Ask Amy: Maternal generosity is a problem for daughter

October 14, 2012

DEAR AMY: My daughter seems upset with me because she perceives that I give my other daughter (her sister) too much help. She does not want to discuss it, so at this point her feelings and concerns are unknown.

The first daughter is married, with a home and a full-time job with health benefits and a retirement plan. She has two children who are also married. They have jobs and are self-supporting.

The second daughter is divorced, rents and is unemployed. She also has two children, but neither is married or employed. Her children use drugs and have leeched every available cent from their mother.

Over the past few years I have helped the second daughter with apartment rental guarantees (she has always paid all the rent). I bought her several cars averaging $3,000 a piece. I helped her children (before drugs) with cars that the first daughter’s children have not needed.

I think the first daughter should be thankful she has a strong financial future and does not need help, rather than be enraged with sibling jealousy. When the conversation finally comes up, what could I say to the “prodigal daughter’s” sister? -- Upset Mother

DEAR UPSET: Let’s imagine that your first daughter doesn’t care about the money, but that she does care about her sister. She may see your financial support as “enabling” rather than as an expression of need-based generosity.

The daughter that receives help from you has the less stable life. Your financial support seeps down to her own children, who also have unstable lives. It’s hard to know which came first, your support or the instability. But this is a tough question that you should honestly explore.

How many mom-supplied automobiles does this family need? Surely your financially stable daughter wonders about this. She might be quite frustrated that your loving support may actually be holding this family back.

She might share this new perspective with you if you ask her, but, until then, it is your money and your right to make choices about how you want to spend it.

DEAR AMY: I am 12. I broke a large sprinkler in my back yard. It’s in a part of the yard that no one really goes to, but it slowly drips. It has been doing this for over a year now, and if my parents find out I’ll be in huge trouble. Help! -- Guilty Kid

DEAR GUILTY: I’m talking to you as a mom. Fess up. Your folks will be annoyed, but don’t wait another day. Tell them now.

There are some things you can’t get around, and so it’s better to confess, throw yourself on the mercy of the court and hope that your folks decide to keep the consequence proportional. This was an accident, and they will likely be most upset over the fact that you delayed your disclosure.

Even a small and steady drip can release a lot of water, certainly over a year’s time. Your folks may notice that their water bill has increased (if they pay for water) but do not know why. This leak could also damage the yard and affect the rest of the system.

You sound like a good kid. You’re going to see that it feels best to tell the truth — quickly — because otherwise it eats away at you.

DEAR AMY: Your advice to “Anonymous in New England” was way off. This 16-year-old said she and her boyfriend were having sex. She said they were being “safe.” Duh, Amy. “Safe” means they are using birth control. And if they were both virgins when they began having sex with each other, they don’t need STD counseling. So why the lecture from you on teen pregnancy? Honestly, you are so judgmental! Leave it alone! -- Disappointed

DEAR DISAPPOINTED: “Safe” doesn’t translate to “birth control” for me. “Safe” might mean this couple uses a condom, but it might not. I don’t think a 16-year-old necessarily knows what is or isn’t “safe,” which is why I suggested the couple receive professional advice from Planned Parenthood.

Write to Amy Dickinson at askamy@tribune.com or Ask Amy, Chicago Tribune, TT500, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill. 60611.

2012 by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services

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