LW, congrats on your engagement and your acceptance into your grad program. Both are huge deals. You know how much work they took to get there and you got into the master’s program because you’re internally driven, a hard worker, and you understand what needs to get done to be accomplished. Your parents know this about you. However, it sounds like your sister isn’t. She probably needs a lot more encouragement from others to get things done, isn’t sure of what she wants to do with her life (like anyone does at 20), and is having a hard time with the transition from being a teen to adulthood. Pair this with two very successful sisters who have their shit together, and of course she’s having a hard time.

    It doesn’t help that you come off a bit judgmental (even if you don’t mean it to be, it sounds that way): “My 20-year-old sister, on the other hand, is still in undergrad, has changed her major four times, and has lost her scholarships due to poor grades.” At 20, I was still in my undergrad, it’s rare to be done at that age. I changed my major 3 times, which I think is very normal in the first year or two of school. As far as the scholarship, I think it’s awesome she had one in the first place, some are VERY competitive to keep (my husband had to keep a 3.8 to keep his, which is insane!). For some, the transition from high school into college is tough because there are very different expectations in terms of workload. It sounds like she’ll graduate a bit late, but it’s not like she’s getting kicked out of school for poor performance is she’s still on track to graduate. Pair this with you looking down on her “field [that] is shrinking and the jobs don’t pay well” – really, what 20 actually ends up working directly in their field of study? For some, interesting work is far more important than a high paying job.

    My advice to you is to try and see things from your sister’s perspective. Try and remember how tough it was in your early 20s, and how much you loved celebrating your successes. Your sister just got engaged, so be happy for her – as happy as you want her to be for you. Give it a couple of weeks (so as not to steal her thunder) and announce your engagement. Talk to your sister about dates she and her fiance were planning on getting married, and avoid those couple of weeks around her wedding, but other than that you’re free to marry when you choose. And remember that your parents really are proud of you, even if they don’t need to be as vocal about it as they are with your sister.

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  • avatar

    Ele4phant April 14, 2016, 11:14 am

    LW I feel you. Being the higher achieving child can suck. Your siblings get praise for doing things that barely get noticed when you do them, their expectations are so much higher.

    Sometimes you can even get in trouble when you do the same things your siblings do. Be honest, if *you* had gotten engaged at 20 would your parents be excited? Probably not, they probably would have been horrified and worried about how that would compromise your education and bright future. No such worries for your sister…they must feel so relieved she has someone solid to take care of her and they can worry a little bit less about her now.

    I know it’s hard to feel ignored or like they take your accomplishments for granted, but I’ve come to take solace in the fact my parents never worry about me like they do about my brothers. Somehow, I’ve come to find that better than pride. And I’ve also gotten more confident about owning my accomplishments. I’m proud of me. It’s nice when others are too, but I don’t need outside validation as much as I used to.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom April 14, 2016, 11:22 am

    As a parent I would be concerned if my 20-year-old daughter announced she was marrying a guy she had known for six months. Marriages that happen so young have high divorce rates and getting married so rapidly also has a high divorce rate. It seems more par for the course of poor decisions than a thing to celebrate. I wouldn’t assume that she is now settled for life. I’d assume she would be married and divorced around age 25 to 27. It doesn’t seem like stability and good decision making or that her life will suddenly be in order.

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      xoxo April 14, 2016, 1:07 pm

      I completely agree. While usually getting marriage should be celebrated, the circumstances of this engagement- her young age, the short time they have known each other- are tremendously concerning. If I were the baby sister’s parents I wouldn’t be so sure that this marriage would automatically “save” my “f-up” daughter.

