The Washington Post

Ask Amy: High schooler graduated to brother’s couch

DEAR AMY: My husband’s brother has been living with us since he graduated from high school last year. He had a summer job working in construction. He got laid off at the end of August and hasn’t bothered to try to find another job. I come home from work, and the house is a disaster.

He’ll pick up after himself after I say something, but I don’t feel I should have to tell an adult to do so. He does the bare minimum and lately does absolutely nothing because I’ve gotten tired of asking him. I hope he’ll just see how upset I am for having to clean up after him (but he doesn’t).

My husband agrees with me but does nothing to help change the situation. I’ve told my husband to take him to places to apply for a job. I’ve offered to take him, but he refuses.

I love my brother-in-law and would rather not have to ask him to find somewhere else to go, but I feel I might have no choice. He does not respect us or our home. He’s mooching off us, and we’re just letting it happen. Amy, please help! -- Doormat

DEAR DOORMAT: I actually feel a little bit sorry for this young man. He is completely without direction, and the two adults in his life are basically leaving him to his own devices. And look — he has no devices.

You sound like very nice and generous people, but every time you passively seethe, you miss an opportunity to force this young person closer to adulthood.

You and your husband should work together to launch him. You should write down a list of household chores he must perform each day. Sit down with him (together) to give him reasonable goals and expectations. Let him know that you will help him with ideas, transportation, etc., for a job search, and set a reasonable length of time to find something.

With the economy picking up, builders are looking for workers. If he isn’t willing to even look for a job, you should send him to the military recruiter’s office. The military offers job training and direction for young people, as well as an opportunity to serve the country.

DEAR AMY: Recently, some new neighbors moved in. They are a lovely family with one child the same age as my daughter.

The kids go to the same school, and we carpool together every day. The girls play together sometimes, but the new little girl is hyperactive, and although she is sweet, my daughter says it’s hard to play with her because she gets so excited. They always call to invite my daughter over for play dates, but she doesn’t always want to go.

I’m not sure what to say to the mom, who is very sweet and helpful to us. I have tried to tell my daughter to be kind and include the other girl, but she says it’s exhausting to be around her for too long. Do you have any ideas? -- Hopeful Neighbor

DEAR HOPEFUL: If you invited the child over to your house, you would be able to observe her in action and might be able to offer your daughter some strategies for successfully interacting with her. Keep the play dates short. Also tell the child’s mother, honestly, that sometimes your daughter has trouble handling the other child’s intensity. As these girls grow, their relationship will wax and wane. Understand that though you don’t handpick your neighbors, these childhood relationships born of proximity can be very positive, even when they’re not perfect.

DEAR AMY: Your recent answer to “Rejected Mom” about her sister’s lack of interest in the mom’s 6-year-olds described the boys’ aunt as “selfish and disinterested.”

While uninterested and disinterested are often used interchangeably, disinterested describes the state of mind that a judge should adopt when trying to reach a resolution; i.e. balance.

Uninterested signifies lack of interest, not giving a hoot, or, as in the case of the aunt, not wanting to be involved with her nephews at a certain level. -- An Interested Party

DEAR INTERESTED: Several readers corrected me about this word use. Thank you, all.

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

by the Chicago Tribune

Distributed by Tribune Media Services



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