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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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  • Bint February 21, 2011, 4:28 am

    I don’t really understand these, to be honest.

    Did the other mum’s son write in Jenny’s son’s book with pen? I wasn’t sure. Because if he did then there’s nothing rude in asking her to replace it. Her son vandalised it right in front of her, and it was Jenny’s son’s present. Jenny’s well within her rights there.

    The birthday party one is just weird and a bit mad, but provided she doesn’t send out info on where to send presents, the majority will shrug it off. Poor etiquette, yes, but not horrific unless the writer’s missed something out.

    The painkiller one, the writer sounds like she’s making a fuss about some rather silly, annoying behaviour that’s not worth the hoo-hah. Jenny doesn’t want to go out if she can’t as a family – that’s not that unusual, even if it can be irritating. Maybe she really didn’t want to, maybe she wanted an excuse to be alone with her family – unless she’s stopping everyone else having fun, why get so upset about it? And there’s no painkiller in the house, so even if she had searched quietly for it, she’d still have had to wake Carmela up if her headache was that bad.

    Rude on asking Carmela to drive her husband, yes.

    If these are the worst examples the OP can find, then I think she is hugely over-reacting, to be honest. Jenny sounds annoying at the most.

  • Girlysprite February 21, 2011, 4:53 am

    I don’t really understand the book bit. Who wrote with a pen in the book – the son of the couple that was there, or the son of your sister?

  • Catherine February 21, 2011, 5:35 am

    In my opinion, these are hardly valid reasons for wanting to ‘cut off all contact’ with your own sister. There must be another underlying problem…

  • Rebecca February 21, 2011, 5:59 am

    I agree with Bint on all of it.

    Waking up her sister to drive to the store in the middle of the night for painkiller seems a bit much, but then we don’t know the severity of the headache. The headaches I get are mild and bearable, though annoying. Some people get debilitating headaches though. Perhaps it was an emergency measure. But whatever it was, it’s between Carmela and Jenny, so I’m not sure why the OP needs to get involved and annoyed about it.

  • Margo February 21, 2011, 6:03 am

    I agree, if the visiting child wrote in a book belonging to the sister or her child, I would expect the parent of the vandalising child to offer to replace it, and while asking them to do so might be awkward, it isn’t wrong.

    So far as the issue of waking your other sister it seems to me that this is an issue between carmela & Jenny. Carmela could have simply given her brother in law a map, or directions.

    So far as the not going out together part is concerned, I have to admit that I wonder whether Jenny may have been making an excuse – perhaps she (and/or her husband and children) were finding the fmaily togetherness a bot of a strain, and were tryngto gracefully avoid it rather than cuasing offence by turning down proposals. Also, where were the rest of you going? You mentioned that Jenny is on a tight budget – perhaps she nad her husband didn’t feel they could afford the entrance costs?

    The one about the birthday is a bit odd – I would have thought that a brief letter (NOT a round robin) or perhaps putting up a photo albulm on facebook or somewhere similar, and inviting family or frends to view it, might be more appropriate, but unless the ‘invites’ were bascially begging for gifts I would class it as odd rather than bad manners.

    You mention that you “get tired of telling her what the right thing to do is” to have her get upset. I would get pretty upset if one of my sisters were to start telling me what I ought to do, too. Have you tried discussing the issue with her, instead – so you are telling her what your opinion is, and, more importantly, why you are suggesting she might do things differently. Listen to her, and toher explanation of why she feels as she does, too. Then you can offer more constructive solutions.
    e.g. the birthday invite thing might be becasue someone in her or her husband’s family has a habit of complaining that they never get invited to things, or get kept informed, in which case you could suggest that she send a letter or invite to that person only;
    the holiday – consider whether she & her husband might like some time alone together, or just with their own kids, and plan accordingly – maybe you can offer to take their kids as well as yours, to give them a day off, or sugegst that you spend one day doing something as a big group (maybe a walk, or picnic, or visit to the beach, which need not cost anything) and the next each family doing it’s own thing.

  • wallaby February 21, 2011, 6:34 am

    #1 I’m not sure it was rude. Weird/unusual yes, and I can see how you might not like it.

    #2 I think it would be ok for your sister Jenny to ask the other mother to replace the book. However if Jenny watched it being defaced and said nothing, I feel by keeping silent she tacitly agreed it was ok and so bringing it up after the fact is a bit late!

    #3 If you were all vacationing with Carmela, maybe Jenny’s husband didn’t know where the closest drug store was? Maybe they had already tried to find painkillers before they woke Carmela? I can see it was probably a bit inconvenient for Carmela to be woken in the middle of the night for a headache, however really I don’t see that as ‘rude’ if Jenny was genuinely suffering and couldn’t find any pain medication. How would Carmela have felt to find out Jenny had suffered in silence all night?

    You are obviously frustrated with Jenny. However the fact that your sister is always asking your opinion suggests that she does value what you think, even if you rarely validate her point of view. How much is your view that ‘Jenny is a self-centred, selfish person’ colouring your view of everything she says and does? Would you react the same if it was your sister Carmela asking you the same questions?

  • josie February 21, 2011, 6:46 am

    Regarding the headache: seriously, 3 women in the house and no one has a tiny supply of Advil in their purse???? Unreal. As for scribbling in the book, if the other lady’s son scribbled in the son’s book, I think I would ask for a replacement…especially if the other lady watched the whole thing. As for the b’day invites, its not your problem. The only one that looks bad is your sis. All these events are not horrific…she’s still your sister and you should love her, warts and all.