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  • avatar

    dinoceros April 14, 2016, 11:31 am

    A lot of older generations care more about marriage than career accomplishments because that’s the world they grew up in. I don’t know if all of your family went to college, but mine didn’t, so they don’t really “get” grad school. They said they were proud, but I could tell they didn’t really know why, and none of them came to my graduation. It wasn’t until my stepmom attended the graduation of a co-worker getting an MBA that she realized that grad school is apparently a big deal to other families, but it was too late to book a flight to come to mine.
    .
    Point is, I understand what it’s like to some degree. Also, I think it’s similar to situations where parents give monetary help to the hot-mess sibling. They EXPECT you to do great things, so when you do, it’s not a surprise. When your sister does something that seems adult-like, it probably is less expected to them. Not to mention, maybe they’re just worried they’d have to support her forever and now they think they can pawn her off on a Marine.

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  • avatar

    Jkishi April 14, 2016, 11:56 am

    I’m sort of failing to see why your sister’s academic record is of importance here.

    She’s engaged-that’s great! You’re engaged-that’s great!

    You got into a master’s that’s awesome! Your twenty year old sister is not yet done her undergrad.

    Look you’re in two different periods of your academic/professional lives. You can’t compare where you at seven years older, and a different mentality and mindset are to your twenty year old sister. That’s unfair to her.

    Axademia and professional accomplishments are personal-it’s hard to celebrate and to show enthousasm if you’re not in the field but that doesn’t mean your parents aren’t proud of you.

    Weddings and engagements are more communal and easier to be involved in and show enthousasm. It’s comparing apples to oranges.

    Work with your sister to pick dates that don’t coincide. Be happy for her, she is presumably happy for you.

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      ele4phant April 14, 2016, 1:18 pm

      “Weddings and engagements are more communal and easier to be involved in and show enthusiasm. It’s comparing apples to oranges.”

      I think this is a big part of it. There’s going to be this big event that everybody gets to get dressed up and be part of. And all this planning along the way. While I’m sure your family IS very proud of you and your admission to your program, they’re not really involved. It’s all on you. But with your sister’s wedding (and yours once you announce it!) they get to participate much more directly.

      So a large part of their excitement probably has less to do with feeling proud for her, and their delight about getting to be to be part of this whole big thing.

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  • avatar

    for_cutie April 14, 2016, 12:25 pm

    Ugh, I am sorry LW. I totally 100% relate to your situation, and based on the comments it seems like there are a lot of other independent, successful adults who have felt the same thing from their parents. For me, it was an important time to think about boundaries. Parents were not providing the emotional support I needed, so I recognized a distance was growing there. When it is your turn to get married, have kids, make big life decisions, just remember – you got this! You got there on your own. Your parent’s opinions are just that, opinions, you have this life thing under control and don’t need them or their platitudes. Congratulations on your accomplishments, and hopefully grad school will introduce you to a whole new network of hard-working and intelligent peers that you can lean on for praise of professional accomplishments. People who will genuinely know what it takes to achieve these goals.

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  • avatar

    Jane63 April 14, 2016, 12:40 pm

    Awesome response, Wendy.

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    keyblade April 14, 2016, 12:43 pm

    Letter writer, I think you are having a hard time with this because your sister isn’t getting the disapproval that you think she deserves from your parents. You are working two jobs and also accepted into an incredibly competitive master’s program. This is a wonderful accomplishment and something you should take pride in. It speaks to your discipline, focus, and hard work. You also refer to field as “cutting edge”. Clearly you believe you are on the road to great success. Perhaps you are an over-achiever.

    Your youngest sister is twenty and “still and undergrad”. Most people have only been in school for two years and are still undergrads so I’m not sure why this deserves note. Is it because she isn’t ahead of schedule? You note that she had a scholarship but lost it and that she has switched her major a few different times. You seem to think this former academic just didn’t give a shit and partied too hard. It would seem she was struggling to find a field she felt she could succeed in academically. Again, there seems to be a lot of judgment about where you think your sister ought to be.

    “She won’t be able to support herself with her current major if she does graduate because her field is shrinking and the jobs don’t pay well.”

    I’m a bit curious why you didn’t just say what she is majoring in. Why didn’t you just write that she is in humanities or whatever it is? Could it be that if someone else might find what she is interested in pursuing perfectly respectable?

