It came to a head (in my head) a couple of weeks ago when we were having dinner over at their place and they mentioned they were going to start my older younger brother in private art lessons. Private art lessons! I would have done grievous bodily harm to get private art lessons at twelve. (He’s taken swimming and ballet, too.) My dad caught my eye as he said it and kind of shamefaced said, “I know, we couldn’t afford it for you. We would have if we could have.” I certainly don’t begrudge my little brother any of these things. But it started me thinking.
My parents did not pay for my college, or even help me take out student loans. They did not offer to help out with my wedding (although they did pick up the tab when we went out to a family dinner with just us, them, and my new husband’s family, to be fair). When we bought our house they did not give us any kind of gift, let alone offer any kind of financial help. In fact, they’ve never offered me financial help at all, aside from feeding me and putting a roof over my head as a kid.
When my dad got his fat holiday bonus from work this year (thirty thousand dollars!) they dropped about four thousand at the apple store, got the cars fixed, took my husband and me out for dinner (my birthday dinner) and my mom took me clothes shopping. That’s great, and I’m happy for all of that, but they know (because I’ve told them in the past when they asked what I wanted) that what we need most is cash. They know my husband is self-employed and that things get really tight in the winter when work slows down, and that I work an entry-level job. We’re not poverty-stricken, but every winter — and this year especially — we get a little credit card debt that we spend the rest of the year paying off. I’m too proud to just ask for money, but I wish my mom hadn’t told me that they just got this pile of money because now I’m resenting them for it, especially since my brothers have every game console known to man, the new iPhones, and – the cherry on the cake – now art lessons.
I don’t know how to deal with this except as I have been (pretending it doesn’t bother me when it does) and I can’t talk to my parents because I’m too proud and it’ll sound like I’m asking for a handout. Any input would be so very welcome, even if it’s just to tell me I’m being selfish and to shut it. I can’t talk to my husband about this because what if he agrees with me? He’ll think less of them, and I don’t want that. And I’m ashamed of feeling this way, so I don’t want to talk about it to anyone who knows me. — Sibling Rivalry
Part of the problem here is your idea that your parents owe you something because they weren’t able to raise you with as many things and opportunities as they may have liked. They don’t. They may be in a position to do things for you now, but you’re no longer a child and you don’t get a second chance at a childhood any more than they get another chance at raising you. Yes, now they get to provide opportunities for your younger brothers that they couldn’t for you, but again, that doesn’t mean they owe you anything. They’re done raising you and from your description, they raised you with lots of love, a roof over your head and clothes on your back. You may not have had everything you wanted, but you had everything you needed — and that’s a lot more than many kids get.
Sure, you’re thinking, that’s all fine and good, but you don’t want them to raise you again; you want them to help you out in your adult life. And if that’s the case, you need to swallow your pride and ASK for the help. Don’t complain in one breath about them flaunting their cash and then in the next breath say you’re too proud to ask for financial help. You can’t have it both ways. You don’t get to resent them for not helping you if you haven’t even asked (and for the record, you really can’t resent them for not helping even if you do ask; you are an adult, after all). Hinting that you’d like cash for your birthday (to pay bills) isn’t the same thing. Can’t you see why they’d rather do something for you on special occasions that seem more enjoyable — shopping! dinner out! — than just helping you pay off some credit card debt or whatever? Don’t use your special occasions as a pussy-way to ask for help; just come on out and ask! They may say no, but at least you will have been assertive about it.
OK, so what happens if you do ask for say, a loan or a gift amount to help you out, and they turn you down? I would strongly, strongly advise you to let it go. Again, just because your parents couldn’t afford art lessons for you when you were 12 doesn’t mean they owe you anything now. Sure, it would be lovely of them to help out if they can, but they are under no obligation to do so and expecting them to will only drive a wedge between you. What you can do is to politely tell them you’re happy that they are doing so well financially and are able to enjoy the fruits of very long labor, but that you and your husband are on the other side of that labor and things are challenging for you so it would mean a lot if they could be a little more sensitive to that.
Please try not to think of this as your parents loving your brothers more than you. That’s just ridiculous. It’s not fair to compare since you are so much older than your brothers, your parents have more parenting experience now than they did when you were your brothers’ age, and they have a lot more money now than they did when they were raising you. There are too many different variables to make comparisons. Your parents raised you as best they could with what they had and now they’re raising your brothers as best they can with what they have. You’re a grown adult — married, with your own home. Of course your parents are going to spend more money on your brothers who are still children in their care than they’re going to spend on you. Of course. But that doesn’t mean they love you any less. The faster you can embrace that, and appreciate your parents for what they were/and are able to give you, the better.
P.S. If you get credit card debt every winter, I’d suggest speaking to a financial adviser to help you avoid that trap every year!
*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to follow me on Twitter.
cporoski January 31, 2012, 3:12 pm
Best advice ever!
JK January 31, 2012, 3:21 pm
Totally agree. I get where LW is coming from, but Wendy has it completely right.
Lp April 21, 2017, 3:02 am
You should forget about it but still no right what they did . I had the same problem and what I do to take something positive from it is to make sure I treat my kids fair. parents don’t understand that their actions last a life time or even more depending on how well you do with your own kids,
Audrey May 5, 2017, 9:45 pm
I looked for this cause tomorrow’s my brothers birthday and I have to wrap his presents. Already wrapping the first one I knew it cost more than the two I got. He got pairs of expensive socks , pairs of shoes , shorts , and a few t shirts. Keep in mind this is the expensive brand that cost way more that normal utilities like that. I had asked for one thing for my birthday that I had been asking for two years and I still didn’t get it. My parents aren’t the richest people in the world but I wouldn’t call the amount of money we have average. My brother probably would have gotten those things another day anyway if it weren’t for his birthday. My two things that I got for my birthday were charms one from my parents and one from my brother. I said I didn’t want anything but I still expected to get more than that cause I usually do. I just wanted something . I know it sounds like I’m spoiled but I try not to be. I just wanted my thing that I had been asking for for two years!! I don’t even think I want it anymore cause I just wanted something .
BecBoo84 January 31, 2012, 3:19 pm
Oh, LW, this is a tough one. I really don’t have any advice except for to say that I sympathize with what you’re going through. I think I’m getting the general facts right to say that you’re around 24 and your brothers are probably around 12 and 10. Generally, I think Wendy pretty much hit it on the head. The only part of your letter that really stood out as odd to me was the fact that they didn’t help out with your college expenses at all. Based on your timeline, by the time you got to college, they were financially in a position where they could have helped; however, some parents just don’t help out with college expenses, regardless of their financial situations (I guess you will know whether that’s the case with them when your brothers reach that age.)
jlyfsh January 31, 2012, 3:51 pm
I think suggesting that she wait and see what her parents do or don’t do for her brothers and college is kind of dangerous. She shouldn’t be comparing herself to her brothers at all. Her parents obviously love her and have supported her the best they could. No need to plant doubt in her mind of that by suggesting to see what happens in that situation.
GatorGirl January 31, 2012, 3:55 pm
Like you said, I don’t think she can get upset about college until the brothers go to college. But like Wendy- she’s not owed anything.
