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Sister- what would you do, if anything?

(46 Posts)
keepingquiet Thu 22-Feb-24 20:20:58

As I get older my younger sister who I used to have a lot of time for is now driving me nuts.

She has three kids- two have moved away and she sees them only a few times a year. I can't remember when I last saw them, must have been before Covid.

Now she has one son living at home and he's at a local college. She openly admits she wants to keep him at home to 'keep her company.' He doesn't seem to to have a life of his own- they go everywhere together- on day trips, to the theatre and cinema, it all seems very strange- just the two of them.
When you see them and you ask a question she answers for him. When I was alone with him he told me he was hoping to go on a short break to Europe for his 18th birthday, but then she came in and said, 'Oh I don't think that's going to happen.'
We all feel a bit frustrated with this, and feel that soon he will join his older siblings and never come home- she is either driving him away or making it impossible for him to ever leave. I just find it very very sad and just wonder what other people think.

Nanatoone Thu 22-Feb-24 20:26:44

I think that’s awful. A parent’s job is to prepare their children to fly the nest and become a responsible adult. Poor lad if he’s being kept as a child by his mother. Most kids would soon put a stop to that but some just seem to find it easier to go with the flow I suppose.

M0nica Thu 22-Feb-24 20:35:39

I am surprised he puts up with it. Is he financially dependent on her?

denbylover Thu 22-Feb-24 20:39:28

This has to be frustrating to see/hear this happening. On one hand I’d like to say speak up on behalf of your nephew, but I fear this won’t end well if you do. Your sister won’t take criticism lightly I suspect. But then again….maybe it might make her think?

Poppyred Thu 22-Feb-24 20:39:52

Sounds weird and selfish. Not sure what you can do about it though?? I think it’s up to the son to do something about it. Not an easy situation.

I wish I’d had the bravado and common sense to say to my parents…hey hold on I know what I want to do and I’m going for it. My life would have been so different.

welbeck Thu 22-Feb-24 20:44:09


I am surprised he puts up with it. Is he financially dependent on her?

to be fair, most 17 year olds are these days.

CanadianGran Thu 22-Feb-24 21:02:51

I guess the best you can do is have a talk with your sister, and say you are worried that she is becoming emotionally dependent on her youngest son. I would try to sneak it into a conversation while you are alone, maybe take her out for lunch next time you see her?

How do her other children feel about the situation?

Jaxjacky Thu 22-Feb-24 21:26:19

Where is the father of the children?

Esmay Thu 22-Feb-24 21:35:31

I loved my son living with me and welcomed one girlfriend then another .
I was completely heartbroken when they moved out .Eventually every parent needs his or her offspring more that they need them - so our roles are reversed .
I'd be really concerned if my son never had a partner and spent all his time with me .
I know a couple of men like that and it's not normal .
One of them has train sets in his mother's house and in garden sheds and seems like a child .To my knowledge , he's never had a girlfriend and he's nearly 50 .

Maybe , having a word with your sister is a good idea .

keepingquiet Thu 22-Feb-24 21:37:07

I don't know why I thought so many of you wouldn't think was weird- so I am glad that you do find it strange and my worries are not groundless.
It is very hard to have a conversation with her about it as she seems to be hell bent on not letting him have a voice.
Yes, of course he is financially dependent on her. She said she wanted him to get a part-time job but when anything was suggested she would say he couldn't do that kind of work. She was like this with her older kids, who funnily enough now have left and can support themselves.
We have tried speaking to her about it but it is very difficult- she seems to think her can jjst go on attending college for another four years and come out with some sort of degree. This is what happened to the other two who went away to Uni but never finished their courses and are now in low-paid work- we can see this happening again.
Her son does seem to lack confidence and was never really allowed to have any friends. It has been very sad to witness.
Her older children have not had anything to do with the family for years, they never attend family events and she never talks about them. If you ask you just get told they are working and not bothering her.
I really do find it more and more necessary to speak to her about it, but the truth is she is very emotionally dpependent on him and I think he is trapped there. I can see the older siblings maybe getting him to join them and she will be left the consequences of trying to keep her kids close while all she is doing is pushing them away. I really don't think she wants to face it. It is a much more complex situation than this too, but I do feel it is more and more important to try to intervene.
She also has developed hypochondria- is always having tests done for trivial illness and I think this is just another ploy to keep him an emotional prisoner. It is really awful to be watching it from the outside and feeling very frustrated by it.