    Most of all, you seem very critical of her choice to get married. Why on earth would she tell her judgmental older sister about her plans before your parents? Could it be she knew what to expect from you as confidently as you seem to know all your sister’s choices are those of a fuck up? And that her decision to marry young and live her life differently than you, would be viewed through a competitive lens?

    My guess is your grandma’s were squealing with delight because in their time, getting married at twenty wasn’t scandalous and she is the first granddaughter in your family to announce an engagement. I don’t know why your parents are excited for your sister, but I might guess it’s because they want her to have the life she wants for herself and they trust her to be okay living with what might come from her big life decisions. Perhaps your parents do have concerns but don’t feel it is appropriate to reassure their oldest, self-supporting child about them.

    This might be confusing for you because you seem to judge your sister by what you perceive as a lack of effort to think ahead in the way that you would. You sound like a numbers person and you evaluate decisions as good or bad based on how much work and and thought goes into them and if these decisions can withstand external scrutiny. This is valid. For you.

    I agree with Wendy’s advice. I think you should talk to your parents about how you feel and give them an opportunity to give you the approval and validation which you crave. But please be mindful of comparing relationships. Or allowing your opinions to keep you from being a loving, supportive sister. Don’t be a know-it-all.

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  • bittergaymark

    bittergaymark April 14, 2016, 12:47 pm

    Honestly? Getting married IS a big deal. My wonderfully supportive parents (no sarcasm here either) were far more excited about my sister’s wedding than any scholastic achievements of mine (or hers for that matter!) Finding a life partner is NO easy feat, I must say… and yes, I speak from the experience of never finding this. Knowing at this point I probably won’t either. Oh, well. Sometimes in life you have to just be happy for yourself. And not stand around waiting for the others to applaud…

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    • Dear Wendy

      Dear Wendy April 14, 2016, 1:16 pm

      I agree with you, BGM. I think finding someone to spend your life with — to love and grow old with trumps a degree or a promotion any day of the damn week. But that speaks to my priorities and values. I think LOVE is the best and most important thing. That’s not to say that academic and career achievements aren’t worthy of celebration, but I, personally, don’t think they’re as big of a deal as finding lasting love, and I’d be WAY more excited about going to a loved one’s wedding that a loved one’s graduation, for example. Hell, I didn’t even go to my *own* grad school graduation.

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        Ella_ April 14, 2016, 2:17 pm

        Wow, I’m really surprised by this. I think they’re in totally separate categories (and I think everyone would prefer a wedding to graduation — a wedding is a fun party with drinking and good food and dancing and a graduation can be boring with speeches and just a list of names read out). But in my opinion getting married isn’t necessarily a big accomplishment. Anyone can get married anytime they want. And I am saying this as a person who loves weddings and always cries and all that. I’m sure my personal viewpoint is different because of the situation I am in, but this summer I am finishing my Ph.D. and my younger brother is getting married. If someone told me they were more proud of my brother or happier for him than they were for me, I would be really, really hurt by that.

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        Ella_ April 14, 2016, 2:23 pm

        I don’t know if that came out totally right. I just mean that I think they’re totally different things and comparing them is impossible. I would be thrilled for anyone who does either, but I can see how this LW would feel like her parents aren’t recognizing her acceptance as a personal accomplishment, when getting married (or engaged) seems like a totally different kind of thing that not everyone would consider a “personal accomplishment.”

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        ele4phant April 14, 2016, 2:34 pm

        I think that’s the thing. They’re very different things, and deserve different reactions.

        I am both married and have earned a postgraduate degree. While I’m immensely proud of myself for writing a thesis and earning my degree (and I know my loved ones are too), getting into my program and finishing it wasn’t really a celebratory thing. I mean, I didn’t even go to graduation or have a party.

        Whereas my wedding was a very joyful occasion. And frankly, yeah, committing to one person for the rest of your life kind of IS a bigger deal than finishing a post graudate degree. Not that it’s not a great accomplishment, but marriage is a big big commitment. Sure anyone can do it anytime without much “prep” work I guess, but it signifies a lifetime of work to come, you know?

