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Sisterly Validation

My youngest sister, Jenny, who is married and has 2 boys is constantly calling my for advice and when I tell her what I think she gets upset and doesn’t call for a couple of weeks.  I think she gets upset because I don’t tell her what she wants to hear.  Here are some examples:

A few years ago, my other sister and I found out that Jenny had sent out invitations for her son’s 2nd birthday party to EVERYBODY!!!  Local, out of state, cross country, you name it.  This included a family friend that we only keep in touch with at Christmas time when I send a holiday card.  Jenny lives in Idaho and this family friend lives in California.  We were floored that Jenny could be so rude.  When we told her that that was in bad taste she, of course, disagreed.  She claims she only did it as a way to give people an update on her kid.  We were quite embarrassed that she had done this.  I don’t know if she has stopped doing this, but I pray she has.

This other example actually just happened earlier this week.  She asked me if it would be ok if she asked a fellow mom to replace a book that her son had written in with pen.  I said: “Uh no.  It would be quite rude.”  She, once again, disagreed and continued to feed me all the facts in the hopes that I would tell her what she wanted to hear.  It was a $20 book (she’s on a tight budget and told me she did not pay the full amount), it’s been discontinued, it was a gift for her son, the parents were right there and did nothing.  I continued to tell her that regardless of the circumstances, it would be rude.  She said we would have to agree to disagree.

This last example happened this past summer.  My 3 sisters, including Jenny, and I were in Utah vacationing.  Jenny and her family stayed with my sister, Carmela.  It seemed that any time were about to all get together to do something Jenny would come up with an excuse for why they couldn’t come.  The excuse was usually that one of her boys was sick.  So we would suggest that maybe she or her husband could come with the healthy kid so they could join in the fun.  Well, of course they couldn’t.  If she wasn’t able to come, none of them could.  The last straw for me was when she woke up in the middle of the night with a headache.  Instead of just quietly looking for some pain killer she wakes up my sister to have her get it.  There was none.  So she asks if Carmela can drive her husband to the drug store for some.  Why didn’t her husband just go himself?  No reason whatsoever.  I would think she would remember that she is a guest in Carmela’s house and despite the fact that it’s her sister, she would have shown some common courtesy.

It gets really tiring telling her what the right thing to do is, only to have her get upset.  I cannot believe we are related.  None of my other sisters are like that.  I can honestly say that out of all the people I know really well, she is the most self-centered, selfish person I know.  I almost want to cut off all contact with her because I don’t like to associate with people like that.  But since she is my sister, and even though she can be VERY hard to love, I don’t think I can do it.  I keep thinking that surely on of these times something will click.  But that is highly unlikely.  I will keep trying though.

I would appreciate any feedback.  Please be honest.  Am I in the wrong in what I have told her in the past?  Thank you.   0209-11


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  • Ista February 21, 2011, 2:11 pm

    Little confused on the book issue. The first time I read it, I interpreted that Jenny’s son had written in his own book (which Jenny had bought on clearance and gifted to him), and had done the writing while in front of the friend’s parents. Asking those people to pay for it at that point would be rude. That’s the only way I can interpret the poorly described situation that results in a faux pas.

    Other than that; some folks like to scrapbook invitations and things of that nature. Also no one with a migraine can be held accountable for their actions while under that influence.

  • TheOtherAmber February 21, 2011, 3:03 pm

    I have to agree with the others, I can’t see that anything Jenny has done is that egregious.
    – The birthday invitiations were… odd. But nothing that I would call an etiquette breach especially if the invitation didn’t mention gifts. Now if there was a gift registry notice included with it, then that would be different.
    – The book situation, if it was the other mother’s child that wrote in the book then I absolutely would be asking her to replace the book.
    – The painkiller/headache incident – they’re in an area they’re not familiar with, chances are the husband doesn’t know where the drug store is, and depending on the severity of the headache it can be quite important to get medication for it as soon as possible.
    – As for finding excuses for her family not to go out with the rest of the family, it sounds to me like they’d just had enough “family” time and needed a break from it. Happens to me all the time when I’m with my inlaws, as they’re really opinionated, overbearing people and I just feel crushed when I’m around them.

    Bottom line for me is that I don’t think that anything Jenny did was all that bad. But I think the the OP should take a long, hard look at her interactions with Jenny, because it sounds to me more like Jenny doesn’t really like having to interact with her.

