Monday, March 26, 2012

Enabling Irresponsible Behavior

Is there a line between being supportive and enabling? At this very moment with rage roaring through my body, I am feeling like there is no line. To be supportive, to give everything that is expected, enables others to sit back on their asses and take, take, take. The only effort they ever make is to demand more.

I’m not perfect, I’ve never claimed to be. But I’ve tried to be a good role model and positive influence on my niece. I have given her everything she’s asked for. I’ve offered help with homework. I’ve offered her a place to live when things got rough at her house. I went with her to speak to her guidance counselor about graduating from high school last year. I’ve been there every time she has asked.

First, she took the easy out and graduated from some alternative school that required less credits.

Then she decided to take out a school loan to learn how to be a hairdresser. She got a loan at a school she really didn’t want to attend. Then the administration of the school told her to leave until she got her life straightened out. Have you ever known anyone that was kicked out of beauty school ?

Of course she’s already decided not to go back. They’re all stupid there. But it’s ok. She’ll take her loan from them and apply the money to tuition at a different school. Um, sweetheart, things don’t work that way.

Since she “graduated” last June, I’d estimate that she’s worked maybe 100 hours, earning money for gas, clothes, make-up, whatever else she needs. She’s been too busy sleeping until noon, “hanging out” and stalking the boyfriend who keeps breaking up with her. She deleted me off her Facebook account because I commented on her posts that read, “Stalk them ‘til you get what you want.”

And now, the foolish girl is pregnant. And she thinks I don’t know. It’s obvious that she is and I’m not sure how my parents haven’t figured it out yet, unless they’re just ignoring the white elephant in the room. Or maybe they know and they think I don’t. We’re dysfunctional that way.

I sit at Family Dinner these days and I try to keep my head in a happy place and keep the rage at bay. I look across the table to my sister, who did nothing to raise her daughter to be a productive member of society. She didn’t teach her how to look for a job, how to budget her money or even how to clean a house.

Then I look at my parents and I’m devastated by what I see. They should be at the tail end of paying off their mortgage, but that’s not the case because they refinanced their own house to buy my sister one. They have no retirement account or savings account. My dad is 71 years old and still has to work a full-time job. Meanwhile, any time my niece needs something, she goes to their house and asks for it.

And my dad gives her what she wants. Every time.

Yes, it’s his fault too. He should say no to her. He should tell her to get off her lazy ass and get a job. He should stop letting my sister and her kids mooch off of him. Year after year, I stand by and say nothing.

I’m anxious for my niece to make her big announcement. I can’t decide if I should pretend to be surprised or if I should just say, “Well that’s a relief! Now I know what you were doing all this time you weren’t being a contributing member of society!”

I know that when it comes down to the wire no one will try to encourage my niece to give the baby up for adoption, to give it a chance at a normal life. My sister will think it’s cute and she’ll say over and over that she did the same thing at the same age. She’ll forget to talk about how she’d bring the baby to my house for me to babysit while she “attended an alternative high school.” As it turned out, she was going back home and sleeping all day. She’ll conveniently leave out the parts about being turned in to DCYF for neglect. She’ll not mention that she lived with my parents for years after that and they took care of my niece. She’ll go on and on about how she did it all alone and no one will speak up as she rewrites her own life story.

My niece lacks the ambition, desire and character to work hard to raise this child well. It will be passed from family member to family member to be cared for so my niece can still go out and party with her friends. I know I’ll be told, “We need to be supportive! Princess needs to have a chance to have fun with her friends.”

I have zero desire to wait around and see how this shitshow progresses. At what age are we allowed to stop playing happy family? At what age can I tell my parents that it makes me sick to sit across the table from my sister every other week?

I’m sure at that point, I’ll be given another lecture on being supportive of my sibling and her children in their time of crisis… when I feel in my heart that all these years of support have proven themselves to be nothing more than years of enabling their continued irresponsible behavior.

The only humor in this situation is that my sister will be a grandmother before she’s 40. I hope Granny's weekly "Train Wreck Thursday" nights out aren't impacted by her grandkid.

Ice Princess  


  1. I know a family in this exact situation. It makes me ill to know that the grandma and grandpa are still working and not able to enjoy their retirement years because they still have to support their adult children as it seems is the same in this case. It takes all I have to keep my mouth shut and they are not even my family. It sounds like a dose of reality would be good for your sister and her daughter. I know, easier said then done in most cases. Good luck!

  2. I agree on the dose of reality to my sister and her family... but I don't think it'll ever happen. So sad to me!