BecBoo84 January 31, 2012, 4:05 pm
I agree that she’s not “owed” anything, but I would think it was strange if her parents paid for her brothers’ college expenses when they didn’t pay for hers. And, my point wasn’t that she should wait to see if that was the case so she could finally justify her feelings, my point was that it did seem a little odd to me that her parents hadn’t helped her, but perhaps her parents are just the type to not help out with those types of expenses, and it didn’t do any good to be upset about that issue right now (or the wedding or mortgage) — right now, those aren’t examples of how they’ve treated her brothers differently because, right now, she’s the only one who’s experienced them.
heidikins January 31, 2012, 4:13 pm
Get over the college thing. My parents (both of them) helped finance my 18-months-younger sister’s college, and my twin sister’s college, but not mine. Does that make sense? No. Were there extenuating circumstances? Always. Do those circumstances help this make sense? No. Does that make my parents bad people? Or does that mean they love my sisters more than me? No. It doens’t. Get over it. Sometimes life isn’t fair, sometimes parent’s aren’t fair, but you work hard for what you want, no matter who decides to help or not help you along the way.
heidikins January 31, 2012, 4:13 pm
lets_be_honest January 31, 2012, 5:02 pm
Robin January 31, 2012, 4:42 pm
I agree with not stressing out over college. You don’t know all the specifics. My boyfriend’s parents paid for his older sisters’ college but then he had to pay for his on his own – because they had no money left after paying for his sisters’ college. Even if it seemed like they were flush with money by the time you were 18, you don’t know the specifics – maybe they got carried away with the new cars and new house and everything and realized they didn’t have money for college.
It’s also possible that your parents just think you’re more level-headed and capable than your brothers. Sometimes the child who gets the least monetary support isn’t the least loved one – it’s just the one that the parents have confidence will be able to succeed on your own.
Even if your parents just prioritized the wrong thing – let it go. My parents bought a (small) vacation home when I was a junior in college and then didn’t support me at all through college. I was kind of bitter about it for a while, but then I realized – I can be bitter or I can have a good relationship with my (flawed but human) parents. And it’s worth having a good relationship with them.
SpaceySteph January 31, 2012, 8:56 pm
“Sometimes the child who gets the least monetary support isn’t the least loved one – it’s just the one that the parents have confidence will be able to succeed on your own.”
This is true for one of my best friends. They helped her older sister and younger brother out a lot more than her. My friend worked 2 part time jobs to pay for college with her parents helping very little, while neither of her siblings worked.
Why? Because neither of the siblings had the capability to work and take care of themselves and make the grade. Hard to say why parents wouldn’t reward the “most together” kid with more perks, but that’s how alot of people’s minds work.
Annette January 31, 2012, 3:22 pm
Good advice Wendy!! Great question as well!! This is a potential land mine and pretending you aren’t bothered is a good start. The next step is just realizing that there is no sibling rivalray, just different circumstances and it sounds like you are on your way to that. Your mom and dad do love you, so as Wendy suggested, let them know you are sensative to hearing your father got such a big bonus when you and your husband to struggle a bit, making ends meat. Then, enjoy the dinner’s out and the shopping trips and all the love your parents have for you all!!!
silver_dragon_girl January 31, 2012, 3:26 pm
I totally feel your pain, LW. I, too, am too proud to ask my parents for money, but I always secretly hope they’ll send me a check. Or my grandmother (who actually does have money, unlike my parents) will. Or my fairy godmother. Or someone.
But the truth is, closed mouths don’t get fed. You can’t be upset about life not just dropping money into your lap if you don’t ask your parents for help if you need it. When’s the next gift-giving occasion in your family? I would suggest taking your mother aside and very kindly asking her to skip the gifts this year and to just give you cash, if she wants to. I know it’s hard, and I know it’s really awkward, but I’m sure your parents would much rather give you something you really need and want.
It actually sounds like they’re trying to do that- by taking you shopping, your mom was probably trying to buy you some of the things you need so you could free up some of your clothing budget for other bills. Maybe she doesn’t realize the gravity of your financial difficulties?
Personally I’m just trying to wrap my head around the fact that your dad’s BONUS was more than I made last year.
bethany January 31, 2012, 4:16 pm
I, too am secretly hoping that someone really rich writes me into their will!
lets_be_honest January 31, 2012, 5:04 pm
I work in estates law. One of the coolest experiences of my life–getting to surprise a very kind, but very poor nurse’s aide with $4 MILLION from an old man’s estate. I felt like I got to tell someone (who deserved it) that they just won the lottery. Kindness pays off!
GatorGirl January 31, 2012, 5:12 pm
Love! That must have been an awesome day (for both of you)!
Eljay January 31, 2012, 5:35 pm
Holy crap that’s awesome!
Kate B. January 31, 2012, 4:16 pm
Yeah,really. I am clearly in the wrong line of work.
Turtledove January 31, 2012, 3:26 pm
My parents are in a similar boat. We were poor growing up and now my parents are retiring, and, thanks to a hefty inheritance from my maternal grandparents, they’re pretty well off. The thing is that they talk about money and their inheritance a lot. I’m struggling financially since my husband and I are really just starting out in our careers. So, even though I got lots love from my grandparents, I didn’t get any inheritance and that stings. What I finally did, rather than keep having my feelings hurt and feeling resentment when my parents talk about their new-found financial freedom– I told my parents that constantly having to hear about their financial situation is awkward for me since I’m struggling so badly and could they please tone it down and think twice before they bring it up. I did add that I am very happy for them, but it isn’t fair to keep bringing it up since the only response I have is, “yup, I’m still poor.” It hasn’t stopped it entirely, but it has toned it down so I can begin to enjoy my family again instead of letting this drive a wedge between us.
I will say, when you need help, I mean really need help not just think that a little extra cash this month would be nice– ask for it. They’ll probably want to help you, they just need to know you need it. You have to meet them halfway and swallow your pride a smidge, they may be fearful of helping you out because they don’t want to injure that pride.
artsygirl January 31, 2012, 3:28 pm
I understand where you are coming from LW. My childhood was comfortable though not lavish. Now my parents spend a lot of money on my sister (who is only a year younger than I, and in her mid-20s). They give her money for children, take her and her family out, and have her over to their house for dinner multiple times a week. At first I was annoyed by the seeming favoritism until I saw an episode of American Dad (cartoon by the creator of Family Guy). In the episode Francine finds out that her parents have excluded her from their will in favor of their biological daughter. When she confronts them at the end of the episode they say that they excluded her because they know she can take care of herself unlike her sister. I have since attempted to think of my sister as needing the extra help because of multiple bad decisions she has made. Without my parent’s help, my nieces would suffer because my sister has no financial sense, tends to be extremely impulsive, and is about to have her 3rd illegitimate child.
LW your parents might not be financially helping you because they know that you are doing fine (even if it is a little tight as you mentioned). After all, they were a lot worse off financially when they were your age than you and your husband. Try to focus on the kindnesses they have shown you (the dinners, the clothes, etc) and not on what they have offered to your brothers.
Jessibel January 31, 2012, 3:47 pm
I absolutely love how you got that lesson from American Dad! Sometimes we find our inspiration in the funniest things! You sound very smart and level-headed about the whole situation 🙂
lets_be_honest January 31, 2012, 3:58 pm
I loved the American Dad story too. Even handouts, while fair, isn’t always what’s needed. I’d much rather my parents give money to my siblings still in college than harp on them not helping me in college when I was able to do it on my own.
atlimbo January 31, 2012, 4:02 pm
I loved that episode!!
Roxy84 January 31, 2012, 4:58 pm
Ah…similar boat to you artsygirl. Though I’m financially stable and don’t need anything from my parents, the financial favouritism they’ve shown my siblings does grate on me. I’ll try to remember American Dad as I bite my tongue!
ReginaRey January 31, 2012, 3:29 pm
I can understand your frustrations, LW, but let me back Wendy up here by saying that you’re not owed or entitled to any assistance from your parents. You say that you’re currently experiencing some financial difficulties. It sounds like your parents experienced financial difficulties for quite some time. Did they have help? Did someone (their parents, maybe) help them out during their difficult time? Because if not, and I’m inclined to believe that your parents didn’t receive any help, perhaps they don’t realize (or actively DO realize and believe) that you need or should receive assistance from them. Perhaps they don’t feel it’s their duty to help you make it…as they very clearly worked hard to make it on their own, without any help.
