Dear Annie: Sadly, my brother isn’t speaking to me. He is married with two children, 17 and 15. I have been part of their life, although it has been difficult. His wife is from a different country. Her family is all back there. She sabotages all efforts I make to see her children and has told me that my children and I are dead to her. They didn’t come to my daughter’s wedding and did not allow the children to come.
We have never done anything to upset them; however, I have been told I am not a good sister-in-law because I didn’t live up to what she felt I should do. I worked full time, went to school and raised my girls while her children were young. She said she expected me to baby-sit and spend a lot of time with them. I have tried to contact the kids, but my brother says to not contact them. He has cut ties with everyone in our family, including his other siblings. My mother had serious health issues, and he does not allow his kids to see her. I think that his wife has mental health issues and that it is calmer when he does not have to deal with family. Any suggestions on keeping their children in our lives, or do we wait until they are older? – Hurting Aunt
Dear Hurting: If your sister-in-law’s concern really were that you didn’t spend enough time with her children, then why would she ban you from their lives? It sounds as if she indeed has severe anger or anxiety issues and would settle on anything to resent; for now, that’s you and your relationship with her children, but if it weren’t that, it would be something else. It’s disappointing that your brother has allowed his wife’s mental illness to dictate their entire lives. He’s in deep.
Your niece and nephew are probably aware that their grandmother isn’t well, because people that high-strung fill whole households with tension. It would be good for the children to have healthier family members in their lives, and you should make an effort to give them that. But wait until they are 18. If you reached out to them now, it would only make your brother and his wife angry, and your niece and nephew are stuck living with that stress.
Dear Annie: As the Northern English say, you got the “wrong end of the stick” on your advice to “Crackberry Wife,” whose husband is constantly on his phone working. I lived a crackberry life before I had children, and I was able to learn how to let go of my addiction to work and actually be present for the child I chose to have. Mr. Crackberry can make the same choice, and he is choosing not to, as his wife enables him.
Your advice that he is offering a strong work model to the kids is completely wrong. He is teaching his kids that men can ignore you and can’t be interrupted, whereas good ol’ Mommy is apparently always available to be interrupted. Further, why would you advise her to be happy that her husband spends 30 to 60 minutes a day with his children? That isn’t parenting.
Emotional connections are difficult and hard work. He cannot be a good father until he learns patience and how to listen well. He needs boundaries. He needs to tell his kids and wife when he is working, and he needs to tell them that he will make time for them during which he will not answer work calls. If he is not willing to do that, he is not willing to parent or be a spouse and he is a negative influence for the whole family. – Lisa N.
Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org. To find out more about Annie Lane and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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