        Maybe it’s not about pride. Marriage is more joyful than finishing school. Joyful things deserve a lot of squealing and jumping up and down. Doesn’t mean getting married is more deserving of pride and admiration than getting an advanced degree, just more fanfare.

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        keyblade April 14, 2016, 3:08 pm

        “in my opinion getting married isn’t necessarily a big accomplishment”.

        I agree. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t important to her sister. Nobody told this letter writer they were more proud of her sister or happier for her. What I didn’t like was the laundry list of reasons the letter writer has decided her sister doesn’t deserve the love and approval she is receiving. I can totally relate to having grandmothers who buy into a different set of values. And that can hurt. But other people’s values are no reflection of the letter writer. Unless her sister knew the letter writer was planning to announce her own engagement this week, she hasn’t done anything but to live her own life. If the parents have a history of favoring one daughter over the other, then I can understand why the letter writer is so upset. But this letter writer has accomplished enough to feel good about herself. Getting accepted into a program is great, but if I wanted to be critical I could argue that she hasn’t really accomplished anything yet, either. I’m not sure getting accepted for another degree would prompt me to squeal in delight. Especially if I didn’t really understand the work that went into getting accepted or that the recipient was going to be hurt by a perceived under reaction. She should talk it out with her parents.

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        Ella_ April 14, 2016, 3:13 pm

        Yeah, I totally agree with what you are saying about the LW — I was reacting more to the idea that getting married should be more celebrated than a professional or educational accomplishment. We don’t know much about the LW’s family dynamics so all sorts of things could be going on. It sounds like she has lots of support from a great fiancé so I agree that she should be happy and excited for her future, but also express her feelings to her parents.

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        AndSoItGoes April 14, 2016, 7:32 pm

        Not so much a criticism as an addition to your comment, Wendy….

        Important and deep love can be found and expressed and lived in ways that don’t involve partnership or even family. There are people for whom their work is an expression of a commitment to love–either in terms of what their work provides to others or in terms of their relationship to the work itself. While it is true that not all degrees/promotions fall within this description, I suppose my view here is that the Love/Work dichotomy is too restrictive in general, despite that the two are opposed for some people.

        I don’t want to get too personal (or make anyone gag), but I feel that I express and participate and encourage love through my work, and that was made possible by my advanced degrees.

        None of this really pertains to the LW. As others have said, much of her view, the view of her parents, etc., depends on how they value partnership and work. I am also definitely not suggesting that your values are wrong, Wendy. 🙂 Even if love can be present in both family/partnership and work, they are certainly different kinds and will be valued differently. I would just hate to imply that it’s a choice between Love and Not Love or Deep Experiences and Superficial Experiences.

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      keyblade April 14, 2016, 1:49 pm

      “Sometimes in life you have to just be happy for yourself. And not stand around waiting for the others to applaud…”

      like x 1000

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      dinoceros April 14, 2016, 6:10 pm

      Interesting. I don’t see getting married as an accomplishment. Sure, you have to work to keep relationships, but it’s also mostly luck. The proudest I’ve been of my younger cousins has been related to academics or activism. I’d be happy for them to find someone, but I wouldn’t say I’d be proud or feel that it’s more of an achievement than something they actually set goals for.

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        keyblade April 14, 2016, 6:31 pm

        But neither BGM nor Wendy did say getting married was an accomplishment. Mark said it was a BIG deal and his parents were excited (not proud). Wendy said finding love and companionship would trump a promotion or academic achievement for HER.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy April 14, 2016, 7:06 pm

        Yeah, I wouldn’t (and didn’t) say that getting married is an accomplishment or an achievement. But I, personally, thinking finding and committing to the love of your life is a bigger deal than getting a promotion or an advanced degree.