crazyH Thu 22-Feb-24 21:43:13

Yes Esmay - I know one like that. He has a partner and they have an eight year old girl. He goes shopping with his mother. His mother cooks for him and the little girl. It’s a mixed race relationship and she says the reason she (mum) cooks for him is because his partner does not know how to cook his favourite dishes 😂

Grannytomany Fri 23-Feb-24 02:15:12

Surely it’s only a problem if the son isn’t happy with the situation? Is he trapped and desperate to escape to build a life of his own or is he content with the way things are?

I think that needs to be established before anyone can really give a valid opinion.

BlueBelle Fri 23-Feb-24 06:44:02

It sounds as if he has no life and knows no difference Grannytomany so yes it IS a problem because a parent should be teaching a child how to manage the world ahead not tucking him in the nest and smothering him He should be out with mates and experimenting with life
I know the sweetest nicest lady who kept her children ‘so safe’ throughout childhood that things went badly wrong in their twenties when they had no skills to deal with any kind of trouble They only knew the fairy tale way of life and no ability to deal with anything out of their little safe world
The world is not a fairytale and the best we can do for our children is to allow them to meet problems and show them how to manage these problems to show them how to deal with life which means getting burned sometimes just to be there to pick up the pieces
Get the sister a puppy to keep her company

NotSpaghetti Fri 23-Feb-24 08:14:28

Does he have college friends keepingquiet?

flappergirl Fri 23-Feb-24 08:42:53

Where is the boy's father?

Cabbie21 Fri 23-Feb-24 08:44:30

My daughter is very close to her 16 year old son. They go on walks and runs together. He loves a day’s hike in the Peak District. They have camping holidays with lots of outdoor activities. But he also goes to football with his friends. He could only go on a short break to Europe if his Mum paid.
So maybe your sister can’t afford that for your nephew’s 18th? Doesn’t he have friends at college? Does he see his older siblings? Why couldn’t he study for a degree?
In short, I don’t see so much of a problem for the nephew, as yet, but your sister does need to let him speak and go out with friends. Can you encourage her to develop more interests of her own? Could you go to the theatre with her rather than her son, so he can do his own thing? I am not sure that tackling her head on would work, but a sideways move might.

M0nica Fri 23-Feb-24 08:56:15

I worked with a woman brought up like this. She was the only girl in the family - a surprise baby quite a bit younger than all her brothers, She had been smothered with love by parents and brothers who protected her and rescued her from every problem in life.

She was in her 40s when I knew her. She was a clever woman, but was under-educated, because as soon as a course became a challenge, she dropped out, she dropped out of a marriage very quickly when it wasn't the fairy tale she expected, and backed away as soon as anything required her, to overcome a problem.

I gave her the chance to do an assertiveness cause, which she did (accepting was easier than saying 'no'). The day after the course finished, the course tutor rang me to express her concerns about her, saying she has got deep and complex problems behind her lack of assertiveness, that a short course could not even scratch.

This is what you are dealing with here, a deep and complex problem, The solution, possibly, starts with encouraging this young man to develop some self-confidence and to contradict his mother when she tries to speak for him. Could getting him 2 tickets for him and a friend (and make it clear, this is NOT his mother) to go to concert to featuring a favourite music group be a way forward? I think you need to present mother and son with a 'fait accompli'. 'Here are the tickets, take a friend your own age', so that there is no 'mother comes too' option. On rethinking, First time find something for you and he to do tgether and then go from there.

I think the OP can do little or nothing about her sister's problems, they are too deep and complex, but she could discretely and very carefully start to encourage her son to become more independent of her.

Casdon Fri 23-Feb-24 09:13:50

Rather than speak to her directly about your concerns, my first thought is whether there is anything practical you and your family can do to support your nephew to develop an independent life. Is he interested in learning how to fish, play golf, darts, snooker, motorsport, gaming or any other areas which his mum will not be involved in for example?

I don’t think you can really know how much independence is beckoning him until you can get him away from her for a longer period and really understand his plans from his perspective. Once you know what he is interested in that could be built on, and discussions about his future career can start, so he can plan his own escape. Could you tempt your sister to a day out with you so your nephew can go out with your husband or son to start the ball rolling?

