I called him and said that was nice of him to invite her and to try to develop a relationship with her. It turns out he has “heard things about her boyfriend” and said, “She should come here to clear her head and get away from that dude.” Although I don’t approve of alcoholism, my daughter’s boyfriend is a very good person and I like him. He would help anyone in a minute if they needed something. I find it very offensive that my siblings think they know better than my daughter. She may not have a straight-line career path, but she is trying in her own right to live her life as she sees fit. I was very angry that they are talking about my daughter behind her back and comparing her to my son, who has a stable job and just bought a home at age 26.
My sister has made comments, in a veiled way, that she thinks my ex husband is “enabling her” by giving her jobs and that I have not done my proper job as a mother! I really do not wish to talk to my siblings anymore about my daughter, as it’s none of their business.
Is there a better way I can handle this so that they mind their own business? Even though they mean well, I do not want to discuss my “problem daughter” with them, and I feel disrespected! — Disrespected Mom
Well, I doubt you’ll hear from your brother again about your daughter. He hasn’t seen your daughter in ten years and has no relationship with her; he was most likely doing a favor for your sister by reaching out to your daughter and, now that that favor is fulfilled, he’s off the hook… unless your sister continues bugging him to “do something” (although I don’t know what that something could possibly be). At any rate, the person you need to speak with is your sister. She’s the one with the relationship and vested interest in your daughter. I believe — and I think you believe — she genuinely loves your daughter and is concerned — probably rightfully so — for her well-being. She’s just trying to be a good aunt, but she’s stepping on your toes and most of all, on your daughter’s toes. Your daughter is 23, not 13, and you’re right that she needs to live her life. Your sister is probably also right that it’s time for your daughter to make some decisions about her future, but I’m not sure it’s her place to say so. It’s certainly not if you have a problem with it, and it’s unkind of her to judge you and your mothering of her for the choices she’s making right now.
You need to tell your sister in no uncertain terms that she is hurting your feelings by judging your parenting — that you raised both your children to be independent and that means letting them make mistakes, even if those mistakes might break your heart (or their hearts!). Tell her that her offer to pay for college or trade school is incredibly generous and that she should speak to your daughter some more about that. If your daughter isn’t ready for a four-year college or a trade school, maybe she’d be open to pursuing community college to see what interests her. You might talk to your sister about the possibility of setting up a trust for your daughter to be used only for education. Maybe knowing that that money is available — but only for a specific purpose — would be an incentive for your daughter to make some choices she might not otherwise make, especially if she gets to a point where the “convenience” of her current lifestyle is no longer fulfilling enough for her.
Finally, reiterate to your sister that for twenty-three years you have mothered your daughter and, while you’re sure you’ve made mistakes, you don’t consider your daughter’s current lifestyle a reflection of your job as a parent. More important than how your daughter makes money or whom she lives with is how she treats people, what your relationship with her is like, how kind and compassionate she is, and whether she feels confident in who she is. These are values that are instilled early. Finding direction doesn’t always happen by 23, but even a child should treat people kindly and with respect if she is raised well and taught to do so. Tell your sister that you are confident in the foundation you provided your daughter and that even if it takes her a few years to figure out what she wants to build on that foundation, you know she’s going to be ok because she has family who loves her (and, potentially with the generosity of your sister, she also has the promise of an education should she decide to pursue that course).
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.