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        Sue Jones April 14, 2016, 10:13 pm

        IF the relationship is successful. My philosophy on the other hand has always been that your degree is yours forever and relationships (and marriages) may come and go. So if I had a daughter I would rather she get that advanced degree before she got married. It is always a shame when women allow themselves to be picked before they truly ripen.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy April 15, 2016, 2:52 am

        To each her own. I’d be disappointed if one of my kids got married before getting an undergrad degree. But an advanced degree? I don’t know… it seems kind of elitist to be disappointed about someone getting married before getting a masters degree. And I certainly don’t consider an advanced degree to be the ultimate sign of someone “fully ripening.”

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        SpaceySteph April 15, 2016, 7:26 am

        Lol at your last line. What, exactly, does cause a woman to ripen? I know for avocados its when they’re soft but not squishy and for peppers it’s when they turn a certain color. I only have a bachelor’s degree. How do I check myself for ripeness to know if I’m ready to be…picked?

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy April 15, 2016, 8:14 am

        Ha!

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom April 15, 2016, 8:02 am

        There is long term security in the advanced degree as long as it is in a field with jobs. With that degree she’ll be fine no matter what happens in her personal life. I think it is half the equation for happiness. Being financially independent allows a woman to walk away from bad situations and so allows her to be picky about who she allows into her personal life. Having the right person in her personal life fills the other half of the equation. I would hate to see either a son or a daughter throwing away their ability to be financially independent.

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      • Dear Wendy

        Dear Wendy April 15, 2016, 8:13 am

        I do agree with you that financial independence is a necessity; I absolutely want both my children to grow up to be able to support themselves (and spouses and kids should they choose to have them), but I definitely don’t think an advanced degree is the only — or even main — way to get there. In fact, most of the more successful people I know (in terms of financial security and professional achievements) only have bachelor degrees and are better off than our peers with advanced degrees.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom April 15, 2016, 8:40 am

        I think it depends on where you live. The people that I see in our area who are the most financially comfortable are those couples with two advanced degrees, things like opthamologist/chiropractor, MD/MD.

        To be very fair I also see trades people making very good livings and having stable lives. Couples who run construction companies or realty firms. Also the plumbers and electricians are doing very well.

        I think a happy life is a successful life. If a person spends their entire life in jobs that they hate but they pay the bills and give a lavish lifestyle I wouldn’t consider that person as successful in life as the person who has jobs that they love but lives a much less lavish lifestyle but is happy with both work and personal life. I think the person who manages to be happy through life is the person who is the most successful.

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        keyblade April 15, 2016, 8:16 am

        I’m inclined to agree in my personal preferences for my kids, but I’ve seen enough exceptions not to paint conclusions about other people’s lives with too broad of a brush. That includes conclusions about what is most meaningful and important in life.

        I wouldn’t be thrilled if this had been my sister’s decision just from a place of concern. But there seems to be an assumption that this woman can’t complete a degree after she gets married. Sure, it might be more difficult but it seems more and more classes are available remotely. And getting engaged after six months is not the same as getting married. Perhaps they will rush to the alter before they move but perhaps they won’t.

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      • bittergaymark

        bittergaymark April 15, 2016, 7:30 pm

        Exactly, but maybe if more people VIEWED it as an accomplishment — instead of, say, marrying the first guy who fucking bothers to call them back it would be more revered. But the drama and endless whining of the LW — sorry, but those updates REALLY didn’t help — just had me rolling my eyes.

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  • avatar

    TigerShark April 14, 2016, 3:32 pm

    OP here. I originally left out quite a bit of context when I wrote the letter, because… well… to be honest, I was really upset. But I’ll try to address the questions everyone has as best I can.