It’s not necessarily fair that your childhood wasn’t quite as “enriched,” so to speak, as your siblings’. But that’s the way of the world. Sure, they may learn lessons that you didn’t get to learn as a child (about art, for example), but your childhood likely taught you some valuable lessons that they may never appreciate as much – the value of hard work, of scrimping and saving, of making smart financial decisions with the little money that you have. Those are no small lessons to learn…more people could learn those lessons, to be sure. It’s not fair for you to compare what you got out of childhood to what your siblings got; neither of you had/have control over that.
I don’t think it’s wrong of you to ask your parents for help. But make sure you’re asking them for help for the right reasons. Don’t ask them for money because you’re resentful that you didn’t get the same things your siblings got. Don’t ask them for help in order to make them feel guilty for what they couldn’t provide you. Ask them for help because it seems like they may be in a place to give it; ask because you think they would want to help you make your life a little easier; ask because you’re family and families help each other through difficult times. But again, do NOT ask if the request is coming from a negative, resentful, accusatory place.
And lastly, while this may be politically incorrect of me, I behoove you to make the best financial decisions for yourself possible. Ask your parents for advice – they seem to know how to “make it.” Sit down with a financial advisor. Really look at your budget and see what you could do without. And (this is where it gets politically incorrect) think long and hard before you and your husband bring any children into your lives. While I’m sure children are something you both likely want, I’m sure you recall how difficult it was for your parents to make ends meet. Consider becoming a parents after you’re able to provide your children with the kind of things you didn’t get to have as a child – that clearly matters to you.
mf January 31, 2012, 4:47 pm
“do NOT ask if the request is coming from a negative, resentful, accusatory place.”
Also, I think everyone should think long and hard about having kids, so you’ll get no argument from me.
Budj January 31, 2012, 3:31 pm
I have absolutely nothing to add at the moment (pending comments on additional comments). Really well-thought advice.
Eljay January 31, 2012, 5:38 pm
Ditto. Although I’m still stuck on lbh’s $4million. Holy hell.
GertietheDino January 31, 2012, 3:32 pm
Oh, dear LW, I think this is a time to let it go, don’t let this negativity color how you feel about your family.
Your baby brothers may be getting more than you ever did, but didn’t working hard for everything you got make it all the more sweet? If you’d like to receive money from your parents, ask. What can it hurt?
Life (and family) are not about equal shares for everyone.
Grilledcheesecalliope January 31, 2012, 3:37 pm
While I agree that this is good advice, having been in the same situation I know it won’t help. My sister is ten years younger than me and has gotten alot of things I would have loved to have but my mom made a lot less when I was younger. It is hard to see your siblings being showered with material things while you, not all that much older, are paying for everything on your own. I get over it by making a new kind of relationship with my mom, one where we talk and hang out more like friends so her taking care of me like a kid would be silly. I also focus on being happy for my sister, and also reminding her to be greatful for everything she gets. I think if you try to think more about how happy you are that your siblings are having such a great childhood instead of wishing your parents gave you more, you would be happier. Also if you really need help ask, maybe your parents haven’t offered because they know it would embarrass you and they are treating you like the adult you are.
GatorGirl January 31, 2012, 3:46 pm
Amen Wendy! Like you LW, I too am 8 and 10 years older than my sister and brother. When I was little it was a one bedroom apartment with me and my mom eating Chef Boyardi for our dinner. When I was 7 my mom married a really nice guy who has been able to provide a much better life for us. My mom was able to quit working and raise my siblings. My siblings have been afforded a lot of luxuries I wasn’t- vacations, private lessons, private school, and new clothes, toys, and electronics. At first I was really resentful, but I’ve become to accept that these monetary things don’t matter that much and what is important is that my parents are raising them the same way they did me. To be a responsible, hard working, educated and independent person.
Wendy said it perfectly- “They may be in a position to do things for you now, but you’re no longer a child and you don’t get a second chance at a childhood any more than they get another chance at raising you.” This is petty stuff. If you need financial help ASK FOR IT. If you think your siblings are spoiled, tell you parents (nicely of course). Noone can go back and change the past- and your parents do not owe you anything.
lets_be_honest January 31, 2012, 4:01 pm
Spaghetti Os for the win! God I can’t tell you how many nights that was dinner.
atlimbo January 31, 2012, 4:07 pm
GatorGirl January 31, 2012, 4:54 pm
The Christmas I was 5 there was one present under the tree. ONE. It was a VCR and it might have been the best Christmas of my life. My mom went into debt for that dang VCR (and I’m talking base line KMart brand VCR) and I loved it soooooo much!
JK January 31, 2012, 4:59 pm
You definitely enjoy things so much more when you don´t have as much… I see my 4 year old that is SO spoiled (not by us, by my parents, esp., who as well are doing a lot better now than when I was growing up), and it really pisses me off. At the end of her birthday party she had a tantrum because she wanted to come home to open her presents. Then all she did was tear the wrapping off, barely even glance at each present before tossing it aside and getting the next one.
This week we´re gathering clothes and toys to send to less fortunate kids, and I´m planning on doing it several times this year, and every year from now on, I hope she grows to see just how fortunate she really is!!!
lets_be_honest January 31, 2012, 5:06 pm
Yup. (I’m loving this thread btw.)
I make my daughter write in an Appreciation Journal every single night (I do too) about everything she is grateful for that happened that day. Nothing of financial value allowed. It helps.
lets_be_honest January 31, 2012, 5:07 pm
And I love that you have your kids donate. Works better than saying “when I was your age…”
GatorGirl January 31, 2012, 5:17 pm
Love the donate idea with children. I clean out about twice a year on my own and donate all kinds of things. I’m trying to get the BF in the habit too. (We also just moved in together so there was a whole car load donated). I think that would be a great thing to carry over to children- exspecially to make them choose what to give away.
Rachel January 31, 2012, 5:27 pm
I volunteer at the local Humane Society, and every once in a while we’ll have a kid come in who has a huge pile of stuff to donate. They’ll have recently had a birthday party and asked for their friends to bring dog food or cat toys in lieu of presents. Gets me every time, seriously, I’m almost in tears just typing this.
JK January 31, 2012, 5:38 pm
Love that idea for when my girls are older, as well.
FireStar January 31, 2012, 6:06 pm
love this…restores your faith in humanity just a little
Jillie z February 1, 2012, 12:47 pm
Totally just teared up at work- that is awesome and so sweet of those kids.
JK January 31, 2012, 5:27 pm
Yes, she´s already getting better, about a month ago we were tidying up her room and I gave her a bag to put the toys to give away into, and she only put one tiny little teddy bear. The other day she filled a big bag with clothes-
I love the appreciation journal idea, as well… as soon as she can write as well as she thinks she can I think I´ll implement it!
AKchic_ January 31, 2012, 5:40 pm
Oh Goddess, the temper tantrums. My 2nd MIL spoils my 3rd son (and the older two boys) tremendously. We’re talking, it takes 2 people to carry each box she sends up for Christmas. And she sends Jake 3 boxes minimum. The other two boys get a box apiece and a gift card ($100/ea). USPS hates us for it. Last year, their dad (my 2nd ex-husband) and I bought them bikes, and my SO bought them a Nintendo/Super Nintendo game system.
When my mom got back from South Carolina and gave them souveniers, Jake threw a fit because “that’s it?”. I swatted his ass. This year, they got about 10 gifts each. 2nd MIL got laid off right after Thanksgiving, so she couldn’t afford gifts this year. Again, Jake threw a fit because of last year. Next year – I’ve flat out said we’re doing traditional Yule. No gifts.
