Frustrated Aunt Venting!

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-13-2003
Frustrated Aunt Venting!
6
Fri, 06-13-2003 - 9:04pm
Hi everyone.......I've read some of the posts and you guys (girls) give some great advice and different view points, so here I go:

We have our 15 yo niece living with us. -Her mom is a former drug addict who now lives with and off her parents (my inlaws) and her dad lives out of state. Her mother - now off drugs - makes no effort towards improving her situation so that she can take care of her daughter, but continues to live with the inlaws in a nice upscale neighborhood, gets provided for 100% ... in short no motivation to pull her own weight. Her dad is a law-enforcment officer in another state who states every once in a while (2x year) in a letter that our niece could come back to live with him at any time - I assume to prevent us from asking for child support - but who never seems to be able to pick-up the phone to call her and see how she's is doing. She has 2 siblings: 18 yo sis, who's living on her own and a 17 yo brother with a juvenile criminal history, who used to live with the dad and is now living with his mom at my inlaws. In the past she was allowed to move from one parent to the other, whenever she felt like it. Anyhow, that's the background we are dealing with... and here are a couple of things that drive my crazy:

1. She is very active in sports and had a very active schedule, so after months of begging, we agreed to a cell phone for her (prepaid minutes only!!!), which she received for her birthday (which is 2 days after Xmas). For Xmas vacation she went to see her dad with a stopover at another aunt's house (super well off financially). From her she asked for another cell phone, because the one she received from us did not have the exchangeable face plate she wanted. So my SiL got her another cell phone with a monthly minute plan - totally against our agreement (I'm sure our niece had mentioned nothing about that to her).

2. Because her grades slipped from a 2.6 GPA to a 1.0 GPA in a 12 week period, she was restricted from going to her friend's house after school but was told to come straight home to "maximize her studying time". This resulted in hour long phone calls, we then restricted the phone calls as well. She got around to not seeing her friend by signing up for "after school tutoring" - together - AND by asking her mom to come by and see her and using her cell phone (paid for by the family business) to call her friend.

3. She then decided she wanted to join the local girls' softball league (she was taken off the school basketball team due to her grades)... yes her friend is playing there as well. I reluctantly agreed, because without the outlet of sport, she becomes very aggressive, and signed the application. THEN she gets around to telling us that it will involve $400 for jerseys and other items, NOT including additional funds necessary when they travel, did I mention it was a travelling team - NO?...well neither did she! I was steamed...but trying to be supportive we paid the inital payment for the jersey....THEN I find out, that she is too old to play in the current available leagues, but that she can practice with them and be a "team helper". Well, I'm not willing to pay for that and pay for her travelling through the State as a helper and to be with her friend, which is what this is all about, of course.

4. Yesterday, around 11 am, she went to her friend's house to play softball. We had asked her to come to the graduation ceremony for DS, but she refused. By 8 pm, we still hadn't heard from her, although there is a standing request to check in with us. AT 9 pm I called the friends house (from our cell phone, we were still on the road) and she was still there....telling me that she had left a message on the home answering machine letting us know that she decided to spent the night. Again, she is to check with us BEFORE making sleepover plans and NLT than 7pm. We have not yet heard from her today - we know she is still at her friend's house and one of the parents is usually home - but this time I'm refusing to track her down. She's been told again and again and again and again, that she is to check in with us.

Since we are providing for her 100%, with little to no help from either parent, I am expecting more cooperation from her, but all we seem to be getting is manipulation and disrespect. I know, I should be more on top of things, but with an ADD DS, 40+ hour job working in the family business and a husband who's out-of-town more than intown, I am constantly playing catch-up.

Thanks for letting me vent.

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-02-2003
Sat, 06-14-2003 - 2:23pm
first let me say how proud you should be of yourselves for taking this girl in as your own! that is a wonderful thing you are doing, and I only wish there were more people like you out there, helping out their young neices and nephews...

you don't say how long your neice has been living with you. 15 YOs in ANY case are difficult, but this child has had to deal already with chaotic upbringing (her parents), an addicted mom (just because mom is no longer USING doesn't mean she is no longer an ADDICT, she appears to be living the life of an ADDICT - especially not caring about anything but herself), an absentee dad, messed up siblings, and moving into a normal and stable household. whew... I am sure she is (deep down) a very scared and anxious person who is acting out.

hang in there! you are doing the best for her right now, providing her with stability, boundaries, and *tough love*. are there other family members (grandparents? uncles? aunts?) who can help out? give you a break every now and then?

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-13-2003
Sat, 06-14-2003 - 8:16pm
Thanks for your support and comments. I guess, when you're sitting in the trenches it's easy to lose sight of the big picture.

Our niece has been living with us for almost 2 yrs now...and we're still struggling with the same issues. Although some of the traits, especially the aggressive behaviour (towards DS and other kids in neighborhood) have greatly improved.

One of the problems, I think, is that there is not really a support system to turn to.

As I said, the ILs are conscious or inconsciously supporting the mother's behaviour. The M-i-L's stance is "send her back to her father, if she doesn't behave"; another comment I really liked was "she is so clingy and demanding of her mom"-----like it's a bad thing for a girl to want her mom's attention and to feel that she's valued. The mom swoops by every now and then like the good fairy godmother to dispense "goodies" (especially when DN got in trouble), which makes us look like the "evil step-parents" - for lack of a better word - completely undermining of our efforts and authority.