    First off, before anything else, I am an Army brat. My father was active duty military for more than 25 years. I know the life and the stresses it involves intimately. My father is very ambitious himself, but he comes from a poor background. The only reason he has a degree is because his parents had saved money from when he was born for his older brother; however, his older brother refused the money because he hated them at the time. That money still wasn’t enough but through hard work he got his degree in just three years. He is the kind of person who always told me my best was the minimum, not the maximum. He always emphasized that I needed to try my hardest at all times to shatter my limits. My mother is an accountant who always backed him. So, yes – I was raised that ambition and hard work are paramount.
    Being the oldest in my family basically resulted in being anointed “junior parent”. When I was eight I was changing my sister’s diapers. Hand me downs from my high school age cousins were “new clothes”. At twelve I wasn’t allowed to go to after school activities and had to come home and babysit my sisters instead. At thirteen, when my mother had the opportunity to get two of us horse riding lessons for free, she pulled me aside and asked me to not want them so my sisters could have them.
    At fourteen my father was deployed to Iraq and my mother’s mental state crumbled; suddenly for a year I was mom, dad, and me. I was the one who got my sisters up for school, who fed them, who made sure they did their homework, who dealt with my then 13 year old sister’s preteen rage issues, who had to steal mom’s credit card from her purse and walk a mile to the grocery store with a backpack to get groceries so we could eat, who stayed up past midnight getting my own work done.
    My father’s condition for going to my dream college was that I was in Army ROTC for at least two years to take advantage of a scholarship and because he wanted me to follow in his footsteps. I sucked it up – even though I hated every minute – because that was what was required to be where I wanted to be. When I graduated from college (Cum Laude) and couldn’t find a job right away, my parents decided I was lazy and kicked me out. I only ended up with a roof over my head because I managed to convince them that I should be allowed to move in with one of my grandmothers to take care of her “in her advanced age” (though she was doing perfectly fine at the time). As far as they were concerned, this meant I was rededicating myself to my familial duty and learning discipline.

    The standards for baby sister have always been different. They just have. Brand new everything whenever she wanted it, parents making time for her activities, giving her choices, forgiving her for mistakes, paying for sorority dues… yeah. They’ve always been different. Despite all this we used to be a team at home. She used to come comfort me when I couldn’t take it anymore.

    I don’t begrudge her for being in undergrad. Neither do I care that she doesn’t have a STEM major. However, she started off business, changed to hospitality, changed to psychology, changed to something else, etc… there isn’t a lot of overlap in courses between her choice in majors. That’s why in addition to her grades she can’t graduate on time. Her scholarship that she lost paid for 75% of her tuition and she only had to maintain a 3.0.

    Her Marine isn’t being deployed. I won’t say where he is going just in case there are OPSEC guidelines I don’t know about, but suffice to say he’s being sent to a plum duty station with a tropical climate that is perfectly safe in a first world country. People go there for honeymoons. Believe me, if he was being deployed I would have much more respect for the situation. I also have to respect that in the absence of any daughters going into the military, my father basically considers him the “heir apparent” for also going into the service. This is probably one more reason my father was so proud.

    So, yeah. I don’t really know that anyone cares, but there’s the more complete picture if someone wants to comment on it.

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      AndSoItGoes April 14, 2016, 7:47 pm

      TigerShark, I sometimes think the one lesson most of us never really learn is that life is not fair. We know it, intellectually, but everything else in us revolts against it.

      This inequality in your family is going to be a scab that never goes away. The best you can do is try not to pick at it. That’s been my experience, at least. It’s also true, no matter how little consolation it provides sometimes, that you’ve got skills that your sister may never develop. You are likely stronger, too. You know what you’re made of because you’ve been in the fire. No matter how much your family neglects to acknowledge your battles and your victories, that level of SELF-knowledge is very valuable. There are plenty of lost souls out there looking for it….

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom April 15, 2016, 8:23 am

      As you and your siblings go through life you will see that the favoring your sister has received and is still receiving will cause her to have a miserable adult life. In the meantime you will have a much better adult life even though you are covered with a huge emotional scar. Knowing that you are having a better adult life and will continue to have a better adult life doesn’t take away the emotional pain but you will probably come to see that the favoring she received hasn’t prepared her for life. The world won’t coddle your sister and bail her out and at some point your parents won’t be able to do that either. They may be able to help her all the way through her middle age but at some point they will be gone and there will be no one to save her from herself. She will be a mess and if she has kids they will likely also be a mess. I’ve seen this in my own extended family. The favored child ends up in bad relationships and raising kids on her own and those kids are also messed up from the lack of stability in their own childhood. It spans multiple generations and the children of the favored child have much less of a safety net. The grandparents help with them when they are small but as they become their own lost adults the grandparents don’t have the financial means to support all of them and their children and many of them end up living in poverty.

