It’s time again for “Dear Wendy Updates,” a feature where people I’ve given advice to in the past let us know whether they followed the advice and how they’re doing today. After the jump, we hear from “Sibling Rivalry” who was upset that her parents, who are much better off now than when they were raising her, choose to lavish her younger brothers with gifts and art classes and don’t help out her and her husband who are struggling financially. Keep reading for her response to our advice.
input from you and the commenters. My update isn’t really an update but more of just a reaction. Okay, it looks like I left out a couple of details. But that letter was getting long!
About college financing: they did not consider me responsible at eighteen. Although I got a half ride academic scholarship to a state school, they were unwilling to pay for the other half because they were pretty sure I would be a first year dropout – I had been struggling with depression my junior and senior year in high school and my grades had dropped from As to Cs. I begged. I cried. They still said no, that I was immature and would probably flunk out after my first year. Begging for money was humiliating and not an experience I would ever care to repeat. (While I did not actually flunk out of school, I did end up working forty hours a week while simultaneously trying to maintain an unhealthy relationship with a whiny, clingy man-child. Well, I didn’t actually think he was at the time. I thought he was wonderful. I ended up with a 2.6 GPA and lost my scholarship. So I did leave after the first year. In retrospect I should have dumped the frat boy boyfriend and his insistence that I appear at his parties, cut back on the hours just a smidge, studied more and I probably could have gotten that B average, but you know what they say about hindsight.)
When I came home that summer I was angry and resentful of my parents because I felt that if they’d paid for my schooling I would be fine. They were angry that I was blaming them for my problems when in their eyes I had proved them right. I left their house on poor terms (as in we didn’t speak for six months) and got my own apartment in town and only reconciled with them because I missed my brothers.
I have since come to own my mistakes in that whole debacle, and my parents maintain that they made the right decision. I am very satisfied with my relationship with them in every other aspect, so we just don’t talk about it.
So, you’re totally right – if I don’t want to ask, I shouldn’t complain when I don’t receive. I know in my head my parents don’t love my brothers more. I am proud that everything I have, I’ve earned. And I’m going to try to believe that my parents are proud of me, too, and that’s why they didn’t send any money my way for my birthday or Christmas, and not that they feel I don’t deserve it. And I’m working on the sense of entitlement that I didn’t fully recognize before. It was enormously comforting to me to know I’m not the only one in this boat, that other people would be bothered, too. I feel less like a terrible, petty person. So thank you for that, too.
As for our finances: both of the cars will be paid off in August which will free up a ginormous amount of our income (one of them was bought by an at-the-time single man who could afford a brand new car and on which we only recently stopped owing more than it was worth). The unexpected debt came from my husband needing a surgery that put him out of work for a time – before we were married and he was on my insurance.
In response to the one commenter who wondered why all the bitterness at the art lessons: It’s not bitterness so much as wistfulness. When I was his age I spent all my babysitting money on art supplies. I was very into painting and drawing. I took all the art classes offered in middle school but when I hit high school I had to choose between art and music due to scheduling, and I stuck with music because I figured I could always paint on my own. I still would have loved art lessons. And I don’t begrudge my brother his art lessons, at all. It’s not me wanting to take away from him. In fact, he got interested in drawing from watching me do it. I’m incredibly stoked that I influenced him that way.
In response to the one commenter who was worried we would have a child we can’t afford: No need to worry about the state of our loins, thanks for your concern, though.
What stuck out to me in your response here is this part: “I’m going to try to believe that my parents are proud of me, too, and that’s why they didn’t send any money my way for my birthday or Christmas, and not that they feel I don’t deserve it. And I’m working on the sense of entitlement that I didn’t fully recognize before.” You got Christmas and birthday gifts and yet, somehow, you still feel as if you were ignored or let down … because you didn’t get the cash that you asked for. I know this seems like I’m picking on you, and I guess I kind of am, but I see you as a great example of what so many people from your generation — people born in the 80s and early 90s — believe: that they are entitled to everything they want if there are people in their lives who are in a position to give it to them. You think you’re entitled to your parents’ money and to certain jobs and to a cushy life. But… that’s not how it works.
You want to pay off your debt? Then cut corners in your budget. Sell one of your two cars and start carpooling to work. Or sell the most expensive car and buy an older one. Or get a roommate. Or cut coupons. Or go on a shopping diet. Eat more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Switch to store brand toiletries instead of name brand stuff. Quit charging things you don’t have the cash to pay for. There are so many ways you can bail yourself out — especially when you are married and have the luxury of a partner-in-crime (not to mention a second income, no matter how small it might be…). You shouldn’t be relying on your parents to bail you out, and you certainly should not be getting upset when they choose to spend their own annual bonuses on themselves and the kids they still have at home rather than paying off some of your debt.
The fact is you do seem to have a sense of entitlement. But the “you” I see here isn’t just you. It’s a whole generation of you’s. Babies of the 80s, hear this: You are adults now and the world — and your parents — don’t owe you anything. You gotta make your own way, just like the generations of young adults did before you.
If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.