6napkinburger February 1, 2012, 6:35 pm
I don’t quite understand the hostility towards the child who was excited to open presents and then barely looked at them before moving on. That isn’t (necessarily) any indication of materialism. Its an indication that opening things wrapped so you can’t see what’s inside is really fun and can make you impatient to find out what it is. I love opening presents. The act of not knowing what’s inside and then opening it is just plain fun. It’s fun when it isn’t even yours. That’s why its fun (at the beginning) to watch a bride open shower presents in front of the room. You are kind of playing along with her.
If your child really likes doing this, maybe do it on a more regular basis, as something that is just fun. Wrap some of her toys with newspaper and have her try to guess which it is. Or wrap little things that you were going to give to her anyway (erasers, pencils, functional new clothes, a hair brush, etc.). Clearly its fun for her. But that doesn’t mean she is a present grubbing spoiled brat.
Firegirl32 February 1, 2012, 10:34 am
Here too. Or the cheap chicken noodle soup.
lets_be_honest January 31, 2012, 3:53 pm
I’m so glad Wendy’s advice was everything I’d hoped it would be.
I too have a big age gap in siblings (3 older from first marriage, 2 younger from second marriage). I too grew up poor. And I too used to feel a little resentment when I would see the 2 younger kids get things I had always wanted. Specifically, and this is going to sound so silly, individual snack packs. I never got those! Always those crappy fake ziplock baggies filled with snacks from costco sized packages. I felt like I was the only kid who never got prepackaged snacks. Now, my 2 little siblings do all the time. It drove me nuts to see them at my mom’s. When my little sister’s birthday came around a few years ago, she got the one thing that was always on my Christmas list but that I never got-a Barbie Jeep. When she opened it, I could have cried. I couldn’t believe she got this thing I always wanted. I went home and sulked all night. After my sulking ended, I realized how happy my sister was seeing it and actually getting it. She loved it (for as long as a little kid can like something wihtout getting bored with it). And that was all it took for me to end my childish resentment. I know my mom gave me everything she could when I was a kid. I know she would’ve gotten me the Barbie Jeep if she could’ve and I know she looks back on not being able to give it to me with sadness. Most importantly, I’m finally just happy for the 2 younger ones and just remind them often to appreciate all they have. Hopefully you’ll get to that point too, because what you are doing is childish, selfish and silly.
GatorGirl January 31, 2012, 3:58 pm
I was jealous about spaghetti strap tank tops. My little sister had a million and I was never allowed to. Man that made me mad! It’s funny the things we hold on to.
lets_be_honest January 31, 2012, 4:43 pm
It really is funny the things we choose to hold on to.
My mom got all upset telling me my little sister is taking lacrosse lessons because she thought I wanted them when I was younger and she couldn’t afford them.
FireStar January 31, 2012, 4:18 pm
I wanted a Cabbage Patch – my mom couldn’t afford the real ones so got me a knock off. Of all my childhood toys, I cherish her since that toy showed me my mom tried her best to make me happy even though we didn’t have much. Even as a kid I loved that doll best because of the look on my mom’s face when she gave it to me.
Sarah January 31, 2012, 4:41 pm
I’m glad you feel better about it, but I just wanted to say that I empathize, so so much, with your initial reaction. It’s always the little bullshit, isn’t it?
KKZ January 31, 2012, 3:56 pm
I agree with Wendy’s advice. I can also sympathize with the LW a bit, because I occasionally get that big green monster of sibling jealousy too. Like you, LW, I am the oldest, but with just one brother. My issue is less about the money my parents spend on my brother, and more about the attention and support they’ve given him and his (rather expensive) music hobby-turned-college-major. He started marching band in high school, and every year they gave him more and more support by going to as many of his performances as they could, shelling out the money for instruments, repairs, lessons, band camp, etc., and getting involved in the band culture. Meanwhile, they showed comparatively little interest and investment in my hobbies and passions – something I’ve really only noticed in hindsight. Moneywise the support has been only a little lopsided in his direction, but that’s because I worked part-time while in college, went to a cheaper school, and got more scholarship money than he did, while his marching band commitment keeps him from being able to earn much of his own money.
Yes, some days, this gets under my skin, especially now that he’s in college 2.5 hours away and they haul out there for every home football game to see his band play at halftime (and they don’t like football at all). Mom even goes out for Mom’s Weekend to party like a college kid. Really? I mean, really? I went to a college less than an hour away and I can count their visits on one hand.
But this is where Wendy’s advice is crucial. They didn’t support, because I never asked. I was, and continue to be, pretty damn independent. As my mom recently put it to me, I left the nest and never looked back. I made barely any effort to involve them in anything I did in high school, college, or beyond, besides driving me to and from places. Part of me just assumed they weren’t interested in the same things I was interested in, another part of me started to resent them for not caring. But that’s not fair to them, because the message they were getting from me was “I don’t need you to do anything, I’m fine on my own.”
So maybe there’s that possibility – that in their eyes, you are already a Success Story, a grown married woman with her own house (and all the adult responsibilities that come along as part of the package). Maybe they didn’t offer help because you didn’t look like you needed it. That’s not to say you’ve been in the wrong. I would have to be pretty damn broke to ask for money, and even then, I’d probably ask anyone else before I’d go to my parents. I understand the pride – after being independent and self-sufficient for so long, asking for help feels like failure. But Wendy is right, people like you and me can’t have it both ways. So instead of assuming you know how they would react if you asked for help, just swallow your pride and ask. Your dad’s reaction at the dinner table is telling, they obviously don’t want to make you feel bad. They might even appreciate feeling needed by you again.
Heather January 31, 2012, 8:49 pm
I just want to say, while I obviously know nothing of your situation, I find it highly respectable that you can look at it and take responsibility for not having made an effort to keep your parents in the loop about your interests. Basically everything you said was very mature and thoughtful. Thought you might like to know.
atlimbo January 31, 2012, 4:00 pm
I’m actually in the opposite position where I am younger by 8 years but my brother/his family (4 children and my SIL) are the ones who get the preferential spending from my parents (who actually have less now than they did when we were growing up, though we grew up generally strapped for cash anyway).
I outright asked my mother about it a couple of years ago (granted, we’re a pretty blunt/open family) and she told me it was that I had worked my way through college, he hadn’t (never went), I had a stable relationship, a nice place to live, and even when my jobs/finances haven’t been the most stable over the years (the joys of spending post-college on the campaign trail), I had a vast support network for places to couch surf, friends who didn’t mind splitting grocery duties with me, and contacts I could look to for temp work. I also had the added advantage of being financially literate because of my working for everything and needing to know how to handle it myself. Not so much for my brother (who is an incredibly hard worker and a wonderful human being, just not nearly as organizes as I am).
She said basically that if I ever needed help I should know they’d be there for me in anyway that they could, but they I had my act together so it didn’t ever seem like I needed it. From then on, none of it really bothered me because, really, what am I going to do about it, you know?
Like ArtsyGirl, I look at it like American Dad. It’s almost a compliment!
Budj January 31, 2012, 4:02 pm
And yea, my parents were fairly broke when I was growing up too. They owned their own house (with help from my grandparents at first), but I vividly remember my mom making a grocery list before she went to the store and calculating the prices out with all of her cut out coupons and making sure it wasn’t a penny over budget….and we only had like $75 to buy new clothes for school (that is like 2 pairs of cheap pants and a cheap shirt)…haha…the good ol’ days.
Jessibel January 31, 2012, 4:03 pm
You know, LW, you can maybe look at it this way: I am somewhat in the same situation. I am 6 and 7 years older than my siblings, and my mom didn’t go back to work until I was 16. Due to the extra income, my brother and sister had more luxuries than I ever did. It was hard not to resent the difference, but that ended for me when one day my dad told me that he thought that I was the least useless and most capable of all of his children, and that they never worry about me because they know that because I was raised with a different notion of the value of a dollar. My father probably shouldn’t have told me this, but he said that my brother and sister were more spoiled because my parents were able to say “yes” more to material things…but when I asked for them at that same age I was told “no” a lot, not because they didn’t want to give me the item, but because they couldn’t. So your might not even know your monetary situation and be thinking that you’re fully capable! However, remember that your dad did catch your eye and apologize, so he is aware of the gap and feels bad about it, and probably wishes he could do more. It sounds as though their shopping trip and the dinner were ways of trying to show you the same luxuries your brothers are getting.