MissAdventure Fri 23-Feb-24 09:15:55

I would say something.
I find this behaviour reprehensible.

TerriBull Fri 23-Feb-24 09:44:21

It's hard to imagine an eighteen year old boy being that compliant, certainly contrary to my experiences. Given the relationship with the older two children it's almost as if the subliminal message she's expressing "I'll keep this one for myself to keep me company" Hardly good from his point of view. Of course he needs to become his own person, maybe diplomatically pose that to her in the hope it won't damage
your relationship.

BigBertha1 Fri 23-Feb-24 09:49:41

I recognise this issue. My daughter who has only one child is trying to hold onto him to avoid him flying the nest. This maybe as her marriage isn't the steadiest. I have talked with her about teaching how to cook, how to manage money all that sort of thing, letting him go, Since he has been at work (he is 19) he is blossoming all on his own and pushing back against her over protection. It may just happen naturally with your nephew as he matures and goes out and about in the world.

keepingquiet Fri 23-Feb-24 10:18:44

Thankyou so much for your sensitive and considered answers. I think as a family we tend not to interfere too much in each other's lives but it is beginning to bother us all because it has become so obvious. She doesn't even care and tells people openly she wants to keep him at home for herself.
He may be happy but doesn't seem it, he doesn't even seem to be a ble to form opinions of his own but I am sure he has to have dealings with people at college.
My sister clearly needs to find a life of her own. She works, has a wide circle of friends, but I don't understand this mother/son thing she has. Unless she is just making the most of her time with him before he leaves, as I feel he inevitably will. Or he may stay, and after he's 18 it's his choice.
Neither he nor his siblings ever seemed to have friends- they were a pretty insulated family and any friends were 'vetted.' The father is very controlling and anti-social himself. He is not well-liked and my sister only stays for financial reasons. She is obsessed with money.
I am planning to give him money for his birthday- he doesn't seem to have many interests outside and hasn't done outdoor activities or been on holidays like his siblings did. His only hobbies seem to be computer games. He seems very isolated, but I think a lot of kids his age are like this and only communicate by phone.
There is quite a gap between him and his siblings, so I don't know how much contact he has with them.
I think getting to know him better is something we could work on, in fact I will ask him when I see him what he would like for his birthday.

Glorianny Fri 23-Feb-24 11:58:34

Sorry but I see a lot of criticism here that I am trying to work through. Your sister's older children have moved away, they went to Uni, but didn't complete their courses and have low-paid jobs. She only sees them a few times a year and you haven't seen them since before covid. They don't attend family events. Well why would they OP? You seem intent on criticising them and their mum. They left home, they are independent, they see her, but not you.
Then the youngest. He goes everywhere with his mum. Perhaps he shouldn't. But if he is happy with it why have you the right to interfere? He is only 17 some people grow up more slowly than others.
You apparently blame your sister for driving her two older children away (isn't that what children are supposed to do) although she still sees them.
Then criticise her for keeping her youngest close.
I wonder if she can do anything right?
As for the "we" included in the post I sense a family that has been entirely rejected by the older two. You might ask why that is and consider if it is entirely your sister's fault.

keepingquiet Fri 23-Feb-24 16:22:53

No you misunderstand Glorianny. I have no contact with my sister's elder children and don't need to have. They are older, have made their own cloices and want nothing more to do with their family. Fine. It is nothing to do with rejection or any other negative connotations you want to bring to the table.
The post is about my sister's rather suffocating relationship with her youngest. There is far to it than I have posted here but I just thought I'd ask for some impartial opinions, and have received them.
I don't think it is a matter of what is right for me to judge either, or whose fault it is, except it makes me uncomfortable to see a young man with a lot of potential being treated like a three year old. Fair enough- he may love going everywhere with his mum and live out his days as a carer for his parents- but I think I would want more ambitition for my children than that.
Time will only tell I suppose, meanwhile I will try to have a more positive relationship with the both of them. As you say, it is out of my hands.

M0nica Fri 23-Feb-24 17:10:57

Even if the young man is happy being dependent now, what happens when his mother dies or develops dementia and/or needs to go into a care home?

How will he manage on his own, if he has been treated like an infant all his life?