  • Iris February 21, 2011, 3:06 pm

    I’m going to agree with ferretrick. Sure, your sister sounds a bit irritating but there is no need for you to be embarrassed by her behaviour. It’s not your behaviour and it does not reflect on you. My advice would be to try treating your sister like any other grown woman of your acquaintance. Birthday party invites? Say nothing. Pen in book? “Well, if that’s what you think is best, go ahead and do it” Cancelling plans? “What a shame you can’t make it” then have a good time without her. Drive her husband to the drugstore? “I’m afraid that won’t be possible but here, I’ve written down directions for you”

    As an older sister I know it can be hard to let go of that big sis role but I think that might be the best option at this point. You may find that if you refuse to be ‘big sis’ then after a while she’ll stop being a helpless ‘little sis’.

    As for the pen in the book thing I would need a lot more information to know whether asking for a replacement was appropriate or not. I don’t think any of us can call judgement on that.

  • Jillybean February 21, 2011, 3:07 pm

    Didn’t we learn in a thread last week that guests are not entitled to rummage through cabinets and use their hosts personal belongings without asking? Of course she woke up her sister for medicine. 😉

    But to second some of the others in regard to migraines – sometimes it’s so much pain you can’t even think straight enough to know there is anything you can do about it. Meanwhile – the OP claims this is about her sister disagreeing with advice she has actively sought out, but the first story says that the other sisters “found out” about the invitations and then subsequently lectured Jenny about it. Doesn’t sound to me that Jenny sought out advice. The second example (and the only one where Jenny apparently asks for advice), the OP says: I said: “Uh no. It would be quite rude.” If I’m interpreting the story correctly, I completely disagree. If a child ruins something, the other parent shouldn’t even have to be asked to replace. It should be offered.

    As for the final story – I suspect Jenny and her family didn’t feel particularly welcome by at the very least the OP, perhaps by the whole gang, and came up with reasons not to tag along on the group excursions.

    And to this:

    It gets really tiring telling her what the right thing to do is, only to have her get upset.

    I say – anyone who seemingly loathes her sister over the pettiest of “offenses” and thinks about cutting contact with her and causing a family rift in the process (which it certainly would), doesn’t have a clue as to what the “right thing to do is.” But that’s just my opinion.

  • Pinkwildrose February 21, 2011, 3:19 pm

    As the daughter of two eldest siblings, as well as having an elder sister of my own, I read that post cringing. I grew up listening to my parents and my sister complaining bitterly about those in their life who didn’t do things as they thought they ‘ought’ to. I’ve gotten to the point where I refuse to tell my parents or my older sister anything I’m doing unless they agree not to comment, because I’m sick of the criticism. As long as Jenny isn’t causing major harm to someone or breaking laws, why exactly does the OP care? And is Jenny truly asking for advice, or is she telling the OP what she’s done, and the OP is criticizing her for it. Is Jenny actually saying, “did I do the right thing here?” And even if she is asking advice, she’s under no obligation to take it. Advice is not an order, it’s a suggestion. It’s no personal insult to the OP if Jenny makes up her own mind.

    Jenny seems to me like a proud, devoted mother. Frankly, I would have loved to have parents who would have stayed with me when I was sick instead of worrying more about the feelings of their adult siblings or friends.

    The OP seriously needs to find something else to occupy her time, instead of fuming over the harmless decisions of another adult. I’d suggest a simulation game, as she’ll have complete control of her own little world, without that pesky free-will-of-other-human-beings thing interfering.

  • gramma dishes February 21, 2011, 3:40 pm

    It’s hard to be the “Little Sister” in some families.

    Everyone thinks they have the right to boss you around. They forget that somewhere along the way, YOU became an adult too.

    But in some families you’ll never attain the ‘adult with equal status’ designation. You’ll always be incompetent little sister not because you are, but because that’s what your family needs you to be for their own egos.

    Everyone thinks of you a child, insists upon treating you like a child, and then declares that you act like a child because you don’t instantly “obey” them! There is no reason at all that Jenny should be deferring to this sister, or anybody else for that matter.

    Jenny’s now a grownup with a family of her own to consider and frankly her family, the one that she created, now takes precedence over the family she was born into. If her sisters can’t treat her with the same “adult” level respect they offer each other, then I wouldn’t blame Jenny if SHE chose to distance herself from her family for awhile.

  • Enna February 21, 2011, 5:18 pm

    I agree with Bint. What happened over the book? if the son’s firend did the graffiti then his parents should replace the book. It doesn’t matter if the sister got it in a sale, if somone ruins something and has to spend the full price or ten times the price to replace it so be it. I had a pair of straginers I got in sale haven’t used them in ages and I wanred my sisted if she broke them she would pay full price £60 for replacement she siad “I’m only paing £20 you got them in a sale.” I said fine – I’ll go and tell Mum and Dad shall I? They might give me £60 worth of your stuff to wreck.