Additionally, the aunt I mentioned in the previous post, goes out of her way to buy her new clothes ('right kind') athletic shoes (only the new models on the market - usually above $100.00 are acceptable to my niece), trips to her favorite basketball team ('season tickets'), lunches when she's in town, etc. I don't begrudge my niece these perks....but it is really difficult to explain to DS why he's not included or invited......Luckily he is an easy going person with lots of self esteem, but it still hurts to see him excluded.. especially, when it's right in his face all the time.

We treat her like we do our own kids (DS/14, DD/22 - now living on her own), and we provide what we can, as we do to our son. However, it just never seems to be good enough. We are comfortable financially, but have set limits with our kids. We don't feel that designer clothes are the only way to go.

So, I guess I'm angry because I feel taken advantage of. We're there to do the school work, deal with the everyday attitudes, do the chauffeuring, whatever else teenagers need - yet there is no recognition or support from the other family.

Again, thanks for letting me get this off my chest. ........again.... I AM trying to keep sight of the big picture.

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-02-2003
Sun, 06-15-2003 - 4:00am
again, my hats off to you! I think you are doing a wonderful job, and even though it seems and feels like your neice does not appreciate you, or that she *prefers* her mom and her other aunt --- I think, deep down, at some future point, she WILL recognize that you were THERE FOR HER. and I think that is the most important thing.

your son is very fortunate to be raised in this way. knowing that his parents are wonderful and caring people. learning what is more important - love and boundaries - not *big-bucks* jeans and sneakers. and he is taking in these lessons in the most important way - not by what you SAY but by what you DO.

I think basically you are most frustrated at your inlaws and at your SIL. well - there is little you can do to CHANGE them. and unless you can get some kind of court order that will prohibit mom from playing fairy god-mother - that is unlikely to change. just make sure to keep the lines of communication open with your neice. be there for her.

have you gone to family counceling? has the neice been to personal counciling? with all her acting out I am positive she is hurting inside and probably could use a *safe place* where she can talk about it. for example, one of the difficult things for kids in this kind of situation is the split loyalty issue. I am sure she really loves you and appreciates all you are doing. but she can't blow off her mom ( a mom is a mom no matter what). so she blows YOU off, or people close to you(your son, neighbors). if she blows off her mom - she is afraid her mom may never come back. this is hard at ANY age- but at 15 she is starting to form her identity and ask herself *who am I? who is my mom? will I be like her?* things like that. she also may be afraid to be open with you- because you are NOT her parents and she might feel that you might just send her *back*.

again, keep up whatever you doing. I think you are doing a great thing!

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-19-2003
Sun, 06-15-2003 - 7:23am
What a difficult job you have taken on but hopefully in the long run rewarding. It can be difficult dealing with your own 15 year old much less someone elses. My daughter had a friend last year whose mother was a known drug dealer around here. There was also a boyfriend and I think he was abusive to the girl. She finally went to social services and they set it up so she had some money to live with another friend. I know the girl was doing well at school but I think without the direction of an adult in the home eventually the girls started fighting and when the new semester she moved to the city to live with her twentysomething brother. This has not gone well, she has fallen into the wrong crowd and last I heard she was kicked out of school. It's too bad because for a time she was doing so well under the circumstances.

Just hang in there and do this for all the right reasons. Don't worry about whether she is thankful or if anyone notices what you are doing...just do it because you are leading a life in the right direction. In the end, when this girl matures she will know who were the ones standing behind and supporting her.

Good job.

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-24-2003
Mon, 06-16-2003 - 4:23pm
I could have written your post. If you want to e-mail me privately, I'm sure we have a lot in common. My husband and I took on the task of raising his younger sister 2 years ago. She is now 13. Her father (not the same father as my husband's) is absent and has been for about eight years and their mother is the most self-centered person I think I've ever met - selfish, narcisstic, evil, you name it. Not a person who should ever have had children. In any event, with no supervision, my young sister-in-law was headed straight down the wrong path ... missing 1 out of every 4 days of school, being constantly unsupervised, no rules, no discipline, no curfew, etc. Us (along with some good-hearted members of her Dad's family) intervened and my sister-in-law wanted to live with us. We took her in as our own with absolutely no support from my husband's mother. Believe me, you will never get recognition for what you are doing for your niece from your in-laws because, like mine, they don't want to admit that anything is wrong with THEM - they want to believe that everything would be fine if you were not in this child's life + you, me and the rest of the world know that is not true. This child needs you, just like my sister-in-law needed us. And while it BURNS ME to no end that my husband's mother is out romping around at concerts, getting facials, etc., etc., etc., while we support and raise her daughter as our own, I know that we are making the biggest difference in this girl's life, giving her structure, rules, love, affection, punishments, rewards, etc. + giving her a chance at a family life she would never otherwise have. She appreciates this + that is all that matters in the long run.
iVillage Member
Registered: 06-13-2003
Tue, 06-17-2003 - 4:48pm
Hi Again,

Believe me, expectations of gratitude were nowhere in our agenda - otherwise we'd look like 'Smurfs'(...blue in the face...LOL).

It's great to have a place like this to be able to vent AND get feedback.

Thank you, Everyone, for your comments and support.