  • ferretrick February 21, 2011, 7:07 am

    Jenny sounds annoying, but frankly it sounds as if there’s some sibling rivalry here that amplifies her mildly annoying behavior into great offense for you. I wasn’t surprised when I reread the letter to note that Jenny is the youngest child-stereotypicly the over indulged, babied one that causes resentment from the older siblings.

    For example, I agree mailing the party invitation to everyone was tacky, but why on earth are you all “quite embarrassed” by this? Your sister is a grown adult who makes her own decisions; how does this affect you? The book-if I’m reading it right and the other mom’s child destroyed her property, she is well within her rights to politely ask to have it replaced or be compensated for the damage. It might be the MOST gracious thing to just let it go, but it’s not required. The cancelling of plans for the entire family is annoying, but again-you weren’t there, this doesn’t affect you. The headache in the middle of the night-probably better to just bare it if she didn’t bring her own aspirin, but if it was truly unbearable you seem to think it would be more polite for her to rummage randomly through her sister’s private cabinets.

    Understand, I don’t think this makes you a bad person. But you need to see that there is something about Jenny, probably some long buried issues, that blows all of her behavior out of proportion for you and turns it into a Thing. Learn to let it go; perhaps with the help of a therapist.

  • Typo Tat February 21, 2011, 7:30 am

    OP says that Jenny is always asking for advice, but the story tells something different.

    In the only case of solicited advice, the book episode, Jenny was quite within her right to request that book replaced. As for everything else, it seems OP is very judgmental toward her sister, seeking out any chance to get on her case. Frankly, I don’t know how Jenny can stand being treated this way.

  • Sandy February 21, 2011, 7:33 am

    It seems to me that out of three examples, there is only one where she asked for advice and ignored it. Being a youngest sister myself, I am hard pressed to be sympathetic that your sister does not respond well to unsolicited advice.

    I suggest you re-read that final paragraph and think how it feels for her to know (because I doubt that you do as good job of hiding it as you think) that you consider her selfish and self-centered.

    If you really are more concerned that she shuts you out than that she doesn’t accept your advice, then when she calls asking for advice, simply tell her you just don’t know and ask her to explain her thoughts and maybe you can have a dialog and at least understand one another a little better.

  • My13self February 21, 2011, 7:42 am

    If it is upsetting to you both when your advice doesn’t go the way she wants it to, stop giving her advice. She is an adult, her behavior only reflects on herself, not on you.

  • Tirial February 21, 2011, 7:44 am

    As long as the invite wasn’t a demand for gifts, it doesn’t seem that out of line. If the other couple’s son vandalised Jenny’s son’s book and did nothing to stop him, I don’t see why it is rude to ask them to replace it. Under strict etiquette, shouldn’t they have offered immediately when they saw the damage?

  • Threepenny February 21, 2011, 7:49 am

    Frankly, to me it seems as though the OP is the one in the wrong here. It would be “rude” for your sister to ask for someone to replace a book that had been written in by another’s child? How so?

    It really appears the OP is just looking for reasons to be offended, here.

  • DEG February 21, 2011, 7:52 am

    Jenny seems silly at best and annoying at worst, but not quite the huge etiquette offender that the OP imagines her to be. And I think that if the book belonged to Jenny/her child and was vandalized by the other couple’s child, Jenny is perfectly in the right to ask to have the book replaced or paid for, whichever is more convenient for her. Also when a member of Jenny’s family is sick, it is her right to decide how she and her family should handle it. You don’t have to agree with it or like it, but you don’t get to judge it. And the birthday party invite, unless it was covered in information on what the child would like as presents, sounds like a harmless bit of mama bragging. I don’t see what the big deal is about any of her behaviors.

    So what if Jenny is a bit of a drama queen? I actually, feel sorry for her, as I am imagining her being the fodder for gossipy conversation between her other sisters. I would encourage the OP to cut her sister some much-needed slack.

  • Jennifer February 21, 2011, 8:04 am

    I 2nd the post from Bint. I’d like to go further regarding the request for Carmela to drive her husband. If they were visiting, it’s highly likely the husband didn’t know where any stores were. In asking Carmela to drive her husband, she was making it clear that she didn’t expect Carmela to pay for it, but expecting someone to know where the late night stores are in a strange place at night is not reasonable. I have to say that the OP comes across as the rude one.

  • Maureen February 21, 2011, 8:12 am

    I’m with Bint. I don’t see anything wrong with what Jenny did. Sending an invite out of state? As long as it wasn’t a plea for a gift I think it’s a nice gesture. The book? Jenny was within her rights. And, as a sufferer of migraines myself, you are not thinking straight with a headache of that magnitude. You are incapable of finding pain medication. The pain can be so severe that you firmly believe it to be your last night on earth and want someone with you. Asking someone to drive your husband – in the circumstances, utterly forgiven. All he had to say was, “I can drive myself.” Have some compassion, OP.

    I think Jenny annoys the OP for reasons that go much deeper. If these are Jenny’s worse crimes then I think the OP should do some self-examination to figure out why she’s so intolerant of her younger sister.