Blondie February 1, 2012, 9:02 am
I can definitely understand this- I am only older by 3 and 6 years than my sisters, but i was on my way out of high school when mom went back to work, and the youngest was still in grade school. My sisters to this day get more than I did. But- I realized something. It was because they were asking for things. Because money was tighter, I knew just not to ask. Ever. They were raised with looser purse strings, so it never occurred to them to not ask.
I also talked to my sister about it finally, and something did surprise me. They actually envied me for the relationship I had with my parents due to it. Apparently they see it as, I have always been self sufficient and treated more as an equal, while she, who is about to graduate college, still feels like my parents view her as a child. She is actually trying really hard to have the same relationship with mom that I do (IE I am the problem solver, we talk about family issues etc and I am taken seriously) but she can’t seem to break the mentality by mom and dad that she needs to be taken care of.
Life- its a double edged sword.
Jessibel February 1, 2012, 10:17 am
Blondie, exactly! I didn’t know this until I was an adult, but until my mom went back to work, there were some months where they had to pick and choose which bills to pay. Like, if they had let the electric bill go for two months, they knew they needed to pay that one immediately so it didn’t get turned off, etc. My mom said she used to cry herself to sleep some nights when she couldn’t get me things like ballet classes or the latest toy, because she felt so bad. In a roundabout way, it’s how I ended up a runner. Cross Country was the only sport that didn’t require expensive equipment to be bought, so that was my sport that I played in middle and high school. I’m definitely looked upon as more of an adult, because I was financially responsible enough to set out on my own after college, but my sister partied throughout college and ended up going home to live, so I was treated differently at that age than she is.
My parents recently bought both my brother and sister cars, and then set up a payment plan for my sister to repay them because she has a job. However, with my brother, they like to say his car is an “extra family car” and my dad keeps saying “no, it’s my other car, but your brother uses it” They tried so hard to make it seem like it wasn’t going to be my brothers car, even though it went up to college with him, but I just laughed at them and said “jig is up, parental units, it’s cool, don’t worry”
FireStar January 31, 2012, 4:11 pm
Are you owed anything? Nope…no more than what you already received – which, as Wendy says, is more than what a lot of children get. Money your parents earn is theirs to spend however they want. Adult children have no claim on it and no basis for any resentment around it. My advice isn’t to ask for help – my advice is to be grateful. Be grateful your mother married a man that treated you like his own and you have such a close and loving relationship with your brothers and your parents. Be grateful your parents lavish shopping trips and fancy dinners on you and your husband and care enough about your feelings to have already told you that if they had the money they would have done for you what they are doing for your brothers.
If finances are tight with you and your husband then see a financial planner to remedy that. I know what it is to be self employed – and you generally take a hit when you are starting out – but the hit is yours to take – it isn’t the responsibility of your parents to lessen the consequences of your or your husband’s job choices. Living off of credit is a dangerous game of roulette – you need some serious financial planning advice to stop that so you both can build a financially secure life for yourselves – just as your parents have done. I know there are government programs that offer free counselling – avail yourselves of some of those to start. Good Luck!
Jubietta January 31, 2012, 8:37 pm
That was well thought and well said! I think when sibling rivalry raises it’s ugly head there’s a real chance that even the most successful and independent of us forget that we are accountable for ourselves. Why is it that our families have that kind of effect on us?
bethany January 31, 2012, 4:14 pm
As much as it hurts to hear, Wendy’s right. You’re a grown up, you’re on your own now. 🙁
LANY January 31, 2012, 4:24 pm
LW, I think it’s also important to recognize that parents often fill the needs that they see for their children, recognizing that kids are different, and need different things, and the circumstances in which they are raised are also different…
My parents both worked crazy hours while I was little – I sort of raised myself in the sense that no one had to remind me to do homework, I never needed help with homework, I was responsible, never got into trouble, etc. They hardly came to my high school musical shows (even when I was the lead!), hardly did anything special for birthdays, etc. But I was **expensive** — summer camps, dance classes, singing classes, ice skating lessons, art classes (I was atrocious), trips to Europe, and putting a lot more $$ on the credit card that went straight to my parents than I should have.
Baby brother, on the other hand… He was read to ALL THE TIME, parents never missed a single event or soccer game, they helped with his homework and school projects… They were a LOT more involved in his life because they recognized that he needed more guidance and attention from them in order to be successful. They retired right when I graduated from high school and right before my brother started — he used to get stuff like his lunches delivered to him 10m before his lunch period started so that it would be “fresh”. That said, they had to BEG him to buy new clothes when he went to college, he shared a 4 br dump with something like 7 roommates, never wanted to take any trips, worked during the school year and every summer, and now at 25 has something like $200K in the bank. He never needed or wanted an extra dime from mom and dad while I took whatever I could get.
If I resented him for all the time and affection he got, and he resented me for all of the money that I got, we’d both be pretty miserable. LW, you know your parents love you – you know that they did the absolute best that they could,and clearly they raised an independent, loving and self-sufficient woman. If you want help, ask them for it – there is nothing wrong with that (in my opinion), and not anything you should be ashamed of — they are your parents, and you’d rather have cash than clothes! They should understand your desire to ask, regardless of how they respond…
And, ultimately as many others have said — you are an adult. As parents who clearly worked very hard for what they have, and struggled along they way, it’s possible that they recognize the value of those experiences and don’t want to just allow you to “have it easy” (from their perspective). If they did it, so can you and your husband.
MiMi January 31, 2012, 4:27 pm
Leave your little brothers out of this – it has nothing to do with them. Your folks sound a bit insensitive and maybe ignorant to crow about their windfalls and their purchases but they do do things for you, even if what they do isn’t to your exact specifications. One could argue that a selection of new clothing is more useful to an adult working an entry level job than an iPhone with expensive recurring data charges would be. It seems to me that they are treating you like an adult married woman who is no longer a child in their care. They worked for every crumb they have, so maybe they think it’s your turn? After all, it looks like you’re starting off in a much better position than they did.
Forget making this about them and what they aren’t giving you. Sit down with your husband and come up with solid short and long term financial goals. Find creative ways to bring in more money during the slow/winter months. It is possible to work two jobs, get seasonal work, find a cheaper place to live, etc. so you and your husband can get on with the responsible management of your own lives. And if one of your part time jobs and short term goals is to fund a purchasing frenzy at the Mac store, go ahead, save the money, and enjoy. Just don’t forget to budget in advance for the monthly data charges..
Fabelle January 31, 2012, 4:27 pm
Your parents are adults and so are you. It seems like they’re generous with you on outings and for special occasions, so it’s not really your concern how they choose to spend a 30k Christmas bonus– or any other extra money they have. If you know how much it sucks to have a childhood where art lessons, new clothes, etc. are out of the question, then isn’t it kind of great to know your brothers can enjoy these things? I mean, your parents have a completely different income than they did when you were growing up, so I don’t understand the bitterness in lines like “Private art lessons! I would have done grievous bodily harm to get private art lessons at twelve. ” (Then again, I’m the youngest so maybe that’s why I’m not relating in the same way some of the other commenters are?)
theattack January 31, 2012, 4:28 pm
I wonder if instead of asking for cash, if you could ask for help on a specific thing. Like, “Hey mom, for my birthday this year, it would mean a lot to me if instead of gifts, you could help me on my car repairs.” That may make it seem less like a cash handout and more like a gift to both of you.
