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As older sister, apologize to her

Carolyn Hax Washington Post

Dear Carolyn: I am the oldest of five siblings. My younger sister is 27. She is a new mother, of a 9-month-old. I have invested much love, time and energy into my sweet nephew. I am married with two stepkids of my own, 8 and 9.

My sister has been keeping me up to speed with her struggles in adjusting to a baby. I admittedly have expressed such sentiments as “Wait until he can walk, you will be even busier” and “Enjoy this sweet time with him, because things will change.”

Yesterday, she informs me that she is sick of my “wait until he gets older” comments, because she feels like I am judging her as a parent. She says I have no idea what it means to be a “real parent” because I have only had “stepkids” since they were 4 and 5 and only on a split-custody schedule. This came out of left field. I asked her why she didn’t say something before, and she tells me that I am such a hard person to talk to.

She was crying and yelling and then hung up on me. I understand we all have bad days, and maybe I caught her on one. How am I supposed to communicate with her? I’m tired of all the drama, and of being labeled the “mean” older sister. – Minnesota

I don’t know about the “mean,” but you will live up to the “hard to talk to” label if you throw up your defenses and attack her back. That helps make her case that you’re not approachable.

Still, none of these missteps erases the fact that she expressed a legitimate grievance. Any “just you wait … ” comment is heavy with condescension, because the whole premise of it is that the speaker knows something the listener doesn’t. Her coming back with the accusation that you’re the one who doesn’t know anything was childish, for sure.

Your best bet now – to be fair to your sister, to start breaking this nasty older/younger pattern, to stay close to your nephew – is to apologize for talking down to her.

E-mail Carolyn at
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