  • jen a. February 21, 2011, 8:16 am

    Are you not mentioning something? Maybe a deeper reason (other than etiquette violations) for being upset with your sister? If not, I think you’re overreacting. I’m trying to say this in a way that isn’t too condescending, because I get where you’re coming from. Family can be annoying, and I occasionally pretend I’m not related to mine, but at the end of the day I’m glad they’re around.

    Cutting off contact with your sister means cutting off contact with your nephews. It means causing conflict with your family. Most of all, it means badly hurting your sister, who evidently looks to you for advice and validation. Will that honestly make you feel better about her etiquette violations?

  • SHOEGAL February 21, 2011, 9:05 am

    If a little boy wrote in Jenny’s son’s book – I don’t see the big deal in asking his mother that it be replaced?? Seriously, all examples don’t sound horrific offenses to consider cutting Jenny out of your life – so perhaps you didn’t provide all the facts – or something is missing. I can understand that it would be a really nice thing if your entire family could get together – but if Jenny doesn’t want to attend – whatever the reason, it is her right – it certainly isn’t rude.

  • kjr February 21, 2011, 9:10 am

    I have to agree with some other reviewers and say that I didn’t really get the extremity of these situations that would have you so upset. If the son of other parents ruined a new book, I don’t think it is necessarily “rude” to ask them to replace it. I personally would let it go – kids will be kids, but it was damaged property (her son’s gift at that) that bothered her so she has every right to ask the parents.

    The birthday party was maybe a little overboard, but again, I don’t see how that was horribly rude either. Did she include a registry or gift wish list? If so, I can see how it is rude more as it would be an obvious gift-grab, but if not I would leave it as more quirky and she did want to include loved ones in her life.

    The aspirin thing of course is a bit over the top and annoying, but at least it was with family 😉 If it were me and it was my sister staying with me waking me up in the middle of the night, I’d probably handle it in a sisterly way that other acquaintances may not. i.e. being straight up that she is expecting too much, or maybe her headache was really so bad that she wasn’t really thinking straight, who knows.

    I think what bothered me the most in that whole story, is that you “want to cut off all contact and don’t want to associate with people like that” due to situations such as these (really?). She is family, you of all people should love her for her good traits and her faults. I understand that over the years she has most likely gotten under your skin (as many siblings can do), but if these stories are the shining examples of what bothers you most, I am confused, it just seems really overly critical to me from what you’ve told us.

  • Just Laura February 21, 2011, 9:21 am

    Going to agree with Bint. I was gearing up for a serious faux pas here, and was disappointed.

  • Chocobo February 21, 2011, 9:31 am

    Add me to the list of people who thinks this is making mountains out of molehills. As a fairly private and family oriented person, I can understand that Jenny might not want to go out unless it’s her whole family. I wouldn’t, if it were me. My nuclear family does not split up, we stay together — even if it means little Jimmy is misbehaving, or sick, or overtired, and all of us have to go home because of it. She may be inventing illnesses for the kids as an excuse not to go out, but you have no proof of that. Even if she is, it’s not your problem and there’s nothing you can do.

    The rest is just irritating and isolated incidences, and it’s probably time to just let it go.

  • Jbalfour February 21, 2011, 9:41 am

    I hate to say it OP but you sound a little difficult to take. When I read your story my first reaction was that it was a joke, no one would get so bent out of shape over these things! As others have said, your sister was well within her right to ask those parents to replace the book and invitation are alright as long as they weren’t begging for gifts.
    I want to mainly focus on the headache issue. As someone who suffers from crippling migraines I have been in your sister’s position as a guest. You wake up in an unfamilar place barely able to move or see from pain. You have no idea where to even begin looking. All you can think about is making it go away as soon as possible. As you said there was no pain killer in the house. Even if she had already looked she would still have to ask Carmela for the favor. If in fact her husband was unfamilar with the area having him drive around for 30 mintues trying to find a place does not help her suffering. Since your sister knows exactly where the store is it makes more sense if the goal is truly to help ellivate a guest’s pain. Which apparently it wasn’t. As a host (even if you are just hosting your sister) you have a responsiblity for the comfort and safety of your guests. It is somewhat cruel to expect someone suffering with head pain to just deal with it until morning.

  • NotCinderell February 21, 2011, 9:53 am

    No etiquette violations on Jenny’s part. It is a little odd to invite lots of people to a birthday party that you don’t expect to come, but I totally understand the idea of “invitation as announcement.” She was just trying to keep distant family updated on her family events. As long as she wasn’t doing it for the purpose of people sending gifts, then it’s okay.

    The book, well, she has every right to ask for it to be replaced. Who lets their kid destroy his friends’ property and does nothing?

    She has every right to decline to come to family functions, and as for asking her sister to drive her husband to the store, maybe he didn’t know the way? Also, I happen to know that when I’m woken up in the middle of the night by excruciating pain, I’m not usually very coherent or rational. Perhaps it was time for hubby and sis to take control of the situation and not let the sick person direct how things pan out?

  • Gloria Shiner February 21, 2011, 9:54 am

    I agree with most other commenters: you are looking for something to be upset about. If she always argues with advice you give her, don’t give advice! Pretty simple, huh?

    If she does something to offend one of your other sisters, let them be offended. There’s no need for you to be offended on their part.