AKchic_ January 31, 2012, 4:46 pm
Your parents’ current flush financial status isn’t an IOU for your cash-strapped childhood. Period. So your brothers are able to have opportunities because of the current state that you weren’t able to have, that’s life. I wasn’t able to have a cell phone in school because of technology and cost, but I did have a pager (which was outdated by the time my sister started high school 4.5 years later). Does that make her or me more special? No. Does it make me worse off because I paid for my pager whereas my mother paid for her cell phone? No. Just different because of the circumstances/times.
If you need help/money – ask. Don’t hint and don’t feel resentful because they aren’t just showering you (a grown-ass woman who is an adult and from your own words, is able to take care of these things, even if it does take a little bit of time, right?) with the money you didn’t see as a child because of the circumstances of LIFE.
Honestly, they probably see a proud, independent woman who is struggling on her own and wants to see you enjoy a few of the finer things, which is why they paid for that dinner, took you clothes shopping. So you could enjoy a few NICETIES. If you need something else, then ask. They probably don’t want to make the first move because they don’t want to hurt your pride.
Nothing can be solved by sulking like a child and expecting them to treat you like a child while treating you like an adult. Be the adult and ask for what you’d like. But don’t expect kid-gloves, and don’t expect a second childhood.
MELH January 31, 2012, 5:09 pm
I think you have the niceties thing totally right. About a year ago my husband got laid off, and we were in a panic for about a month (luckily they rehired him and his current hours suggest he will be busy for a while). I was slightly panicked about making ends meet and trying not to pull too much out of our savings fund to cover expenses. I wasn’t particularly vocal about it to my parents, but I think they knew I was concerned. They took us out to alot of dinners during that time, had us over for dinners, and bought me some clothes (importantly, a new suit!). I know had I asked for more serious financial help they would have offered, but because I didn’t ask, they tried to treat me to some things they knew I wouldn’t be buying. Looking at it that way may help you see a bit more where your parents are coming from, and liek AKchic said, maybe they are trying not to hurt your pride by making you feel like you can’t get by without their help.
iwannatalktosampson January 31, 2012, 6:23 pm
Holy crap this could have been written by my husband. He has the exact same situation. He is the oldest of 3 with the youngest being 14 right now…there is a 13 year age gap between them. When he was little they struggled. He tells me stories about only getting two shirts a year and having to rotate them and getting made fun of at school. When he was 14 his parents opened their own business. Now they are loaded. When I say loaded I mean like grossly loaded. His little sister gets EVERYTHING. They didn’t pay for his college, didn’t offer to help him with a downpayment for his condo (that he bought before me), didn’t ever buy him a car, etc. His little sister is currently shopping for her “sweet 16” (that term alone is gross) car in the price range of $20,000 because in their words – they don’t want to spoil her.
Although he would never admit it, I think it is hard for him to watch her get by in life so easily. He had to make his own way in the world. She is planning on going to college (i’m sure expensive one at that) to find a husband and be a stay at home mom. But the thing is – he loves his sister. She is undeniably spoiled, and even bratty at times. But she has the biggest heart. She genuinly cares about people. When his mom is crazy (i’ve previously discussed this at length so I won’t bore you with details) she is always trying to make her happy, and comfort the people she wrongs.
LW, I think it would help if you tried to work on your relationship with your siblings, so that every time you start to get jealous you have something that stops you. In my husbands case he gets to think about how awesome his sister is. Also like you, we are struggling. Not like food stamp struggling, but I have a lot of student loans with no job yet, and my husband got really sick last year (like go to the mayo clinic sick). It almost buried us financially and emotionally. So you know what? We ASKED his parents for help with his medical bills in lieu of Christmas and Birthday gifts. They were more than happy to help out. It doesn’t even have to be an awkward conversatoin. Next holiday just ask if instead of gifts they could help pay of X bill. Chances are they will and will still get you a birthday present anyways.
I know with my husbands parents don’t randomly offer us money because they KNOW he is too proud to accept it. They weren’t not offering because they didn’t want to help, they just don’t want to step on our toes. And frankly we won’t accept it besides that one unforseen circumstanc (mostly because his mom will help us out because no accepted help goes unpunished). And I really like Wendy’s comment that you can’t have it both ways – you can’t be bitter they won’t help you out but refuse to ask.
In closing, be in charge of your own destiny!
Coolio January 31, 2012, 6:39 pm
Great question and great response.
Sometimes I feel like people write in to Dear Wendy but don’t think hard enough about the situation they are in and the obvious answer (which is normally MOA).
Meredith January 31, 2012, 7:22 pm
I was really fortunate, my parents paid for my wedding and my college, so my perspective is different. But they also let me and my sister know that once we got married we were completely on our own financially speaking. We’ve had to dig ourselves out of credit card debt and things have gotten realllly tight for my sister and her husband at times, but I believe once you’re an adult, it’s up to you to solve your financial issues. They would help us out with a loan or paying our bills if we asked them, but I think your parents would too, LW. If you really need the money you should ask. But if you want to ask for their help just to “even the playing field” or ease your resentment then you shouldn’t. They are trying to do really nice things for you through the shopping and dinners, and it’s obvious from your letter that they love and care about you. My parents get big bonus checks too and they don’t spend any of it on me! And that’s totally cool because that’s their hard earned money, and I’m not entitled to it. Dont let resentment eat away at you or your relationship with your parents, it’s just not worth it! The things we sometimes have to deal with in our childhood may not be fair, but they help mold and shape us and give us character and strength. Learn to see your family’s previous money struggles as something that made you a better, stronger person who does not take things for granted.
Renee January 31, 2012, 8:23 pm
When you have a baby, he or she will spoiled rotten.
Seriously, my parents are nuts spending on my own children. 25 years ago, I wouldn’t have received all they have even if they could afford it. In fact they have too much ‘stuff’ and I’m swamped with their gifts. Only in the past year they came to their senses, when they start having an ungrateful attitude and realizing a lot of what was bought wasn’t being used to the fullest extent.
lexie.b January 31, 2012, 10:56 pm
Lindsay January 31, 2012, 11:22 pm
Totally agree with Wendy. Your father was pretty clear when he explained that they would have spent money on you as a child, if they’d had it. But that doesn’t mean they owe it to you now. After my parents divorced, I lived with my mom in a cheap-o house. I had the things I needed and some things I wanted, but we certainly didn’t live extravagantly. Now, my dad and stepmom live in a giant house, complete with columns in the front, and my stepmom is considering purchasing a $35,000 car. I don’t know where they got all this money, and it sort of bothers me to see how different my dad’s lifestyle is from how mine was growing up. But there’s nothing that makes me think he should start handing me money now.
Anyway, your parents sound like they’ve done nice things for you with their money. A lot of poor children’s stories don’t end with them going to college and starting a career. But you had the wonderful surprise of getting a father and siblings and more financial stability in your family, and even though you had to handle your own education, you still got one. I’d just be grateful for all of those things.
Sue Jones January 31, 2012, 11:53 pm
We are those parents. But with a twist… my stepson’s mother lives on food stamps and even though lots of child support was paid, it went into the general fund, but not enrichment. Because we had to send on so much extra and we were earlier in our careers, we could not supplement any more so he ended up growing up “poor” and the story is a lot more complicated, but I will shorten it by saying that my husband and I had a child together, we have a lot more resources now, and our younger son gets lots of enrichment. My stepson developed a chronic genetically based illness (from his mother) and we spend a lot of $$ for his therapy and meds which will go on for the rest of his life. College does not look like it is on the horizon due to his health. It’s sad. And my bio son so far is having a really nice childhood. So while we would like to treat each child equally, they have different needs, and it gets really really tricky in a blended family. I certainly do not want to deny my son because his brother did not have the same opportunities, and yet I also feel that plenty of extra $$ goes to his healthcare needs that insurance will not cover. It’s complicated.