  • Victoria February 21, 2011, 5:30 pm

    I get invitations to my nephew’s birthday parties (he’s only two so I’ve gotten two) even though I live half way across the country from them and it makes me happy to still be thought of as being a part of his life like that. I don’t see why this is rude, unless you think your sister just wants them to send gifts?

    The other things seem “eh” rude to me. The parents should have offered to replace the book, and the husband should have said he would drive himself. Neither of these seem SO INCREDIBLY rude or all on your sister.

  • Ebony February 21, 2011, 6:02 pm

    In regards to the friends child who wrote in your sisters son’s book… I will not answer but pose this question/scenario to put it into prospective… If I and I my son were in Barnes and Nobles and my son took one of the books off their shelf proceeding to scribble inside the book vandalizing it. Do you think the store employees would have me pay for the book? Do you think it would be my responsibility as a parent to pay for the book?

    I see no harm in inviting everyone to her sons’ birthday party. Why not? You never know who may show up. I know in my own experience I’ve been told “an invite would have been nice” sometimes even if one can’t make it, an invite makes them feel thought of and involved.

    Severe headache. What can I say? I truly believe there are underlying issues here. I believe you need to get the root cause of the problem(maybe through some counseling). My sisters and I are so close I WOULD NEVER get upset because I was woken up in the middle of the night due to the fact my sister is in pain or for that matter just needs to talk because something is bothering her. I’d be upset if she hadn’t woke me up and just tried to deal with it and suffer through the night. I believe your sister lives in Idaho and the vacation took place in Utah, so I’m thinking the reason Carmela’s husband was asked to go is because he knew the area and could get to the store and back quicker rather than your other sisters husband riding around trying to find a store. But again my sisters and I are very close so it may be different for us.

    Last of all have you considered the reason your sister makes excuses about spending time with the rest of you is because she feels like you look down on her. I wouldn’t want to be around someone whose always nagging or putting me down for the choices I make. It kind of sounds like shes the black sheep of the family. Whatever you do, do it in love and maybe once she feels that love she’ll want to be apart of the family gatherings. Also you made mention she calls you for advice, I would say when she does determine if she is asking you for advice or merely sharing things with you. If it is advice then turn the question back on her and ask what does she think about the situation. Ask her if she’d like your input or lightly suggest what you would do in the situation. The beautiful thing about human beings is that we are not all the same nor do we handle situations the same and that’s okay as long as its not hurting anybody.

    I hope you get to the bottom of where your anger towards your sister is coming from because it has to be something deeper than whats stated because by no means is the stated comments something to write your SISTER off for. I hope this has helped in some way.

  • Caros February 21, 2011, 6:36 pm

    Urm… a headache is a headache, not a migraine. If you suffer from migraines would you really travel anywhere without any appropriate medication? Having friends who suffer very regular and incapacitating migraines (effects lasting a couple of days), I know they are always armed with the necessaries & they certainly wouldn’t have the energy/state of mind to get up & wander around the house trying to knock people awake at the onset of an attack! I’ve seen them when they’re bad & they’re incapable of doing anything but curl up & moan in pain. A husband who had witnessed this sort of attack would surely be both aware that it was one & would be doing what was necessary to help. This was just a headache.

  • Ginger February 21, 2011, 7:19 pm

    I think the family has always given in to Jenny and she is just acting the way she has always acted. Why does the OP care what her sister does? What does it matter if she sends an invitation to a family friend? Perhaps Jenny and this friend are closer than the OP is to him/her. Perhaps the friend will be visiting the state during the day of the party and Jenny wants him/her there.

    With the book – what is wrong with asking someone to replace something that their child destroyed? This site is filled with people who say that if a child breaks/damages something, the parents should offer to pay for it. Jenny is in her right to ask for a replacement or money for a replacement if another kid damaged it.

    If Jenny doesn’t go on vacation and always has an excuse – who cares? Have your vacation fun without her.

    As for the headache – OP stated that Jenny was a guest in Carmela’s house. Why should Jenny rumage around (and risk waking EVERYONE), searching through a medicine cabinet that is not hers? She was wrong in asking for Carmela to drive her to a drug store, but that’s the only wrong thing I see in this post.

    It sounds like the OP is way too sensitive. Maybe you should screen your calls or not give Jenny so much advice if you don’t want to talk to her. Very simple solution…

  • phoenix February 21, 2011, 7:59 pm

    From the OP’s own description, it doesn’t seem like Jenny has done anything more than have a different idea of normal standards and maybe be a little weird and annoying. On the other hand, the OP seems to like elaborating on minor offenses, jumping to conclusions, and butting in where she isn’t concerned.