  • babs February 21, 2011, 10:03 am

    Lets get real about the 2-year-old birthday party “invite” which, to me, is the only etiquittehell worthy complaint. This would always be seen as a plea for gifts. It was an “invite” after all, not an announcement, and I’m sure she included her return address, so the “as long as she didn’t put an address to send gifts…” answer wouldn’t wash here. Who takes their Christmas card list and invites everyone on it to a party for a 2-year-old? If she wanted to keep people updated, she would send out a picture postcard after the event. Lets just call it for what it is, and it was tacky and immature on her part.

    As far as the headache, I would hope that if anyone in my family were staying with me and were in pain, they would wake me up to ask if there were any pain relievers in the house. I find it surprising that sis didn’t have any – but that’s beside the point. It may have been a little weird to ask her sister to go with hubby to a drugstore, but do we really know the full circumstances? Most men would just ask where’s an all night drugstore, but we don’t know why this guy didn’t want to go by himself. But to complain that sis inconvenienced everyone with her headache sounds a little nitpicky to me.

    Regarding the book, I personally would just let that one go – but that’s just me. If it was that important to the child, and completely defaced, you can get replacements online for fractions of what they cost full price. And to me, the $20 retail price wouldn’t be worth the whole messy confrontation to the parents. If it was a little scribbling, like the OP made it sound, it would be a humorous memory one day of the little friend who scribbled in his book.

    There’s always at least one quirky person in a family, and most times we just overlook it to keep peace. Sounds like there’s probably years of weirdness in this family relationship, and it’s really hard to put down in words just a few incidences, so I wouldn’t be so hard on the OP. Just know your sis for who she is, expect that she is going to do things differently. Try to treat her quirkiness with some humor. If she asks your opinion, tell her what you would do in that situation, but realize she’s a grown woman, and she’s going to do what she wants to do. And then, let go of it. Life is truly too short!

  • AS February 21, 2011, 10:27 am

    Bint nailed it – I totally agree with her.

    I am quite confused with the book part. Who wrote with pen on it? Jenny’s son, or the other mother’s son? If it is the latter, Jenny is within her right to ask the other mother to replace the book that her son damaged.

    Inviting out of state people for a Birthday is tacky. But maybe in her mind, she really does think that she is just announcing. You and your sister being mortified by an adult sister is over reacting.

    About the vacation – there are some families which like to spend time together. Agreed, that you three sisters and the families were vacationing together. But if one of her child is sick, maybe her husband wanted to be with her and their son, in case they needed her. It is also possible that the other son did not want to go anywhere without his parents (some kids are less outgoing than others). Or maybe everyone wanted to stay back so that the sick child does not feel left out. Just because they are on a vacation with you people doesn’t mean that their own immediate family should cease to come first.

    There is no indication in the story that Jenny did not quietly look for painkillers before waking Carmela up. Also, they were vacationing. There is no indication that Jenny had a car or that the drug store was within walking distance, and Jenny’s husband knew about it already! If he could have gone, maybe it is rude for her to request her sister to drive him. Otherwise, I don’t see anything wrong about requesting her sister to drive her hubby to buy medication for her. I’d not mind doing it if it were my sister.

    Jenny might be annoying, but she does not seem terrible. If this woman is the most self-centered, selfish person you have ever met, I think you are very lucky.

  • --Lia February 21, 2011, 10:28 am

    There are big etiquette questions here– but not the ones the OP mentioned. This is about the dynamics between an older sister who loves her sister dearly but hasn’t learned how to break out of the habit of showing that love by giving advice and expecting her sister to follow it exactly, hasn’t learned that sometimes the best way to be protective is to let people make their own decisions and their own mistakes. For the younger sister’s part, it’s easy to want to break free and then fall back into the same patterns, wanting to be independent and wanting to whine about it too.

    My first question is how Jenny shows she’s upset. By not calling for 2 weeks? That doesn’t constitute a tantrum. There are tons of close families that get by on a weekly email or a monthly phone call. You don’t need to know every detail of someone’s life to have a warm close relationship.

    There really is some grey area in the question of what to do about the damaged book. If I’m doing the math right, the children are about 5 years old. That’s old enough to know not to write in books but not so old as to be entirely unexpected. The other mother should have taken the crayon out of her son’s hand, but if she didn’t, it’s not the worst thing in the world. I’d guess that Jenny was asking how to ask for payment, what would be the right way to go about it. Maybe Jenny just wanted to vent a bit about the way other mothers discipline their children differently. But it came across as asking for advice and then ignoring it– which is rude!

    Here’s how you break the pattern. When Jenny asks for advice, you validate her by saying that you’re glad to act as a sounding board while she talks out the ins and outs but that you trust her good judgment to come up with the the answer that’s right for her. Do this with pure friendliness and no snark. She’ll probably be so shocked that she falls out of her chair, but you’ll be on the road to an excellent adult relationship. She showed she was already on the road to this adult relationship when she said you’d have to agree to disagree. That’s pretty grown-up.

    When Jenny doesn’t ask for advice, you don’t give it, and you certainly don’t talk about what she does with your other sisters. You don’t gang up with them to tell her that she’s made an error no matter how egregious you think that error might be. You keep out of her business where it’s none of your business because to do otherwise is rude again.

    As for Jenny’s being self-centered and selfish, she might be, but the examples you’ve given don’t illustrate this. It sounds more like the way older siblings generally characterize their younger siblings as spoiled. It sure seems like that when you’re the oldest, but we forget what we were like when we were their age.

    (I’m a younger sister. Can you tell?)