Sue Jones January 31, 2012, 11:59 pm
Just wanted to add that stepson’s mother has made a lot of poor choices, and while we tried to get custody of stepson when he was younger, we were advised at the time by an attorney that the bio mom would get custody where we live except in cases of extreme abuse, and even then… and we did not have the resources to throw thousands of dollars at the problem so in the interest of civility we kept the custody arrangement as it was… with her… so hindsight is always 20/20 and all of that… a bit of a different situation than the one by LW, but I sometimes wonder… but we are all doing the best with a tricky situation…
BecBoo84 February 1, 2012, 12:16 pm
Was it really necessary to add that he was sick because of something his mother had passed to him? Seemed like an odd insert to me.
Sue Jones February 1, 2012, 3:16 pm
It was because the mother has some of the same issues but is not dealing with them. And refuses to take any responsibility for her condition and lives on disability, and there never has been any financial contribution on her end (or from her parents who could help). And the sad part was he was normal and high functioning until late adolescence when it all hit. And she continually undermines his treatment and tries to get him off his medication. So yes, this is a very complicated story, very sad, and his mother is in denial that he needs medical help. So I am a bit biased, angry, frustrated with her… and believe it or not, until all this happened we had a pretty civil relationship… now I just choose to interact as little as humanly possible with her but keep on my nicey-nice face to keep the peace.
Sue Jones February 1, 2012, 3:28 pm
Also please understand that I am venting a bit here… I can only express my true thoughts about her to my husband (in small doses, since he did marry and procreate with her after all) and a few close friends. She does have some redeeming qualities, but she can really piss me off too.
Jubietta February 1, 2012, 2:02 am
When our parents teach us about fairness and then do something that can be construed as unfair, the little kid inside of us complains…which is what sounds like is happening here. The LW understands that there’s a difference between her and her sibs on a rational level, but deep down inside the irrational little kid just complains when it looks like there’s a double-standard. I think this is one of those things we have to go through to separate the image we hold of our parents and the imperfect beings they are…one of the stages of growing up, if you ask me.
I think the LW should be proud of herself for growing and becoming more her own person without completely shutting down that little voice, because listening to what that voice has to say and validating the issue (but not giving in and behaving like a child) is a great way to take care of oneself.
BriarRose February 1, 2012, 9:31 am
Another person in a somewhat similar situation to the LW. I have a much younger brother (all from the same parents, he was just a huge surprise) who definitely lives a much better life than I did! The three of us older siblings sometimes marvel at how different his life is. Clothes bought more than twice a year, going out to eat, lessons and activities, etc. I wish my life could have been like that, but I get it-my parents simply didn’t have that money back then. There were 3 kids at home and my mom didn’t work. Now there’s one kid at home, and both of my parents work.
And I guess I will say this from a parent’s perspective. I’m a single mom to a 7 year old girl. I wish I could give her the world. I cried when I wrapped her Christmas presents back in December, feeling like I had failed her because I didn’t get her too much stuff. She wants private violin lessons like her friend-that’s never going to happen. I want to live in the nicer neighborhood so she can go to a better school-never going to happen. I wish I could give her a better life. I think about it every night as I lay there in bed, thinking about how different her childhood is from mine. But I also know that she is growing up to be a sweet, appreciative girl who works hard and enjoys life, and I really feel like I am setting her up for success in life. If I suddenly become rich, I honestly don’t think I would start showering her with clothes, gifts, etc.
Jessibel February 1, 2012, 10:22 am
Meanwhile, seems like I’m in the wrong line of work…30 grand Christmas bonus?! Whoo!
bittergaymark February 1, 2012, 11:35 am
I have to admit it — this situation would totally irk me. Follow Wendy’s advice. It’s dead on.
MarkD February 1, 2012, 12:33 pm
LW, Congratulations on being an independent adult.
I’m on the other end of this story. Do we do more for our youngest daughter? Yes, because we can, now. But all of them got most of their college educations paid for, and I’m proud of and love them all equally. Given ages and wages, things worked out differently for my youngest. My oldest, after all, is the only one who got our uninterrupted and unshared love – and a decent college education, and our old car. My middle one, first daughter, got a wedding. As an officer’s wife, she’s travelled a lot and lived in some pretty neat places and is financially stable. The younger daughter, still a poor grad student, gets some financial help from us – and a new car. She’s 11 hours away and I can’t deal with the drama of her former, unreliable, car. It’s not “fair.” Sue me. I’m not about to try to figure out the discounted value of what we gave each of them and try to make things equitable financially. The older ones went to more expensive schools.
As the oldest of many kids who paid for his own education via the military, I’d say count your blessings. My parents didn’t have it to give. Whatever they did differently for my younger siblings is their business. I did OK for myself. If you need help, ask.
rach February 1, 2012, 4:17 pm
I think I’m in the minority here, but I passionately disagree with Wendy’s position. Parents dropping 4K at the apple store after a $30K windfall while letting a child struggle to pay the bills is a little bit disgusting to me. (and I can’t imagine a financial advisor is going to help the LW make anything more than modest improvements – she’s young and has a low income, that’s different than being well established in her career but financially irresponsible. And it sounds like she’s made her parents aware of the situation).
A young adult isn’t supposed to get the same amount of financial resources from their parents as a 12 year old, but it’s the degree of disparity that’s most striking. If you have an adult child who can’t cover living expenses why are you getting you spending so much money on iphones and other luxuries just to spoil a preteen?
I think what’s most important is that parenting doesn’t stop just because your kids are grown; no matter what the age of your children you’re supposed to want to give them every chance to get ahead in life. LW is not getting ahead, quite the opposite, she’s falling behind, her parents could provide her with the opportunity to get ahead at no discomfort to them to themselves and they don’t even offer to help out?? I know my parents would offer, even if I declined, because they would want to see me comfortable.
6napkinburger February 1, 2012, 7:00 pm
Wow, I am apparently on an entirely different wavelength than everyone here. Maybe its a cultural thing. (Note: nothing I’m saying applies to truly abusive or entirely absent parents).
But I was raised to believe that parents do in fact owe their children a lot. They owe them love, food, shelter, clothing, an education and support (though not necessarily financial support). My dad has said to many many times — Parents never stop being the parents. It is their job to take care of their children forever.
Conversely, once a child is grown, it becomes their responsiblity to take care of their parents. The idea that child doesn’t owe anything to a parent is foreign to me. Children owe their parents love, respect, assistance and support when they need it, especially as they age. They owe them communication and involvement in their lives. They owe them obedience when it is reasonable and respect when it isn’t.
The idea that the LW feels cheated somehow, even though she knows it is unfair and immature, makes sense to me. Her parents did not help with things that parents should help with, if they can. I know others don’t seem to agree with me, but I stronly feel if a parent can help pay for college, they should. My parents always told me that it was their job to pay for college and my job to get good grades. This is not to say I didn’t work: I worked for 3 years in college, because my mother wouldn’t let me work my freshman year so I could focus. I also worked 3 years of highschool (same logic).
Clearly, I come from a family that had the means to pay for this. I am not admonishing parents who could not do this for their children even if they wanted to. But when parents CAN do it, I believe they should. And so, it seems does the LW. I do not find it whiny or selfish or entitled of her to, to herself and to this forum, admit that she feels slighted. She was slighted. And I agree with her confusion — there is no indication why she was slighted. So, if it can’t go away and she can’t ignore it, I would talk to my parents about it. I’d sit them down and tell them my feelings– I don’t understand why you didn’t offer to help me pay for college or my wedding. Maybe I’m wrong, but it appears you had the means. It would make me feel better to understand you rationale. It isn’t about what they are doing for the younger kids — it is that you feel slighted about what they didn’t do for you. So ask. As long as you do it respectfully and non-accusatorily, and you couch in it I terms, and feeling terms, I think you’ll feel better.