    Also, the OP seems to have a rather high opinion of her own judgement, in that she thinks that whatever her opinion is, she is “right,” and seems to resent her little sister not bowing to her judgment. Since when is the little sister saying they should agree to disagree an offense? Personally I think the older sister right about 50% of the time. But as the little sister I would quickly get tired of an older sister who constantly acts as if she’s always right, I’m always wrong, and I’m in the wrong for not doing whatever she says with my own life.

    I think the OP needs to stop acting as if this is a competition and learn to have an actual human relationship with her sister. Hard to see how she could be a good sister if she’s constantly viewing things in terms of “I’m right, why can’t you see that and act like me?! Right, world?”

  • Michelle P February 21, 2011, 9:50 pm

    My sister is ten times worse than this with the entitled/asking for advice and disagreeing with it/etiquette violations, and I would never even consider cutting her out of my life.

  • Sharon February 21, 2011, 11:15 pm

    Way back when my son was a toddler, he tore some pages out of another child’s book. It was a “Little Golden Book”. Now, it was not an expensive book, but it was not my son’s book. I immediately appologised to the other mom and asked her where I could buy another one. She said that it was no problem, but a couple of days later, I took the replacement book over to her home. She was so grateful. A little while after that, she borrowed a book I had used while at college, she kept it for three years, I asked her about returning it about once a month at first, then after 3 or 4 months, I just gave up. I figured, “Well, I will just never see that book again. That’s waht I get for loaning out a book that I really like.” Finally after three years she brings the book to me… **sigh**
    It was a hard back book, and the cover was torn half way off and crayon scribblings all through the book. She handed it to me and did not say a word, she just smiled and started talking about something else. She did not offer to replace it, she did not explain what had happened… nothing. I finally asked her what had happened, she replied, “Oh yeah, I did have it a long time, didn’t I? We just moved and I found it at the bottom of my youngest son’s closet.” (The book cost me $30 dollars when I bout it for college about 6 years before that. And, it was out of print at that time.)
    Back then I had no backbone, I was only in my twenties. I just swallowed my anger and took it as lesson learned… Do not loan books to other people.
    Now, I will be 60 in about 6 weeks and I would smile and nicely but firmly ask for her to replace it or fork over $30.

    Sorry to be so long winded.

  • Ali February 21, 2011, 11:30 pm

    Ugh – you remind me of this girl who’s always telling me I’m “making other people feel bad,” for instance, when I say (to other people, she overhears and buts in) “I had a good weekend” or “I’m starting to get this material.” I think she just has some beef with me and thinks she needs to lecture me for whatever reason for “flashing my happiness around.”

    If this is the worst your sister has done, it’s nothing at all.

  • ErinAnn February 22, 2011, 2:19 am

    No need to get nasty, folks. The OP did end with:

    “I would appreciate any feedback. Please be honest. Am I in the wrong in what I have told her in the past? Thank you.”

  • Kat February 22, 2011, 2:58 am

    Oh, and regarding the painkiller, has anyone else been wondering if maybe Jenny did look for it herself, and only woke Carmela up when she couldn’t find any? Since, you know, there wasn’t any?

  • Katie February 22, 2011, 6:49 am

    OP, I’m thinking you need to take a step back and see Jenny as an adult, not your annoying little sister. Maybe you just have a personality clash, and you wouldn’t hang out with her if she wasn’t your sister. But patronising her and constantly telling her that she’s wrong and you’re right will certainly not improve the problem. Neither will talking about her behind her back with your other sisters, which it sounds like you do. Do you think that’s the reason why she doesn’t want to be with you 24/7? (I really need a few breaks from my family when we have big, come-one-come-all trips. And if I’m being told by a family member that everything I do is wrong, I need lots of breaks!) It’s not really yours or anyone elses places to tell other people how they should parent their kids and how their family should handle things like illnesses, even if she is your sister.

    It sounds like you need to try to shake the older-sister-who-needs-to-tell-the-younger-sister-what-to-do-all-the-time attitude. That may have been needed when you were kids, but it sounds like you’re still there and she doesn’t need you to be anymore. Stop and think about what you’d say if one of your friends/colleagues spoke about the same situation. If you’d give different advice or be a little less passionate about it, there’s your answer. From now on if you don’t agree with what she decides, just tell her what you think (provided she actually asks), agree to disagree like she suggests, and forget about it. None of the things you spoke about are worth getting worked up about, and I didn’t have any issues with them personally.

    By the way, the invite thing may not be as weird as you think. My sister in law sends me an invite every year to my nephew’s birthday party even though I live interstate. There’s a 99% chance I won’t be there, but it makes me feel welcome and included in my nephew’s life and my brother’s branch of the family.

