I have an older sister, “Hope,” who married a jerk. They lost their house and he took off for another state, leaving her and two kids (11 and 14) behind. My parents bought her a house – paid for it outright in full. I was ok with it, telling myself that if I was in need, they would help me and my kids. My parents have always been fair and even-steven until now. They actually came to me and said that because they bought her a house, they were changing their will to reflect I would get 100% ownership of the family cabin. I was thankful, and we moved on.
Fast forward to our Fourth of July family vacation at the family cabin. It was originally just my husband, kids, and me, but Hope asked to join us for a few days, and we said sure! However, we were miserable. Her kids have turned in to bad influences on my son, and they are lazy and whiny and it’s hard to watch how they work their mom. She decided to stay longer than originally planned, and we asked her to leave so we could have a few days of family time alone.
Well, my parents didn’t like that and threatened to sell the cabin. In the exchange of angry words my mother said they never changed the will to reflect my inheriting the cabin. I feel betrayed. I also tried to explain how difficult her family is to be around and that I felt justified in asking for our space. That only angered my parents more because Hope and the kids have been through so much.
Also, she will be using the cabin with her kids and her new boyfriend for a week by themselves and we aren’t going to crash her week, even though I want to. So my questions are: Am I being a spoiled brat? Should I tell my parents that I don’t understand why they lied to me about the will? Should I have sucked it up and put up with her kids and not asked her to leave? — Feeling Emotionally Charged
Instead of expressing any care or concern or support for your sister, your letter is all “me me me, what about meeee?” I get that your feelings might be hurt. I understand that you felt inconvenienced having your family vacation “crashed” by your sister, but did you stop to consider her point of view? Did you think that maybe she wanted to vacation with you in the first place and then to stay a few days longer than agreed because just being around other adults is a huge source of support for her right now as she navigates her new life as a single mother? Did you consider that maybe in addition to your parents’ support, which she is incredibly lucky to have, she might want the support of her sister too?
Look, I get it – you want a free house and a free place to vacation. Who wouldn’t want a free vacation home, right? But the part that makes you sound spoiled is how entitled to this you feel you are, and how lacking in compassion you come across. That cabin belongs to your parents. The house they bought for your sister is one they bought with their own money. It may not seem fair if they’re spending a boatload of money on your sister and not on you, but it’s their money to decide what to do with, and they had a compassionate reason for buying the house they bought for your sister. You said yourself that you know they’d have done the same for you if you’d been the one in need.
You aren’t in need like your sister is, so your parents, in an effort to keep things equal, said they’d change their will to reflect leaving their cabin to you outright. How generous! But that doesn’t mean that they changed their will immediately or that, even when they do change it, the cabin automatically belongs to you. It belongs to your parents until they die or until they give it to someone else. Neither of those things has happened yet, but it sounds as if you already believe the cabin is yours to use how you please. I can see why your parents are angry at your behavior and your treatment of your sister. I can see why they are now saying, “You know, we haven’t even changed the will yet, and your behavior is making us second-guess our decision to leave the cabin to you.”
Should you have sucked it up and put up with your sister’s kids and not asked her to leave the cabin like you did? I think if you wanted to keep the peace and keep a civil relationship with your sister and to extend some compassion to her during what sounds like a very painful and stressful time, then yes, perhaps kicking her out of the cabin that you both have equal access to wasn’t the best move. If you were feeling overwhelmed by her and her kids, a better option might have been cutting your own vacation short and leaving yourself.
Better yet, you could have extended compassion to your sister, a newly-single mother, who is dealing with two kids just left by their father at ages that are already so challenging for the whole family to navigate. If it’s hard watching them “work her,” as you say, imagine how challenging it must be for her to live that experience. But… it doesn’t sound like you’re really thinking about her at all and what she’s been going through. It sounds like you’re just thinking about yourself, what you think is owed to you, and how you, somehow, are the victim in this.
What if you re-framed your hurt feelings over your parents showing your sister extra support right now into gratitude that you have parents who not only WANT to support a daughter going through a really hard time, but also have the means to give financial support in addition to emotional support. How would your heart expand if you let gratitude for your family be your north star instead of the anger you feel over… over what? Over not being given a cabin after your sister was bought a house? Do you see how that sounds?
Yes, definitely talk to your parents. But don’t approach them with hostility and accusations that they lied to you. Approach them with humility and gratitude and some remorse. Apologize for acting spoiled, for putting them in the middle, for not appreciating their generosity more. Tell them you realize they are trying to ease some of your sister’s burdens right now and that you are sorry you didn’t appreciate that sooner. Admit that your feelings were hurt because you are human, but with some space and perspective you realize that this isn’t really about you right now. This is about the family member who is hurting the most and how the rest of you can rally around and give support, because that is what loving and compassionate family members do.
If there’s some reason you don’t want to support your sister or you think she isn’t deserving of love and compassion and support, that’s a different issue. Maybe you have reason to distance yourself from her. But respect that your parents don’t feel that way. And understand that your parents don’t have a finite amount of love to give. They are not using up all their love on your sister. They have enough for you both, and the financial support they give or how quickly they change their will isn’t a full reflection of their love. It’s not their love, quantified to its fullest. I hope that for all your sakes you know that. And if you don’t, maybe that should be the conversation you have with your parents.