DEAR ABBY: I’m unsure about how to proceed with my niece. She is struggling with child-rearing and debt.
Twenty-five years ago, when she was 16, my sister “Nan” and her husband threw her out on the street. I took her in for two years. Until she graduated from high school, she lived with me and my two daughters. She reconciled with my sister at the time of her graduation. After that I backed off, trying to let Nan perform her role as mom.
I have had a bumpy road with my sister since then, but until a year ago, we were doing OK. Now Nan has declared all-out war on me, and nothing I do or say seems to make any difference. I think her issues are political, but she refuses to discuss them, so I can’t be sure.
I have backed off from mothering my niece for many years. But she clearly needs some family support and guidance, which I am able to offer so she can get back on her feet. She’s a wonderful woman who is raising two lovely children, but a serious illness is preventing her from providing long-term security for herself or her kids.
I no longer feel obligated to stay at arm’s length from her, but am I wrong? Nan will view any support for her daughter as interference in her family, and I don’t want to cause problems with their relationship. I no longer care about my relationship with my sister, which seems irreparable, but I don’t want to put my niece in an awkward position. She truly needs the help that I am prepared to give. Any advice on what I should do?– LOVING AUNTIE
DEAR AUNTIE: Your niece is fortunate to have such a caring aunt. You saved her life. Offer the help she needs; it’s the right thing to do. If she’s afraid it will damage her relationship with her mother, she is free to refuse it.
As to your relationship with your possibly unstable sister, defend yourself as much as possible from her attacks, keep your distance and do not attempt to heal your fractured family because you cannot fix what’s wrong with her.