  • Xtina February 22, 2011, 10:26 am

    The OP seems over-sensitive, or as others have pointed out, perhaps there are some underlying issues that color her perception of what I would think are not particularly egregious breaches of etiquette as presented in this story. I think it is more worrisome that the OP, Jenny’s own sister, would cut off contact with her over these minor transgressions and consider them so horribly embarrassing to her personally—they are Jenny’s actions, not the OP’s!

    About the book: the parents of the scribbling child should have offered to replace the book. Seeing as how they didn’t, Jenny is not out of line asking that it be replaced. As an aside to that, unless the book had special significance or was so ruined that it could no longer be used, I could probably overlook minor damage if I were the owner of said book, if it was an isolated incident.

    I’m among the camp that a party invitation is exactly that—an invitation. It is NOT the same as an announcement card or pictures about one’s life events, and thusly, I think it is tacky (although not heinously so unless gift registry information is included) to send party invitations to people who you know will absolutely not be able to attend. Jenny sending everyone under the sun an invitation is somewhat tacky, but not rude unless it was an obvious gift grab attempt.

    It is not uncommon at all for people to try to validate their own actions by asking for “advice”, then getting offended when the advice proffered is opposite of what they wanted to hear. The only way to fix that is to either quit giving them advice or call them out on it. In this case, perhaps the OP is misreading Jenny’s intentions and offering unwanted advice, but if the OP’s assessment is correct, speaking up and saying something should open the door to discuss Jenny’s motives, or at the very least the OP has a chance to say why she’s tired of this same scenario over and over again.

  • Elizabeth February 22, 2011, 11:02 am

    I have found that sometimes people ask you what you think but they really just want you to agree with them and validate their thinking and position. I think this is a bit passive aggressive.

  • RMMuir February 22, 2011, 12:41 pm


    Different people can respond differently to migraines. For example, mine are still migraines (visual symptoms, vomiting etc) but I’ve still managed to attend classes. I don’t have painkillers (eg Migralieve) because I’ve been put on the pill for them. Also, she was away on her holiday, she may well have forgotten to pack them in all the hectic running around preparing for it.

  • RP February 22, 2011, 3:22 pm

    I think the best thing to do is to stop giving the advice (whether or not she asks for it) and let go of any ill feelings regarding things that she does that don’t affect you. If she ever does ask you directly for advice, discuss the problem with her instead as someone else already suggested.

    If she hounds you for an answer say, “I appreciate that you want my opinion but it always seems to bother you that we don’t see eye to eye on things. I think it’d be better if I don’t tell you what you should do.”

  • Maitri February 22, 2011, 3:54 pm

    As the younger sister of a very domineering, “I’m always right” big sister, I think the OP is way overreacting to this stuff. Different people see the world differently. I am constantly calling my sister just to chat, only to have her start telling me what to do, and in no way, shape, or form did I ask her for advice. She assumes that by bringing it up, I want her opinion. And her opinion always forms as “You need to…” instead of “If it were me…”

    I wonder how Jenny’s letter to EHell Dame would go. “Dear Jeanne, I have this hugely bossy older sister. Every time I call her, she tells me how rude I am about whatever it is I’m talking about. She never sees things from my perspective, and always talks about how I am embarrassing her. What should I do?”

  • LovleAnjel February 22, 2011, 3:59 pm

    “a headache is a headache, not a migraine. If you suffer from migraines would you really travel anywhere without any appropriate medication?”

    The OP described it as a headache. Her sister might have called it the worst f*ing migraine I have ever had. If someone has a younger sibling they find annoying, they often assume the little sister or brother is exaggerating for sympathy. Her description may reflect this – this is what people are thinking of when they suggest a migraine.

    Not everyone has migraines as a common occurrence. This may have been Jenny’s first migraine, or maybe she only has one or two a year. She wouldn’t carry migraine pills around in her arsenal if that were the case. My husband has only had 3 migraines in his life, but they strike without warning and are incapacitating – uncontrolled vomiting and inability to move move at faster than a crawl. We don’t commonly keep migraine pills around because they would expire before he used them.

  • Maitri February 22, 2011, 4:34 pm

    “But it came across as asking for advice and then ignoring it– which is rude!”

    I disagree. Someone can ask for advice and do what they like with the advice. If I don’t like what you advise me to do, I won’t do it. If I consider it and decide to do it, I’ll do it. If someone asked me for advice and didn’t take the advice that I gave, I wouldn’t think that they were rude.

    “Asking for advise in no way obligates the asker to abide by said advice. ” (Me)

  • Breezy February 22, 2011, 8:42 pm

    While reading the stories about Jenny, my heart sank. None of the things she did seem all that atrocious and yet the OP wants to sever ties with her sister over incidents such as the ones she described.

    As far as the book is concerned, Jenny could have let it go or she could have asked to be recompensed for the price of the ruined book. It was her decision and she chose to ask to be reimbursed for the price of the book.

