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How do I get my parents to stop funding their adult son?


For 15 years, my parents paid for my adult brother to live in an upscale apartment in the expensive city where he went to college. He does not work. He barely graduated from college, lost touch with his friends, and then failed his graduate studies. My parents were mortified and I encouraged him to find work. But he never did. Now my parents are resigned to supporting him indefinitely. With the pandemic ebbing, I keep trying to convince them that they should push my brother to apply for jobs and engage with the world. But when my brother refuses, my parents are intimidated by him. So, they continue to support him, giving him nice used cars and taking him to fancy dinners. This is madness! What more can I do?

BROTHER

If you had expressed concern for your brother’s emotional well-being or the roots of his apparent paralysis in adulthood, it would be easier to empathize with you. (He might be depressed, he might not be a con artist.) But your question sounds like a jealous story of middle-aged sibling rivalry: Mom and Dad give him too much!

And even if you’re right – your brother is a mooch, and your parents allow his laziness – it doesn’t matter. Your family does not take orders from you! You’ve expressed your opinion many times, it seems, but your parents and brother are free to act as they see fit. (To me, his issues seem more complex than the cost of an “upscale apartment” or the “fancy dinners” you focus on. I hope he seeks professional help.)

I also understand that your frustration can drown out your loving worry. Still, it’s hard to see how your continued involvement helps matters here. No one is asking for your help. Unravel and get on with your life. Your energy will be better spent exploring how this family dynamic affects you.

My 10 year old daughter has two best friends. The three of them play together from time to time, but the other two are not really friends and only see each other through my daughter. One of the mothers of these girls told me that she would like her daughter to have a best friend like the other daughter. Now this mom set up a play date with the other girl and didn’t invite my daughter. My daughter is injured and I am upset. Are we wrong? Is there a label for it?

MOM

To my knowledge, there is no social equivalent of a “research fee” that entitles your daughter to mandatory invitations whenever the children she has introduced come together to play. Calm down, mom! It’s a play date.

One of the most common ways to make new friends is to make new friends. And it’s good ! It creates a community. I encourage you to stop monitoring your child’s social calendar and help them focus on making a variety of friends. No one is invited to everything.

Like many Americans, my next door neighbor adopted a cute puppy during the pandemic. While we were in lockdown, she and the dog were together all day. Now that she’s returned to work and the puppy is alone for hours at a time, he cries, barks and whines – a lot. It’s miserable to be next! How should I deal with this with my neighbor?

JIL

Unless the puppy has a late reaction when left alone (and doesn’t start crying until your neighbor is within earshot), he’s probably aware of this problem to some extent. Gently let him know that his dog’s distress continues for the duration of his absence.

Say, “I’m sorry to tell you that your puppy barks and whines the whole time you are away.” It’s painful to hear! Have you already started working on this? Unfortunately for you and the puppy, improving their separation anxiety will be a process your neighbor will have to deal with on their own or with the help of a good trainer (now that our dogs are used to 24/7 companionship) .

My brother-in-law sent us two free copies of his memoir. Our family tree is included there. My husband (the author’s brother), one of our grandchildren and I all had our names misspelled in the book. When I pointed this out, he blamed a now dead cousin for the mistake. No excuses ! Can I return these unsolicited books?

HARRIET

Just curious: Have you ever congratulated your brother-in-law on publishing his memoirs or thanked him for sending two copies, or did you go straight into spelling your names? Often times, the content in which we raise issues is a good barometer for the type of response we will receive.

I’m sorry your feelings are hurt. Regardless of who provided the information or proofread the manuscript, it would have been a good idea for the author to apologize. (Does anyone really need a proofreader to spell their brother’s name correctly?) Still, making the books seem too dramatic. The fact that your brother-in-law doesn’t apologize for minor mistakes probably doesn’t deserve a major escalation.


For help with your tough situation, send a question to SocialQ@nytimes.com, Philip Galanes on Facebook or @SocialQPhilip on Twitter.





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