      Know for your own self that you are doing good and celebrate your achievements with your husband. Don’t expect or look for validation from your parents because it won’t be there. That’s just a fact of your life. It can be liberating to realize that you can do what you want with your life and since you don’t have a close relationship with your parents you can feel free to move with your husband to whatever location works the best for the two of you. We live 1000 miles from my parents and that is a great distance for us. It protects us and our kids from my mom’s attitude. It’s better for the kids to spend little time with a grandmother who treats us as second rate. Establish any boundaries you may need with your parents and live your life in a way that makes you and your husband and any future kids you may have happy. Your mom may hate it and feel that you have somehow “stolen” your youngest sister’s happiness but you know that you’ve earned it all on your own. Your mom may very well resent your success because she will feel that it overshadows your sister. Your mom probably hates that people will be comparing your youngest sister to you and your other sister and make judgements about her not doing well. Your mom may try to talk up ever little thing that your sister does to try to impress other people with how wonderful she is while saying nothing about you or your other sister. My mom has done all of that. Your mom will probably hate the fact that she can’t knock you down in life and give what you have earned to your sister. She will hate the fact that she can’t make other people respect your sister.

      Quit expecting anything from your mom because it won’t be there. Build your own supportive relationships with other people that you choose because they bring happiness into your life.

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  • avatar

    TigerShark April 14, 2016, 3:55 pm

    OP here. I originally left out quite a bit of context when I wrote the letter, because… well… to be honest, I was really upset. But I’ll try to address the questions everyone has as best I can.

    First off, before anything else, I am an Army brat. My father was active duty military for more than 25 years. I know the life and the stresses it involves intimately. My father is very ambitious himself, but he comes from a poor background. The only reason he has a degree is because his parents had saved money from when he was born for his older brother, but his older brother refused it because he hated them at the time. That money got him three years. He is the kind of person who always told me my best was the minimum, not the maximum, and that I needed to try my hardest at all times to shatter my limits. My mother is an accountant who always backed him. So, yes – I was raised that ambition and hard work are paramount.
    Being the oldest in my family basically resulted in being anointed “junior parent”. When I was eight I was changing my sister’s diapers. Hand me downs from my high school age cousins were “new clothes”. At twelve I wasn’t allowed to go to after school activities and had to come home and babysit my sisters instead. At thirteen, when my mother had the opportunity to get two of us horse riding lessons for free, she pulled me aside and asked me to not want them so my sisters could have them. At fourteen my father was deployed to Iraq and my mother’s mental state crumbled. My mother almost never left her room. I was the one who got my sisters up for school, who fed them, who made sure they did their homework, who dealt with my then 13 year old sister’s preteen rage issues, who had to steal mom’s credit card from her purse and walk to the grocery store with a backpack to get groceries so we could eat, who stayed up past midnight getting my own work done.
    My father’s condition for going to my dream college was that I was in Army ROTC for at least two years to take advantage of a scholarship. He also wanted me to follow in his footsteps. I sucked it up – even though I hated every minute and had no intention of joining – because that was what was required to be where I wanted to be. When I graduated from college (Cum Laude) and couldn’t find a job right away, my parents decided I was lazy and kicked me out. I only ended up with a roof over my head because I managed to convince them that I should be allowed to move in with one of my grandmothers to take care of her “in her advanced age” (though she was doing perfectly fine at the time). As far as they were concerned, this meant I was rededicating myself to my familial duty and learning discipline.