  • Sabrina February 21, 2011, 11:02 am

    I empathize with the OP, as family situations can be difficult and incredibly frustrating, and it can be very difficult to characterize a person’s audacity or infractions when telling a story. It always looks sillier in writing than it actually felt at the time.

    However, I generally agree with others. These problems sound somewhat trivial. But if the OP is truly looking for feedback, I would say these:

    1) The invitations were silly, and in my opinion, in poor taste. However, it really does only reflect on her. If you were questioned by other family/friends who found it odd or were offended, you could easily respond, laughingly, “I have no idea why she sent those! I asked her, and she said that she just felt it would be kind to update everyone on how little Junior is doing. I wouldn’t have chosen to do that, but, hey, to each their own.” You can politely and respectfully “save face” if you somehow felt that it was reflecting on you.

    2) Agreed that it would be acceptable for her to ask that the book is replaced. However, the real issue is between you and her–she asked for your opinion, then rejected your opinion. And… so? If she does this often, try to stop taking it personally, and either don’t give her an opinion, or laugh and tell her that you know it’s not what she wants to hear, but in your opinion… And then, don’t be offended when she does what she wants after all.

    3) It’s hard to understand exactly what went on, but I believe it was hurtful to other family members (moreso bowing out of family activities than the headache incident.) However, I have known many people who consistently display this odd behavior or cancel plans or rarely show up. And it can be the result of anxiety or depression, or physical illness of a private nature, or any number of things. It is highly unlikely that your sister would vacation in another state with family and purposely avoid doing things with others just to peeve them. I try hard to remind myself that few people offend others out of malice, but it is more often their own suffering that makes them appear to be selfish or inconsiderate.

    I would try hard to let it go, and let your sister be her own person. I know that it’s easier said than done, but it would likely improve your relationship dramatically. Best of luck!

  • bookworm February 21, 2011, 11:05 am

    Josie, what does them being women have to do with the availability of painkillers?

    OP, it sounds like your main problem is that you don’t like that Jenny lives her life differently than you live yours. Why not just let her live instead of worrying about her (perceived) etiquette blunders?

  • Lady_Lazarus February 21, 2011, 11:15 am

    I agree with the other posters … this seems like such a huge over -reaction. I don’t see Jenny having done anything wrong, and she does not seem to have ill intentions. She seems to have wanted to have friends/family who are farther away to feel included, it’s not as though she was asking for gifts. The book was ruined, and I don’t think it is wrong for wanting a replacement. Her reasons for wanting time with her family and having a sick child is not a breach of etiquette and needing aspirin for a headache while at an unfamiliar place is not rude. To say that she is very hard to love is kind of harsh on your part …

  • L February 21, 2011, 11:23 am

    Think there must be some build up of this sisters behavior over time and the author is just naming recent examples of this behavior. When these things pile up over time they do seem to become larger in our minds, even if they are minor events. The author just has to decide on a code of conduct with her sister and limit her exposure. Jenny will always be aggravating, but can our author put herself in situations with her sister where she won’t be bothered much by her behavior.

    I must say I find Ferretricks comment about youngest siblings unneccessary. I am the youngest of six children and believe me, the oldest my middle sister and myself were pretty easy going and the least trouble for my parents to raise. I could make comments about older siblings but I don’t believe in indulging in sweeping generalizations…

  • Ted M February 21, 2011, 11:27 am

    I don’t really see anything wrong with anything Jenny did.

    The invitations: As long as it wasn’t a gift grab, I see nothing wrong with sending them to many people. What’s wrong with, “It’s son’s birthday, we’re having a big party. We know you live pretty far away, but if you find yourself in the area, or if you want to get away we’d love to have you there.”

    The book: Other kid damaged her son’s book. Other kid’s parents watched him do it and said nothing. Other kid’s parents should replace the book without her having to ask, but if they don’t it’s perfectly appropriate for her to ask.

    The excuses over the vacation: Quite frankly, if people treated me like I rather suspect the writer and (and possibly the other sisters) treat Jenny, I wouldn’t want to do much with them either. Truthfully, I’m surprised she wanted to go on the vacation in the first place. It wouldn’t surprise me if they bullied her into it.

    The headache: I wasn’t there, and have no idea how bad it was, or if Jenny’s husband would have any idea where to go. As a result, it’s difficult to judge, but I tend to agree with the person who said that what it sounds like is that she was trying to get help while not implying that she expected her sister to pay for it. As for the writer being offended… she shouldn’t be, it’s none of her business, and I suspect the only reason she even knows about it is that she was engaged in a “what Jenny did to offend us this time” gossip session with Carmela (which would offend me if I were Jenny, and is rude and inappropriate on their part).

    Quite frankly, the impression I get from this whole letter is that the writer has issues with Jenny that have nothing to do with what she included in this letter, and may actually have nothing to do with anything Jenny has ever done.

    “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.” This reads to me as, “How dare she not listen attentively and submissively and agree with me at all times! Clearly the only possibility is that I know what the right thing is and she doesn’t, and only pure selfishness and spite could possibly prevent her from following my advice, whether she asked for it or not.” There’s a level of self-righteous indignation and absolute certainty that she is always be right and Jenny could never possibly be that is really difficult for me to not find offensive. If I were Jenny, I suspect I’d be grateful if the person who wrote a letter like this wanted to cut off contact with me.