    While the invitations, depending on how they were worded (i.e. gift grab), may be an etiquette faux pas, there is absolutely nothing wrong in wanting to include loved ones in a celebration. IMHO, I think it’s sweet that she wanted to keep people updated on her child as she stated.

    Concerning the vacation, I’m not sure how the fact that by Jenny declining to go on the outings, due to having to take care of a sick child, ruin anyone’s good time.

    Maybe I’m missing something but this sounds like a lot of nitpicking over trivial things. Maybe what the OP should do is have a serious heart-to-heart talk with Jenny to work through any issues she may have.

    Reading this story reminded me of my sister and our relationship. Despite the fact that I would like a close relationship with her, there are things she does and says that makes it impossible for that to happen. She judges and criticizes my decisions and tells me that I had it much easier growing up than she did because of x,y,z reasons. Sounds like the fact that Jenny is the youngest is a bone of contention for the OP as well.

  • sally February 24, 2011, 12:54 am

    I can’t believe how many people disagreed with you, OP! I think your sister sounds like a pain in the neck and here is why:
    Inviting everyone and their cousin to a 2 year old’s birthday party isn’t rude, it’s obnoxious. It IS fishing for gifts and attention, and she should stop it. The truth is, most of the time, sisters are all painted with the same brush, and if she knows this is embarassing to her sisters, she should stop. (She probably enjoys pushing your buttons)

    For the book–at Jenny’s house, did Jenny provide the pen? Did the kid bring his own pen from home and vandalize the book? If Jenny provided the pen, she has no right to ask for reimbursment from the parents. And, anything of value to her should be put away when she is entertaining small children anyway.

    Also, a family vacation is a family vacation–if you have no intention of participating, stay home.

    Finally, if you are prone to migranes, bring your own medication. Don’t expect your hosts to get up in the middle of the night and buy some for you. It sounds like Jenny tends to act like a child, then throws a tantrum when people treat her like a child.

    I would keep my distance from her for awhile, and just stop giving her advice and listening to her problems all together. Either that or just agree with everything she does because trust me, she’s never going to change.

  • AS February 24, 2011, 2:07 pm

    BTW, OP never once said that Jenny had migraines.
    I don’t know about migraines and medication as I don’t have them. But headaches can be very bad sometimes too. I sometimes have headaches so bad that I cannot sleep at night, or do anything, and I don’t have migraines. It happens very rarely and probably related to dust or something, though I have never needed to have a check done. I can empathize with Jenny for having a headache and unable to find a pain medication.

    @Sally, pens can be found lying around in houses. And unless it is a toddler who is visiting, there is no reason to hide pens and children’s books. Some kids just scribble more than others; and it is the responsibility of the kid’s parents to tell the child not to do so on other people’s books.
    It is not necessary that a person has to attend EVERY single family event with the rest of the family during family vacations – particularly if a child is sick. It is not up to anyone to tell how they are dealing with the nuclear family. Given today’s busy lifestyle, it is probably the only vacation the nuclear family is taking that year. It is nice to meet the family, and hence they are taking the vacation with the family. There is a possibility that Jenny’s son is actually sick. It is rude for the OP to say that the whole nuclear family has no right to stay with a sick child. It is often convenient for both parents to be around when a child is sick especially if they are not at home, so that one is available to take care of other stuffs (like pick up medicines, etc) when one parent is taking care of the child. Did OP or her other sister even offer to take the other son if the parents are unable to come? She doesn’t say so anywhere in the post.

  • Jillybean February 24, 2011, 4:55 pm


    The OP began with: “My youngest sister, Jenny, who is married and has 2 boys is constantly calling my for advice and when I tell her what I think she gets upset and doesn’t call for a couple of weeks. I think she gets upset because I don’t tell her what she wants to hear. Here are some examples.”

    Yet, of her three examples, only one actually indicated that Jenny had asked for any advice at all.

    In the first example, she and the other sister found out something after the fact, and seemingly sought out Jenny to let her know what they thought of it. That’s pretty obnoxious if you ask me. Unless someone complained to the OP and asked that she relay the info to Jenny, she really had no reason to tell Jenny what she thought.

    In the second example, the only one where Jenny asked for advice, the OP makes it clear how rigid she is when she states: “I continued to tell her that regardless of the circumstances, it would be rude.” Really? Under NO circumstances would it be acceptable in her mind for Jenny to want to be reimbursed for damaged property? Seems to me, that while she insists that Jenny just doesn’t want to hear “what’s right” the OP doesn’t actually listen to her sister’s points with an open mind, but simply takes the attitude of I’m right, you’re wrong and no matter what you say I’m not going to change my mind.

