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Ask Amy: My brother berates me and my parents take his side

Dear Amy: I am a foster parent. I’m happily single, in my 40s, and my parents recently moved nearby.

Although they are supportive of my decision, my brother has been vocal in his lack of support.

He has written me emails expressing “concern” that my foster daughter will infect my parents with the coronavirus because of her young age (3) and the fact that she is not yet vaccinated.

He wrote me an email suggesting that I return her to the agency because of her behaviors, stating that I was putting someone else’s child before our own parents.

I ignored these emails, because they did not warrant a response.

I sought out therapy because of his berating me, which has occurred throughout my entire life.

I am in a healthier place, and my foster daughter’s behaviors have simmered down after an adjustment period.

Fortunately, my brother and his family live nine hours away. However, our parents seem eager for them to visit the new home and spend the holidays together.

I have never complained about their closeness to my brother. After all, he is their son. Even so, I do not feel comfortable pretending that everything is fine between my brother and me.

Even though they moved to be near me, they always seem to take his side. My mother constantly makes comments about how she wishes the two of us were closer.

I realize I may not have many more holidays to celebrate with my parents. How can I make them happy without putting myself in a potentially miserable situation?

— Marley

Marley: Weirdly, it sometimes seems that parents will “side” with a miscreant sibling when they are trying to sell you on a sibling relationship that they wish was better. They’re trying to persuade you that he’s a good guy.

Every parent wants their children to form a very happy unit, but it often does not work that way. Many people wouldn’t choose to be friends with siblings, yet they are connected together for much of life.

I’m sorry to report this, but you may not be able to make your folks happy about this relationship. Your brother bullied you in childhood and continues to bully you now. This even seems to be filtering down to the child you’ve taken into your heart.

Of course you don’t want to spend time with him! And because he has shown such hostility toward your child, it might not be wise to expose her to him.

One hazard of this big shift in your family’s geography would be if you thought too far ahead. This might be one of those times when anticipating problems will not help.

I suggest you take this situation one holiday at a time. Minimize your contact with your brother, and reassure your folks that this is not their problem to fix.

Dear Amy: When I got divorced about 16 years ago, it coincided with my adult child moving out of the house. I started using the sound of television for company, not only during waking hours, but also through the night. What started out as a pacifier has now become a terrible habit. I cannot fall asleep or stay asleep if the TV isn’t running in the same room.

The problem is that the TV seems to wake me up every 60 to 90 minutes. I have tried going cold turkey by not turning the TV on at all, but I just lay there for hours in silence and darkness getting frustrated. I have tried using the TV’s automatic timer, so it shuts itself off about an hour after I get into bed, but then it seems as if the silence wakes me as soon as it clicks off.

Do you have any suggestions or advice on how I can break this terrible habit?

— Constantly Tuned In

Constantly: The light from the TV might be what is awakening you. Switching to audio only could work.

There are a number of apps that attempt to tackle insomnia, using white noise, nature sounds and even boring bedtime stories.

The American Sleep Association has a number of recommendations.

Dear Amy: Your advice to “Dedicated Master Gardener” really spoke to me.

Like this writer, I’m an avid gardener, and I learned the hard way not to offer unsolicited feedback about others’ plantings.

— Growing

Growing: I’m also an avid gardener. Learning as you grow is rarely pretty — but it is effective.

© 2022 by Amy Dickinson distributed by Tribune Content Agency