  • Princess Buttercup February 21, 2011, 11:28 am

    For whatever reason some people feel that any info about a special occasion means you MUST send a gift. By that thinking then it must be that those people feel that every invite or notice they send should net them a gift. That is such selfish thinking that I have to wonder why so many find that thinking acceptable. To those who are not so selfish a notice or invite is simply an update or an invite to attend, not a requirement for sending gifts. Obviously the sister is less selfish thinking then the writer is. Sounds like she was updating those that mattered to her, while the writer is focused on stuff.

    The book absolutely should be replaced by the mother of the child who ruined it. Since the mother did not have enough sense to stop it and offer to replace, then the sister absolutely should ask for a replacement.

    Of course the family would want to spend their family vacation together as a family. How much do you dislike your family that you think spending your vacation away from them is fine. The sister may have already hunted for medicine or may have felt digging through her sisters personal stuff would be rude. And if the sister and her family were ill and not making it out to many gatherings they may not have learned where a store was that would be open and hubby may have been to asleep to feel comfortable trying to hunt one down in an unfamiliar town.

    Clearly the writer has some other issue with her sister that she is not telling. Could be that she is jealous of her sister for getting more attention growing up or feel she had more responsibilities growing up, etc. Whatever it is the problem seems to lie with the writer and she needs to find what that problem is and address that, not make up slights to harp on.

  • L February 21, 2011, 11:30 am

    Sorry my typing isn’t the greatest. To clarify that would be my middle sister and myself were easy to raise and easy to deal with. The older ones not so much.

  • Li February 21, 2011, 11:33 am

    Count me in with those who don’t quite understand the issue with the book. There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking a parent to replace property that their child has vandalized. Saying silent on that isn’t polite, it’s allowing people to walk all over you.

    The birthday invite was a little tacky and rude if she was doing it as a “gimme” for her son, akin to inviting people to a Bridal Shower you know they can’t attend.

    The last example seems a little petty.

  • Colleen February 21, 2011, 11:51 am

    I’ll keep it short and sweet: either there is relevant back story we haven’t been told, or the OP is the one with the problem both in terms of etiquette and family dynamics.

  • Lookfar February 21, 2011, 11:54 am

    I’m in agreement with most of what’s above. I’d add that if your sister keeps asking you for advice but being upset when you give it, then the goal of the interaction is other than what you both assume. I’m guessing, although I can’t be sure, that she wants approval and validation. You can resist getting sucked into this repetitive game by staying out of the interaction, saying “I think you should decide this for yourself.” You clearly find your sister’s personality very difficult, so since you can’t approve or validate her, and you can’t change her, at the very least you can discipline yourself to stay out of repetitive, destructive interactions.

  • Kat February 21, 2011, 11:58 am

    OP, please don’t cut off all contact with your sister over these grievances. Even if she is in the wrong, these are pretty petty things.

    1) I’m inclined to think Jenny probably DID think of her mass-invite as a nice gesture to keep people informed of her son’s goings-on. I see where the OP is coming from in looking at it as a gift grab, but maybe we can let Jenny have a pass for good intentions. Or, if not, maybe the OP could educate her a little more gently about how her actions might be perceived, rather than pointing fingers and shouting RUDE!

    2) Regardless of who was right, Jenny’s suggestion that they agree to disagree was totally valid. What’s hard to love about that?

    The final paragraph of this post really upsets me. Jenny is an adult with a family of her own, and I bet she gets tired of being told “what the right thing to do is” all the time, too.

  • Fox February 21, 2011, 12:07 pm

    I have the unfortunate condition of being both a bibliophile and really, really “anal” about my things. With very few exceptions, I can treasure a book and read it cover to cover many times yet keep it in perfect condition. When my cat chews on the spine of one of my books or something is spilled on one or the like, it upsets me. Even cheap trade paperbacks are treasures to me. My sister and I are both adults, but my parents still have all of the books we loved as children and my mom hopes to pass them on to grandkids.. Many of them are older editions of foreign books which would be difficult to replace. Many, MANY of them were gifts, most from my maternal grandmother, who has since passed on. If a child wrote in one of those books, you can bet I would be making a fuss. I’ve made the mistake of lending books to friends a couple of times (grandma’s life advice: “Neither a lender nor a borrower be”) and had them returned in appalling condition. In one case the girl whose cat had eaten the book offered to replace it and I accepted; in the other, the friend didn’t seem to think there was anything wrong with condition she returned the book in (this was an early edition British paperback of the first Harry Potter book – believe me, I was upset!) and I was too embarrassed to say anything, especially since I knew the friend’s family were far from wealthy (why she was borrowing to begin with). But to this day it bothers me, and though I’ve since replaced the book myself (though, being a later edition, it doesn’t perfectly match the rest of my set – sob!), every time I look at it it makes me sad and makes me shake my head at that friend’s lack of consideration. I would much rather someone ask me to replace something I had damaged than have it stain our relationship forever.. but then, I’m on the side of the folks who 1. would take obscenely good care of a borrowed good and 2. would replace a damaged item immediately, without having to be asked. To the other side, people who either don’t value material things (not a sin) or don’t value *other people’s* things (horrible!), often they can’t even understand what the problem is and likely *would* see a request for a replacement as rude or making a “big deal out of nothing.”