    The third example also includes no advice asking on the part of Jenny. In fact, the main complaint about the headache and search for meds didn’t actually involve the OP at all. She wasn’t even there. And in the case of Jenny not participating in the “family vacation” – I get the impression that Jenny was just fine with Carmela’s family and it was only when OP’s family was joining in she seemed to beg off. Since the OP clearly has hostility toward Jenny, and since people are never as good at hiding those things as they think they are, I can’t say that I blame Jenny.

    OP asked for honest opinions about whether she was wrong in what she’s told Jenny in the past, and many of us feel that she was. Many of us also feel that in her examples she was wrong to have been involved at all. Perhaps if, after her opening paragraph, the OP had actually followed up with several examples where Jenny actually asked for her advice we might have a differeing opinion of the relationship.

    My take is that the OP and Jenny have a personality clash, but that the OP refuses to see her part in it.

  • madame-mim February 25, 2011, 11:55 am

    1.) My friends, who live in a distant state, invited me and my husband to their son’s first birthday party knowing full well that we wouldn’t be able to make it. It wasn’t a gift grab, nor was it sent out of some expectation that we would make the trip; rather, it was a symbolic gesture that we are enough of a treasured presence in their lives to be included in an event that’s important to them.

    2.) So, if I’m reading you correctly, OP, your response to the situation with the book would have been to say nothing and do nothing. Would that reaction then have had you seething with disappointment and resentment, the way you seem to be doing in this post? If so, I have to wonder if this is a strategy of (non)communication that’s carrying over into other aspects of your life, such as your relationship with your sister Jenny, the supposed offender in these situations.

  • Leah February 26, 2011, 3:19 pm

    bookworm, I think most women have things like bandages and pain killers in their purses… at least everyone I know does.

    On the vacation thing: I don’t go on them either. I cannot get past the fact that a four or five day vacation costs more than my monthly mortgage.

  • sally February 28, 2011, 8:16 pm

    When I get invitations to children’s birthday parties that are impossible for me to attend because of distance, I get offended. And I am sure I am not the only one; so to the parents out there that think sending out an invite to everyone in your address book is just a “symbolic gesture”, trust me, it is not perceived that way by many, many people. It is perceived as fishing for a gift, and some of us are annoyed and/or offended by it.

    If I could not afford to eat the cost of one scribbled in $20 book, then I have bigger problems than etiquette. If I can’t afford one book to save a friendship, I probably can’t afford children.

    When I go on a group vacation, I feel it is my responsiblity to participate as much as possible in the group events. If those events do not appeal to me for whatever reason. I stay home from the vacation. Also, I would never consider ever traveling without at least basic medication like aspirin or ibuprofen, especially with children.

    So maybe I just have unreasonably high standards, but Jenny sounds like a piece of work to me, and IMO the OP has every right to be annoyed by Jenny’s behavior.

  • AS March 1, 2011, 1:06 pm

    @Sally, everyone is different. If you are the type of person who tries to hang out with everyone ALL the time during group vacations, then that is you. Some people don’t like to do that, and take a break. It doesn’t make sense to not go for the vacation together just because one cannot hang out with other everytime.
    When I go on family vacations with my family or boyfriend’s extended family, we often do things separately (just because every one might want to do different things). I don’t see this as a reason for contention between family members.

    I am not sure how much of fuss Jenny was making about the book, but it is not a matter of someone destroying her property that was also a gift. BTW, every parent is not rolling in money. $20 is not a big deal for you, but it is for some people. And it adds up. You have no right to decide who should have children and who should not because of their economic situation. I can give you plenty of examples where parents who are not too well to do have had children, and the children have grown up into wonderful adults, and never been deprived of anything. My parents were struggling when I was young (mom had to give up her job as we couldn’t afford baby sitter, plus they had enormous familal responsibilities, etc.). I know $20 would have been a big deal to them at one point. But I have never felt deprived of anyting I wanted in my life.

    Medicine is often the last thing in people’s minds if they are otherwise healthy people. I don’t blame OP for not carrying medicines. If your standard is to carry medicines with you all the time, wherever you go, then that is your standard. It is also possible that OP ran out of medicines, or just couldn’t find them.

  • AS March 1, 2011, 1:08 pm

    The OP asked if what she did was wrong. Most of us think she was. It is probably time OP reflects critically and honestly if she is right or wrong, because she is the only one who knows all the circumstances that we don’t. If she thinks something can be changed for the better, it might help her relationship with Jenny, as well as how she sees Jenny.

  • sally March 1, 2011, 3:53 pm

    Yes everyone is different, but there are a few common sense behaviors in life that are standard, regardless of differences of opinion:

    One, as an adult, you cannot assume your sibling or her spouse is responsible for providing you with medication. A good hostess is going to bend over backwards to make you comfortable, but that doesn’t mean asking her to do so is the right thing to do.

