DEAR AMY: I am 19 and work part time as a produce clerk. I live with my parents and my younger brother. My dad works at a warehouse. He’s a hardworking guy. My mom spends most of the day at home, shopping online for stuff she doesn’t need. Our apartment is cluttered with all the useless junk she’s bought with my dad’s hard-earned money.
I made plans to go on a road trip with friends before the fall semester starts. We had agreed to front some money to pay for things like gas, food, lodging, etc. I set aside a jar of money in my room specifically for the trip.
About a week before we were to leave, I noticed that all of the money in the jar was gone. I spent hours accusing and interrogating my brother. Eventually, my mom told me that she was badly in debt and needed money to pay her credit card bill, so she went into my room when I wasn’t there and took my money.
I am beyond furious.
My mom sees nothing wrong with the fact that she stole from me. She says we are a family and must help each other. She makes herself out to be a helpless victim, but if it weren’t for my mom’s shopping addiction we’d be in a much better financial situation.
How do I get my mother to take responsibility for her actions and pay me back the money she stole from me? -- Angry and Fed Up
DEAR ANGRY: I’m furious on your behalf.
Your mother is correct about this — family members should help one another. However, family members do not help themselves to another family member’s money. That’s stealing, and if your mother has any doubt about this, I wonder how she would feel if you poached some of her gewgaws and sold them on eBay to make back your earnings.
You cannot force your mother to take responsibility for her actions, but you can try to force her to recognize that she has a shopping addiction. Your father and brother should be aware that she is willing to steal in order to service her addiction. She needs help (this can be a symptom of depression), but first she needs to recognize the impact of her actions.
In the meantime, as long as you are home, you (and your father and brother) should hide your valuables. Your father should do everything possible to protect the family from her spending.
DEAR AMY: I want to have an engagement shower for my niece. The problem is that some of the family members do not get along. This includes nasty comments and two-faced behaviors. Some family members have also excluded others from community and family events like showers and anniversary parties.
This exclusion now extends to the next generation.
How can I hold a shower but not contribute to this bad behavior or create a new problem? I do not support excluding anyone who’s related or those with meaningful relationships with the bride. -- Feeling Helpless
DEAR HELPLESS: You deserve credit for trying to encourage your family members to get a fresh start. You can lead the way by ignoring gossip and ancient family stories and by determining to be neutral and inclusive.
You don’t say if your niece is an active participant in the family nastiness, but if you are hosting this shower, your list should be inclusive. You can encourage her to add names (of friends or colleagues), but she should not be allowed to disinvite people. Your blanket statement to all should be, “Everyone is invited. I look forward to seeing you.” Don’t engage in guest brokering.
DEAR AMY: “Anonymous” wrote about her grief over her daughter leaving for college. If this happened in my family, I’d be celebrating. I have one kid who will never be independent. That really puts it in perspective. -- Ann Marie
DEAR ANN MARIE: Many parents have responded to that letter, sharing their feelings of sadness over their child’s departure for college.
I agree; your situation certainly puts it all in perspective. Thank you for sharing it.