    Ahem. Others have basically covered everything else, but I just had to chime in so perhaps the OP could see the book situation from another perspective, one where it’s not about being petty and quabbling over meaningless things, but about having a treasured item thoughtlessly damaged. That book is 1. not cheap, 2. out of print and therefore probably difficult to find and probably even more expensive now, and 3. a gift! In this case, I feel so bad for your poor sister, who feels hurt and saddened over the tarnishing of this item, and instead of getting a sympathetic ear from her nearest and dearest, she gets told to get over it and that it would be rude to bring it up!

    I’m an older sister myself, and my sister is very sensitive and frequently is upset about things I don’t consider important or asking for advice in situations where I think she is in the wrong (or should remove herself from the situation entirely).. so I know how frustrating it can be sometimes trying to be a “good sister” and be supportive even when you disagree. But you need to take a deep breath and reevaluate the situation. Your sister calls you all the time.. many people hardly ever hear from their siblings. Your sister loves you and respects you enough that she consults you on these issues and is clearly seeking your approval, sympathy and support. She probably doesn’t understand why her sister always seems to think little of her or thinks she’s in the wrong. Cut her a little slack. It can be difficult dealing with self-centered people, but unless you’ve just done a poor job explaining what about your sister is so offensive, this doesn’t sound like the type of situation where cutting off contact is a good idea. She’s not mean or spiteful, doesn’t try to hurt you, doesn’t say cruel things.. at worst, she seems a little thoughtless and oblivious. These are hardly crimes worthy of exile.

  • Serenity February 21, 2011, 12:26 pm

    Count me among the confused. It seems as though the OP just plain doesn’t like her sister, and is reaching for excuses to justify it. I would actually find it sweet to receive a birthday invite from out of state. Even if I couldn’t attend, it would be nice to know I was thought of, and my company wanted. If someone’s child ruins something you own, you are well within rights to asked for it to be replaced, and as a person who has suffered migraines that reduced me to tears and complete incapacitation, asking someone for help isn’t rude, and trust me, it is greatly appreciated. Quite frankly, for all your nitpicking, if Jenny IS making up stories about her kids being sick when YOU want her to spend time with the family, I honestly can say I don’t blame her. I wouldn’t want to spend time with someone who treated me like everything I thought or said was wrong, either…especially since it’s clearly NOT her issue, it’s all yours.

  • Lizza February 21, 2011, 12:28 pm

    I agree that it definitely isn’t rude of her to want the other mother/parents to replace a book their son ruined – if it was a library book they’d have to do it, why no with a friend’s?

    The OP seems to be overly sensitive to what she deems etiquette – nothing here is horribly offensive. Is it the best behaviour? No, but it isn’t really her place to lecture on it.

  • Wink-n-Smile February 21, 2011, 12:32 pm

    OP would rather have the woman suffering with a migraine all night long, or else scrabbling through her sister’s things, looking for pain medication? Seriously?

    I’ve had blinding headaches – literally blinding. I could not see anything but black, due to the pain. If such was the case here, asking the sister for help really was the only option. And asking the sister to drive, because she knew where the store was and how best to get there, and Jenny didn’t want her husband to waste time getting lost in the dark, it makes sense, too.

    Was it an inconvenience? Yes. But you’ll excuse me if I say that the one most inconvenienced here was Jenny, by the headache.

  • kudeebee February 21, 2011, 12:45 pm

    I don’t see anything wrong in asking the boy’s parents to replace the book that he wrote in, especially if they were there and did nothing about it. When she asks you this type of question, a better reply would be “I wouldn’t ask them to do it, but it is up to you.”

    The invitation to the party was rude, but JENNY did that, not you and your other sisters, so why should that bother you? Other than it will look bad for Jenny. However, she is an adult and you cannot control what she does. Learn to just sigh, roll your eyes, etc. and let it go.

    As for the painkiller, why are you upset about that? Was Carmella upset and complained to you? If she did, then commiserate with Carmella and then move on. Yes, the husband should have gone to the store on his own and CArmella could have told him to do so, but perhaps it wasn’t easy to find in the dark on his own.

    As for the outings, perhaps they didn’t have the money to go and do them or maybe they just didn’t want to go–is her dh uncomfortable with the rest of you? Did Jenny have any say in the outings? WEre they age appropriate for her kids?

    I don’t understand why you are letting what she does have so much control over you? Before you say she doesn’t, she does if it gets you so upset over everything little thing she does. Let her live her life and make her mistakes, you and your sisters live yours. If she asks you questions, reply with “I would/wouldn’t . . . . but you need to do what you want to.” Do not get drawn into long explanations and arguments because it isn’t going to matter anyway. Do not give advice unless you are asked for it. If you do these things, it should make your life much more enjoyable where your sister is concerned.

  • Louise February 21, 2011, 12:50 pm

    1) Unless the birthday invites were a blatant gift grab, I think it’s weird and perhaps tacky, but I don’t think it’s egregious.

    2) If another child ruined your nephew’s book, Jenny is within her rights to ask the parents to replace it or compensate her for it. The other parents should have offered, too.

    3) It sounds like you don’t believe Jenny had a sick child — is that correct? If Jenny and her husband don’t want one of their children having fun while the other is sick, that’s their parenting decision. I don’t agree with it, and I appreciate that you wanted your well nephew to have fun, but the parents get to make that call. You make it sound like it’s all Jenny’s decision; does she call all those kinds of shots and disregard her husband? Does her husband just go along with her? Regardless, if her husband doesn’t object, it becomes their joint decision, and I think it’s unfair to blame it all on Jenny.