Leyahn February 1, 2012, 8:28 pm
From what you have said, though your family was low income when you were growing up, you had an abundance of love and parental care and parents who were dedicated to improving their own and you life.
As someone who works for a public housing agency now, and spent years working with local non-profit youth organizations, I see many children whose parents are in the same financial straights as your were when you were young, BUT, their parents are making no effort to improve their lives, and thereby their children’s lives.
So, right out of the gate your childhood was 100x better than many of the children I have worked with. You parents showed you that through hard work and self determination that you can make a better life for yourself. Your parents showed you love and taught you a moral compass and helped you grow up to be the responsible woman that you are today.
I would say, that what they have given you is much more important than money.
ape_escape February 1, 2012, 9:13 pm
I have a similar sibling jealousy issue – except, it’s not that my mom can suddenly afford to do things for my younger sister that she couldn’t for me – because she’s just the same financially as she was when I was growing up. My sister is in college now, and my mom is paying for her rent, her textbooks, her trips to the mall, EVERYTHING. My mom paid for a pretty good amount of my expenses, too, but the difference is – I WORKED.
I had a job starting when I was 15, all the way to now, with the exception of the year of unemployment after graduation. Little sis? Never had a job. As in ever. Zero jobs. Ever. I think she’s “applied” for a total of 3 jobs in her life.
And while I worked and studied my ass off through college, so I could maintain a roof over my head AND get good grades, my mother would call me and vent about how stressed she was about money. My sister never got the guilt trip. And she’s going to Paris next semester. PARIS. I would have LOVED to study abroad. But I worked, so my mom would be somewhat less stressed. I don’t understand how that’s fair, and I’m (obviously) still better. Blah. Just saying – I can commiserate.
ape_escape February 1, 2012, 9:17 pm
*bitter. So bitter I can’t spell 🙂
Dan P February 2, 2012, 8:57 am
I have to partially disagree with Wendy’s response. Parent do owe their kids something. Not forever mind you, but the LW didn’t ask to be born. She is here because of Mom’s choices and actions.
Her parents are being very unfair. Yes she is an adult and no they should not be making her car payments or mortgage. But if she has student loan debt then it would be perfectly reasonable for them to pay for some of it, especially in light of the money they are apparently lavishing on the younger siblings.
I am not saying that parents should be a lifetime ATM or that they owe their kids cars or free Ivy League educations. But they do owe their kids equitable treatment and right now the LW isn’t getting it and I don’t think what she is feeling is unreasonable.
Dan P February 2, 2012, 9:07 am
@Mark D: uninterrupted love? It sounds like your kids all received similar support financially and it doesn’t sound like they have anything to complain about. But unless you chose to delay having more kids so your oldest would get extra time not having to share your attention, not having a sibling early in her life was good fortune, not a gift from you.
sami sammour October 3, 2014, 9:14 am
same my brother got everything and i still got nothing i have this feeling they will always love my brother 100,000 times more than me
Josh June 22, 2017, 8:26 pm
Yip, probably best to talk to your husband and family about your experience and the way you feel about the situation and learn to let it go (forgive). Resenting and holding on to these things can hold you back in life. Fear of being let down or shamed profits you nothing swallow the pride and share it with your family. Thinking about it will make a person go mentally unstable lol.
Walmartforlife November 30, 2017, 10:51 am
My 7 year old sister asked for a cellphone and my dad said he`ll get her one on his next paycheck. I am 13 and i politely asked for a cellphone to and he cussed me out and punished me. And my brother had a phone when he was 12, now my little sister is going to get one, so why won`t i get one? I don`t want a cellphone anymore, that was just an example of how he treats me. And then I asked for a dress to wear to church this christmas, and he got mad at me for being spoiled. I didn`t even put anything on my christmas list, I just wanted something nice to wear for christmas, but instead he is going to get my sister stuff for christmas and a dress (cause when i asked for a dress she asked for one too), and I`ll be lucky to atleats get a dress. And he cussed me out for having bad grades in online school (I really want to go to public school, but the publiuc school didn`t accept me because we live to far away, and my dad doesn`t let me go to the nearby publiuc school because my sister got bullied there) And this is favoritism, so don`t telll me that my sister`s younger and gets to have more stuff because my brother got more stuff to when he was my age. I was sexually abused and my dad tells me that everything is my fault for not telling the woman who interviewed me every single detail. But he doesn`t even know what he is talking about, I wish i could put my dad in my situation so he could just shut up.
And dad is always calling me selfish and comparing me to EVERYONE, people on the news, the neighbors, my brother and sister. He is always comparingme o the neighbors dauther, and says I should be more like her. And sometimes he says I shouldn`t be like her and he says for me not to “misunderstand him” and think that he likes her more than me.
He`s very bipolar: sometimes he calls me a retard and other bad things, but two days later he`ll be telling me that I am the one who is most like him out of the whole family. He`ll be telling me that I am much smarter than my brother(which isn`t very nice of him to say behind my brother`s back), and telling me that I am good at something. But then other times he will tell me that I am a lazy, selfish ********(<-place any bad word you would like in the starred space). I do all the chores around the house, but it`s very hard to do all that with the dumb annoying online school burden on my shoulders. I want to go to public school! Everything that my sister or my mom does, he says its my fault. And my brother is 21 btw, and he is coming for christmas.
And he is forcing me to go to counseling, but i hate counselors. I have been seeing counselors for two years, but the only thing they ever want to talk about is the thing that happened(the sexual abuse) . But i don`t care about that, so I always tell them about my dad instead. But they ignore every detal i say abou my dad and go and tell my parents that I am emotially unstable, which onkly makes that yellings worse. It`s like they don`t belive everything i tell them about my parents. I also realized that I attempted self harm wice. Once the day before yesterday and the second time last night. They are just to little cuts across my wrists. I don`t understand why i did it. But it..
hold on my dad just called me. Ok so i am back now, all he told me was to let the dog in.
He is always calling me a failure. But in public school i was a staright a student, a spelling bee champion(i still have the trophy), and all the the teachers loved me, and the social scene was easy peasy. It was my sister who was getting bullied, not me, but my dad is fully convinced that I was an awkward nerd because i rarely ever talk when he is around (because i am scared of him and scared that anything i say will get me in trouble). Heck I even emailed a teen line, and after one email they ignored me. I tell my techers in online school about all of his and all they did was tell my parents that I need a counselor. I hate adualts because they think i am traumatized about what happened to me, but i honestly don`t care. The past is past. It`s the present that I am worried about. The present with my dad being here. My happiest place is literally wattpad, cause i can comment stupid things and peoiple will actually respond. I love being spammed by all these wattpaders. I even made a friend group on online school, but i secretly don`t like any of these kids that i made freidns with because they are all nerds. The only one who isn`t a nerd is one of them,because he wants to go to online school too. I doubt the people of k12 will actaully read this.
I can almost guaranty no one will even reply to this, if it was up to me I would`ve emailed Wendy myself, but I don`t know how to do that.
truth October 25, 2021, 1:51 am
This article should be part of a case study why a growing number of adult children disowned their abusive parents. The parents are clearly being abusive towards their oldest child. She is a reminder from when they were poor, and now that they are rich they just see her as a reminder from when they were poor and continue to treat her the same as they have always done.
Chris August 1, 2022, 11:38 am
Go No Contact. If parents don’t owe their children, then children don’t owe their parents. They had plenty of time since rising above their poverty, but they still treat you as if they are still poor.
That is the thing I despise most about popular narcissists, err advise givers. They tell the abused and neglected children “get over, your parents don’t owe you anything, but you sure as heck still owe it to your parents”.