    The standards for baby sister have always been different. They just have. Brand new everything whenever she wanted it, parents making time for her activities, giving her choices, forgiving her for mistakes… yeah. They’ve always been different. Despite all this we used to be a team at home. She used to come comfort me when I couldn’t take it anymore.

    I don’t begrudge her for being in undergrad. Neither do I care that she doesn’t have a STEM major. However, she started off business, changed to hospitality, changed to psychology, etc… there isn’t a lot of overlap in courses between her choice in majors. That’s why in addition to her grades she can’t graduate on time. Her scholarship that she lost paid for 75% of her tuition and she only had to maintain a 3.0.

    Her Marine isn’t being deployed; he’s being sent to a plum duty station with a tropical climate that is perfectly safe in a first world country. People go there for honeymoons. Believe me, if he was being deployed I would have much more respect for the situation. I also have to respect that in the absence of any daughters going into the military, my father basically considers him the “heir apparent” for also going into the service. This is probably one more reason my father was so proud.

    So… yeah. TL:DR – you all are probably right. On all counts.
    1) I have jealousy and resentment issues.
    2) I can’t earn my parent’s love, no matter how hard I’ve tried, and it’s not my sister’s fault.
    3) I need to stop hoping they will recognize what I’ve been through and stop treating me the way they have my entire life.

    But oh, it stings. 🙁

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    • MaterialsGirl

      MaterialsGirl April 14, 2016, 4:14 pm

      I’m so sorry, TigerShark. I definitely had a lot of the same issues as the oldest of 5 as you described in the first few paragraphs. Eerily similar (minus the army brat part)

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      keyblade April 14, 2016, 5:26 pm

      No wonder you write that you “don’t feel happy. I feel angry and hurt.” Do you have someone you can talk with about the consequences of your dad’s pressure on your psyche? How unfair and helpless you must have felt when your mom couldn’t mother and you took on that responsibilty? For the approval and validation you didn’t receive for all of your hard work? For the way the world bent and your sister received such a different experience?

      What do you think that you need now? Would a hug feel good from a place of sympathy?

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      • avatar

        Adrienne April 14, 2016, 8:27 pm

        Nothing to add, just wanted to say I thought Wendy did a great job with her response!

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    • avatar

      Anon April 14, 2016, 11:30 pm

      TigerShark, I’m so sorry. I hurt for you just reading that. Warm electronic hugs to you.

      If you’re not familiar with the concept of overfunctioning vs. underfunctioning, and how that fits into family dynamics, you may find it very interesting.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom April 15, 2016, 8:32 am

        I’d love to study the concept of overfunctioning vs. underfunctioning. Do you have any links or suggested books?

        My own experience has been that the overfunctioning family members had miserable childhoods but happy adult lives. The underfunctioning family members have had happier childhoods and miserable adult lives. One of my brothers had a miserable childhood and a miserable adult life. He was so beaten down in childhood he had nothing left to face adult life.

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    mamamia April 17, 2016, 4:14 pm

    I started typing my response before I read the letter writer’s update. I thought I was missing something…I didnt understand why people were berating her so much and calling her petty , jealous, judegmental. People write in here to get some common sense advice as well as comfort. If I cant provide comfort i’d at least refrain from berating the LW. Wendy gave some wonderful advice but the bottomline is that dear LW, ‘if you cannot find the emotional fulfillment that you so desperately need from your own family, you have to look for it elsewhere. Sad but true. Hopefully you will find many more like minded people in grad school who share the same values and with whom you can bond intellectually and in other ways. I totally support how you feel (even before I read your update), The fact that people are making a much bigger deal about finding a life partner than years of slogging to get into a place which will take care of your future financially and in other ways…is totally lost on me. And honestly if 2 people date for 6 months and decide to get engaged at the age of 20 it does NOT mean that they’ll be partners for life…esp in this country. so be happy for her , participate in the wedding whole heartedly like a sister would, but you are justified if you feel anger or resentment. I would have felt that too. Sending you positive vibes and lots of good wishes for a great career and great engagement.

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