    4) I wouldn’t mind if my sibling — or any other guest — woke me up to ask if I had any asprin in the house, even if he hadn’t bothered to look for it himself first. And if we didn’t have any, I would run to the store for some. It makes more sense for me or my boyfriend to do it rather than an out-of-towner. We know the way.

    I can see why you think Jenny is exasperating, but I think cutting her off would be a massive overreaction. Limit your time with her to preserve your own sanity, if you must. I’m not surprised she disagrees with your advice either; seems like most of us here do, too….

  • karma February 21, 2011, 1:15 pm

    1. If the visitor’s son wrote in the book, the guest should offer to replace it. Therefore, if Carmela wishes to draw the parents’ attention to it, she’s not wrong to do so. That gives them an opportunity to make the offer.

    2. Why would she leave a sick child at home to join you? Who do you suppose will care for that sick child? A hired hand? I’m sure she’d enjoy every moment of your company knowing her child was home ill with a babysitter.

    3. If you are in someone’s home as a guest, it’s more rude to explore their cabinets and drawers looking for something than to wake the sister to ask for it. Too, if all of you are in another town, chances are her husband might have wanted the host’s assistance finding a local store open in the middle of the night.

    I think you dislike this sister’s personality, and therefore everything she does annoys you. Why not just spend less time around her instead of looking for actions that irritate you?

  • Allie February 21, 2011, 1:18 pm

    I would politely decline to give her any more advice and refrain from commenting on her behaviour or offering her unsolicited advice unless it’s to do with something that directly concerns and impacts you. The examples sound like minor annoyances at best and certainly not reasons to cut off all contact. As with many if not most relatives, I would grin and bear it on the occasions when you see her and try to see and focus on the best in her rather than the worst.

  • Mrs. B February 21, 2011, 1:20 pm

    You said she will ask for advice and gets mad when you don’t validate her point of view, yet you give her your opinion and don’t waver away from YOUR point of view. Considering your examples are not 100% cut-and-dry, maybe more dialogue and less “Ugh, I can’t believe what she did” would be good for everyone.

  • Chelsey February 21, 2011, 1:42 pm

    Have to say that I agree with everyone here. It’s not unusual for mothers to send birthday invitations to the entire world…especially now with Facebook. I get invitations to EVERYTHING. Mothers sending me invitations to their son’s first birthday, knowing fully that I won’t be able to attend. My cousin is a music major at a University about five hours away and invites me to Every. Little. Thing. I get invites every week to watch him play at the concert hall or wherever. But I know that these people aren’t trying to be rude by inviting me to something they know I can’t go to, they’re trying to brag. The mother is proud of her son and my cousin is proud of his accomplishments. I shrug it off and move on.

    As far as the book goes, as everyone said, she is within her right to ask that it be replaced. I got the feeling here that you think good etiquette is synonymous with letting people walk all over you, which should NEVER be the case.

    Like someone else pointed out, you said that Jenny is on a tight budget, which may be why she’s looking for excuses not to go out. Actually, if you KNOW she’s on a budget, then I personally think it’s rude to even suggest going out and doing anything that would mean costing money. My husband and I have been on a fairly tight budget. He’s a grad student and I can’t seem to find a job (his program forbids students from having a job outside of school–if they catch you with one, you get kicked out) . Yet we have this group of friends who like to make assumptions about our finances and constantly tell us that we should be able to afford going out. They’ve learned to corner my husband when he’s not with me (hubby can be easily guilted into going out while I have no issue saying, “No, now stop nagging me.”). I find their behavior INCREDIBLY rude. Since they won’t take “we’re broke” as an excuse, we often have to get creative and come up with other excuses. So I can sympathize with Jenny on that issue, unless you made it very clear that you would be buying. If you have, then it could be embarrassment and pride getting in the way…which I can also sympathize with.

    These all seem like VERY small issues, though, so it seems a little melodramatic to me to want to cut off contact for these offenses.

  • whiskeytangofoxtrot February 21, 2011, 1:48 pm

    If your sister solicits your opinion, she gets what she asks for, whether it’s what she wanted or not! My sisters don’t ask for mine, I’m sure because they realize that I’m going to give it to them- unvarnished, and right between the eyes. As forthe book, I wouldn’t have a problem with a polite request, but don’t hold out any real expectations. if the other family were inclined to do it, I’d they’d offer without being asked. And the birthday party invite is silly, but not worth getting worked up over- not your gaffe, not your problem. A lot of people assume invites are the same as announcements (happens way too often, especially with weddings), and I honestly think it doesn’t occur to them that invites are called invites because you want them to come, and annoumcements, annoumcements, because you want to share news.

    I’ll trade you sister drama, any day 🙂

  • Zhoen February 21, 2011, 1:55 pm

    I suspect Jenny is just sharing stories, which LW takes as asking for advice. Then Jenny responds to critical sister as any of us would to unwanted and unaskedfor correction. If it were Jenny writing in, I’d hope she would just keep her decisions away from her sister. Since it’s not, LW needs to just back off and listen rather than giving advice when none is really asked for. Don’t keep trying, just listen and let her be. She’s not doing anything particularly bad, just not what LW would do.

    For the record, I don’t have sisters, only older brothers, and I do realize the dynamic is very different.

    And what Maureen says about migraines. Spot on.