    Two, if you entertain toddlers in your home it is reasonable to expect some damage; and it is unreasonable to bill your friends for it. No one is forcing you to invite them over. If you truly can’t afford $20, maybe you could find more productive ways to spend your time other than having friends over. And if they are that unruly, don’t have them over again.

    Three, it is rude to go on a group vacation, family or otherwise, and then not participate with the group activities. If you are desperate for alone time with your family, or your children are extremely needy for whatever reason, take your vacation alone! Your family probably feels an obligation to invite you, but you don’t have an obligation to attend if you really don’t enjoy it.

    Four, the time to update distant family and friends about your family is NOT in a child’s birthday party invitation. That’s what facebook, twitter, email, and holiday cards are for. Many people perceive such invitations as fishing for gifts and the OP was completely right about that.

    You can argue with me all day about my opinion–but the above four points are plain and simple common sense. In a perfect world families all get along and understand each other’s quirks and are accepting of differences; but as we all know, family dynamics are rarely that simple.
    But my advice to the OP was simple–that she and her sister Jenny have opposite ideas on what constitutes polite or correct behavior and for the OP, a break from Jenny is probably a good path to follow right now. There is no law that says they have to be joined at the hip through every circumstance in life just because they are sisters.

  • Laura Smith March 2, 2011, 7:17 am

    (corrected from above, not enough coffee in me this early)
    Honey, she is never going to change so the only thing you can do is try to ignore her behavior and don’t enable her. By her age, she obviously does not know right from wrong and you can’t teach her, though it sounds like you’ve tried.

    Jenny didn’t have a headache, she IS a headache. Self-centered sounds like an understatement so try to distance yourself a bit. I’m not saying cut her out of your life, it sounds like you care too much about her to do that but she’s driving you crazy with stress, while she continues blindly to cause havoc. Hopefully, someday she’ll grow up but she’s not your child so stop wasting your time trying to get her to do it because all you’re doing is wearing yourself out. Hang in there.

  • Jillybean March 2, 2011, 10:02 am

    So Sally – family shouldn’t be important enough that I should go out of my way to give my sister basic over the counter pain meds when she’s sick at my house, but should be important enough for her to spend every waking minute of a family vacation glued to my side even when her child is sick? Thanks for clearing that up. I think your version of common sense and mine are greatly different.

  • sally March 13, 2011, 2:01 pm

    Jilly, I think you are correct about our respective views of what constitutes common sense. You are a little hyperbolic about it maybe, but you are correct!

  • Shock and Awe March 19, 2011, 5:41 pm

    Wait wait wait, so some people are chastising Jenny for not having a pain reliever in her purse (Hey I don’t carry them either, I have two children and if for some reason they got into my purse I would hate for them to think they are candy. Yes they are child proofed, but my kids aren’t deterred by that.), yet it appears the sister didn’t have any in her whole house. That I find hard to swallow.
    As for the book, do we know that this involved toddlers? If the kids weren’t supervised enough for this to not happen I don’t think they are toddlers. My oldest is 5 and when he has friends over I STILL make them play in the living room where I can keep an eye on them. In fact he wasn’t allowed in his room alone to play until he was almost 5 (His room is upstairs so if something happened I probably wouldn’t know until I went up to check on him.).
    Family vacations, my sick children trump your feelings…period. And if you are constantly making me feel inferior, then I will make excuses to not be around you all the time, especially if I am guilted into going on that vacation in the first place, which very well could be what happened in the case of Jenny. Brow beat into submission so to say.
    In our family it is customary to issue invitations to events, even if the person lives far away. It shows that we care and are thinking of them. We always get heart felt thank you’s for thinking of them, especially since our invitations has a picture of the birthday child on it, usually a new school picture.

  • soulalonegirl March 26, 2011, 3:24 pm

    I can completely sympathize. Your sister sounds a lot like my sister. She would call me constantly to complain about situations in her life and ask for advice. Any time I didn’t say what she wanted to hear, she’d get mad and hang up. Then she’d call back and hang up for the rest of the day. It got to the point where I had to block her from calling my number.

  • anne October 9, 2011, 5:07 am

    I genuinely don’t understand why this birthday thing would be offensive to anyone. I mean if anyone wants to explain their reasons that’d be awesome, but as far as I’m concerned, you never know who can attend and who can’t (they may be in the area for some reason at the right time) and inviting them surely just shows that they would be welcome if they wanted to attend.
    I’m not sure how welcoming an old (even distant) friend to your home can be an ‘offensive’ thing, unless you retract the invitation should they accept it, or demand a gift.