Communication Skills/sister in law and kids
QUESTION: Hi there Phil
Please give me your opinion on this matter.
My brother and his family belong to this fundamental Christian church, not for me in the least. He has 3 beautiful children that are at fun ages 13,11,9. My sister in law is a nice person, we get along well, I do not express my opinion about their church, (for it totally controls their lives). I try to stay "in my hula hoop" if you know what I mean. My brother will not let the kids go with anyone outside their church anywhere. I have asked why and I get "because I would rather not" period!!!!! So I leave it at that. My sister in law comes with us any and everywhere I have ever gone with the kids.
I am 51 and don't have kids of my own and would like a relationship with my brother's kids. Both of my parents are gone now. Mom passed away in Jan of this year, Dad 2 years ago. Prior to this we would see each other at their house. We all live in very big Houston and we just don't see each other now. Life I know!!
The reason I am asking for help is not because I have a dislike for my sister in law coming along, it is because I always have to pay. No matter what, No matter how, No matter where I always have to pay. They will do "poor mouth" on me always. The other day I got a text from SIL "We miss you, want to meet us at IHOP for breakfast" I had other commitments so I said "sorry can't"
Then I texted back "let me know what time you are going and if I can I might join you. I got back "Oh we were only going to see you".
Well I know what that means!!!!! If my sister in law and brother ever did anything for me that I did not have to pay them for, maybe this kind of stuff would not bother me. I know they don't have a lot of money and 3 kids to raise but, I don't either. When I go on vacation I pay them to take care of my two little Yorkers. I pay them $300, a lot cheaper than boarding them but, this has been going on for years. When I moved I needed some help so my sister in law helped a little (4hrs) so I paid her $50. It just goes like that you can tell she expects to be paid. When my Mom passed away my sister in law offered to go through all the stuff and get it ready for sale, if we all paid her. I have three other brothers with no children and me. Myself and another brother were the executors so we had to do all the work for selling the house. We gave everything away nobody wanted and paid to clear and clean the rest. We did not get paid, we split everything 5 ways. I also send the kids a check for their birthdays every year and, don't hear one word back from anyone.
So my question is, what can I do about this situation so I can have a relationship with the kids and not feel so resentful about the money situation?
ANSWER: Hello Maxie,
I must say that you do have quite a situation on your hands. I'm not sure, Maxie, whether you can differentiate the actions of making you pay for everything, not letting you alone with the kids, and their fundamentalist beliefs. I believe they are all intertwined. You said it yourself that the church 'totally controls their lives', and I think you need to remember this in all your associations with your brother and SIL.
There are two factors here; the power this church has on controlling the minds of people, and the personality of the people that give up their control to this type of organization. It takes both to make it work. We both know that the church foments mistrust of 'outsiders', so that no matter how good an aunt you are, you will always be painted with qualities that are not your own.
If this church is like all the other fundamentalist churches that abound, then one of their goals is to keep asking, pushing, and guilting their followers into handing over more and more money. I think that your brother and sister-in-law, are mirroring that notion of give-me!
In the end, you can only have a relationship to the children, (and I mean a real-action-ship) with them, if enough of their own sense of identity can survive the onslaught of the belief system that is being rammed down their throats. It will only ever happen, if the children continue to see you as the great aunt that I'm sure you are; in spite of the idea that is being foisted on them that 'outsiders' are fundamentally wrong. Your love and acceptance of the kids will be at odds with the dogma that says that you are wrong, and hopefully they will see the discrepancy and choose you over ideas, in the end.
I do not believe, Maxie, that this should be done at a cost to you. Having to buy the time that you get to see the kids is usury, and the resentment that is building up in you for this is growing. It should stop. Meet the kids in the park, have picnics, the beach (if there is one). In other words, choose the place so that quality of time can be spent, not your money. Have them over to your place for a 'light' lunch if you have to, but make it about the kids and not the greed of the parents. I suggest that you stop buying day passes to see the kids.
You want a relationship with the kids, and I admire you for that. It is not an easy thing to accomplish when so much of what goes on in their lives and their thinking is controlled. Your best chance is to be a beacon of love, but also of principle. If you stand up for your beliefs, you give the kids a window into a world where choosing what is right is a strength not an evil. That may be enough of a crack to let you in.
A tough situation, and I hope I was helpful. As always, please rate this response honestly, and the best of luck to you.
Phil L. Methot
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Phil are you saying the reason they act so poor and expect me and my family to "give.....give......give" , is because of THAT church? Why would they do that? Are you saying the church is like " a controlling parent" and they are imitating its mentality
? My father was a very controlling parent, abusive as well. My Mom stayed with him because of her vows and the Cathloic church. See the writing on the wall here???????
I got that years ago!!! I just wanted to talk to an unbiased person about the resentment that is really eating me up over having to ALWAYS pay. Also the guilt they are so good at serving up with it. It is very insidious guilt, they don't do it very direct, it's hard to put my finger on but, I know it's implied. I do feel like I have to BUY time with them. They can't even do a favor for me with out me paying. It makes me very angry. Do you think if I continue to dodge my SIL attempts to get me to take them out, she will get the message? Thank you so much
The additional information regarding your father helps to understand your brother's need to replace that authority with the church. Your response was the opposite, to turn away from such authority. So yes, I'm saying that when a person is dominated to such an extent, now by the church, what 'they' (the church)does becomes the model to follow. You hit the nail on the head with the church being the controlling parent comment. You see, Maxie, I'm sure that your relationship with your brother's children is one of support acceptance and love, whereas their parents, your brother and his wife are also compelled to force dogma upon the children, (for their own good, ((yuk))
Now about that resentment of yours; I think that is the more important issue here. I would not 'dodge' your sister-in-law's attempts, I would tell her that you don't want to do it anymore. You see, Maxie, if you dodge her, you are telling yourself that you are doing something wrong and trying to get away with it. That gives tacit approval to what she does, and some of that resentment you feel is toward the way you are treating yourself. You have a right to be irritated at their behavior. You have a right to not want to have to pay all the time. There is no valid reason for continuing to do so. That is what you should be telling yourself, because it is the simple truth.
So, no, don't hope she gets the message, deliver it! Tell her that you love her kids and think the world of them, but that you should not have to feel like you have to pay just to see them. They are not an amusement park attraction, and no tickets should be required. If your sister-in-law, doesn't accept this, then she would be verifying that you are nothing more than a source of added income, and that comes first before her children. I sincerely hope that this isn't so, but it is best that you find out now.
Just so that you know where I'm coming from, Maxie, I am more concerned about your relationship with yourself, than I am with your relationship with your brother's children, (and I understand how much they mean to you). You have had a life of abuse by your father, and now by your brother, and you need to affirm your own right to stand up for your beliefs.
What you say to them, you also say to yourself, so what would you like yourself to say to you?
P.S. This interaction is free, freely given, and sincerely offered. If a stranger is willing to do that for you, maybe it is because you are worth so much more than your own estimate. Upgrade! ;-)
Phil L. Methot