Sis­ter won’t make jump to adult­hood

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - GOOD MORNING -

Hi, Carolyn: My sis­ter, “Sarah,” is turn­ing 30 soon. Ex­cept dur­ing col­lege, she has lived with my par­ents rent-free her en­tire life. I have al­ways taken the stance of, “It’s my par­ents’ and sis­ter’s busi­ness what they do,” and never brought it up.

Sarah is a kind, warm and lov­ing per­son, but ei­ther due to cir­cum­stances, anx­i­ety or lack of mo­ti­va­tion (I’m not sure), she has re­mained in the same low­pay­ing, en­try-level job for the last eight years. Re­cently both of my par­ents have come sep­a­rately to ask me to “talk to your sis­ter” and en­cour­age her to move out, but they refuse to con­front her di­rectly.

I would ask her to move in with me, but I share a one-bed­room apart­ment with my fi­ancé.

What should I do? And is there any­thing I can do (other than fi­nan­cially) that would help my sis­ter?

— Con­flicted in the Mid­west

Don’t throw out an ex­cel­lent stance just be­cause your par­ents asked you to.

This is your par­ents’ and sis­ter’s busi­ness.

You also don’t know whether Sarah needs help. She could be happy in her job and con­tent with the sim­plic­ity of her life, not to men­tion com­pletely un­aware the con­tent­ment isn’t mu­tual. You won’t know oth­er­wise un­til your par­ents talk to her — as it is ab­so­lutely their job to do.

Such a con­ver­sa­tion is likely to re­veal whether Sarah has been ce­mented in place by a prob­lem vs. a pref­er­ence, be­cause she’ll ei­ther fal­ter or just move out. Even then, the time to help her is when she asks you to, un­less she’s plainly in trou­ble.

One thing you can do is some­thing sibs in healthy fam­i­lies do as a mat­ter of course: Ask about plans and hopes and dreams. Not in a judgy way — in an Icare-and-I’m-cu­ri­ous kind of way. “Mile­stone-birth­day time … how are you do­ing, feel­ing, manag­ing these days?”

Dear Carolyn: My mom is in her mid-80s and I find my­self dis­tanc­ing my­self more and more from her, be­cause she treats my daugh­ter as an af­ter­thought. She brings her other grand­kids presents she makes some ef­fort in look­ing for, but gives my daugh­ter some­thing she re­ceived as a present her­self. In gen­eral, she forgets her birthdays.

I feel she doesn’t treat her as a grand­child, but as some­one who hap­pens to be re­lated to me.

My daugh­ter is adopted, some­thing my par­ents ob­jected to when we were look­ing into adop­tion.

I know if I broached the sub­ject, she would be­come very de­fen­sive and dis­mis­sive. But it’s tear­ing my heart to pieces for my daugh­ter, es­pe­cially since we have a very small fam­ily. Thoughts? — Aching Heart

Your heart is aching, but your mother’s doesn’t work.

Treat­ing any child as an af­ter­thought is cruel. Straight up.

Please trust your in­stinct. Dis­en­gage from your mother and tell her why. It’s not fair to your daugh­ter to keep sub­ject­ing her to such ig­no­rance and cru­elty. A small, lov­ing fam­ily beats an ex­tended heart­less one.

Email Carolyn at tellme@wash­post.com, fol­low her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon East­ern time each Fri­day at www.wash­ing­ton­post.com.

Carolyn Hax

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