By: Revanche

The high costs of Parenting Fails, or a Bad Seed, Part 1

April 18, 2011

A few Mondays ago, I wrassled a bear.  Mid-morning, I had a bit of a meltdown because my idiot sibling had:

1. only been employed 2 weeks since the last job which was countless months ago, before his car broke down and he ran to my dad for help.  Right.  He has no use for any of us, he can’t be bothered to lift a finger to pick up after himself or his dog or maintain basic cleanliness for the massive favor of letting him have a roof over his head for the nothing in return he’s been paying these several years, but the second he is inconvenienced, he runs to us expecting us to solve it.  Typical.

2. my dad makes a massively bad call. Because he can’t drive my idiot sibling to work himself – as if it was his problem in the first place – decides the only other option is to give him the car keys.  MY car keys. Not just my baby car that I slaved for three years to pay off early but the only car they have for transportation so don’t you think it would be wise not to give it to your historically-proven completely irresponsible son to: potentially wreck, lose, lend to his friends to go joy-riding in, never bring back whole??  [See, what a PITA it is to replace a perfectly good used car. See also, hard to find a good equivalent.]

3. Idiot sibling went on to prove that past history is indeed the best indicator of future performance:  gets nabbed by a random checkpoint for an expired license and carrying his martial arts gear in the car – which should never have been there in the first place if he was going to work and straight back home – got the car impounded and himself tossed in the clink for carrying “weapons.” It’s a grey area, but the city’s broke so before, when they would have said, carry it in the trunk (if he hadn’t been, I don’t know), off he goes.

4.  I was called Monday morning and asked to drop everything to get a letter notarized authorizing my dad to pick up the car because idiot sibling’s license is expired so he can’t pick it up.  A busyace Monday, and I’m supposed to drop everything to fix it because now, now we’re worried about having to pick up Mom’s medicine and not having a car to do it in. We didn’t think of that before lending idiot sib the car, of course.

[Insert **headsplosion**]

Following the clear-up, in one of three times in nearly 30 years, I had a nearly shouty conversation with my dad where I told him that this was totally unacceptable both on his and my idiot sibling’s parts.  The choice he made was wrong and in direct contradiction to his promise to me never to let my idiot sibling drive my car specifically because he cannot be trusted.

He continues to put us in untenable situations – and I will not be able to continue to bail them out for self-created poor problems. This has happened before, remember.  This saddens me.  I’ve never been mean to my poppa. Saying that stuff felt Mean. But it’s true.


Professionally, I simply cannot keep dropping everything for “family emergencies” when they are not justifiably emergencies.  A history of this will damage my credibility.  Considering how much I’m killing myself to support them, and I’m putting almost everything I have towards them, they should have a vested interest in stopping the madness.

Emotionally, I find myself wondering who they are now, and why I have no family anymore.  I had to cancel my trip home the following weekend.  I’m still upset with them and feel adrift.  Yes, I feel a strong sense of duty, but I don’t feel any sense of love, not from them anymore, I just feel like I’m a resource to be used.  F said I’m just an absentee parent to them now and I think he may be right. For all that they profess to love me, they only reach out to me as a resource when something has gone wrong. If I come home, I’m welcomed but we don’t have a connected relationship anymore.

Realistically, I disagree with the way the situation is handled.  Every single chance he has at learning to work and starts to flub it, my parents panic and try to salvage the opportunity.  That does not help him grow.

Yes, they are his parents, so yes, I understand they are afraid for his future.  But consider this: I have an equally, if not more, vested interest in his growth than they do – in theory, I should be living a far greater proportion of my life with him than they will.  And I too agonized with them over the future of my big brother as he made stupid choice after stupid, selfish, @$$holey choice.

The first thing he did in his first year of college was flunk out.  The first thing he did when I graduated high school and started college, other than sleep through my graduation, when my parents were flat broke and in debt, was run up a $900 phone bill.  It was all downhill from there.

When they handed the reins to me in “parenting” and specifically policing him seven years ago because they couldn’t make him listen anymore, when they asked me to take on the responsibility of dealing with him, I cried acidic, bitter tears. I had heartburn and couldn’t sleep for weeks. Even then I still desperately wanted my brother back but I knew, I knew without a doubt that he was gone. The person I was dealing with was only a few concessions away from using me the moment I let my guard down.  And then ultimately, I made the decision that he couldn’t come home and for a few months, he was on his own. When he was allowed back in, for the sake of my mother’s sanity, he knew I was serious, and toed the line.

For about a minute, it seemed.

As the sort that would take even when you hadn’t given an inch, he actually tried a bit in the beginning which was surprising. Paid up once a month for a while, a couple hundred dollars, on occasion, nothing that covered anything of his debt that he owed me, but it looked like a good faith effort.  Then it soured again.  I became a dunning agent and groundskeeper in addition to breadwinner, advocate, legal and IT.  He did nothing but skate in and out, eating and sleeping at will.

Getting him home was not the answer for Mom’s mental health either. She continued to deteriorate, she needed attention and affection from him, so she made me the enemy.  And she started undermining me, telling him when to break my rules because I wasn’t home, telling him it was ok to do whatever he wanted as long as my back was turned.

That was a blast.

I was not long out of college when this began in earnest.  I was working a new job with a two hour commute, working 12 and 14 hour days and resentful as all get out over him.  I used to have a big brother.  For a long time, I’ve only had an idiot sibling.

19 Responses to “The high costs of Parenting Fails, or a Bad Seed, Part 1”

  1. eemusings says:

    From personal experience, I can safely say there is no worse combination than an idiot and a car. Particularly when it’s not theirs. Hence, refusal to touch anything involving T’s siblings + vehicles, or b) any of his idiot friends + vehicles (thankfully he has little to do with that crowd, barring one dude).

    I wish you weren’t going through this and that you weren’t being made out to be the mean, grownup one. What a weight on your shoulders.

  2. Sense says:

    Something must be in the air. they never, ever learn. I hope, I counsel, I try every way to get through to her. And then I get angry, because she always, without fail, effs it up. she has to be trying to do these things, there’s no other explanation for it.

    I feel for you. You’re definitely not alone with the idiot sibling phenomenon.

    They are so, SOOOOO lucky to have you in their lives. I’m also really happy that you are away from that toxic environment, even though it means you must clean up messes from afar now. When will you get a break? You deserve one. Please tell me you are planning a really long honeymoon to someplace without any phones or computers. 🙂

  3. Gaaaaaahhhhh! That kid!

    Well. Hm. In the first place, consider your dad’s train of thought: “If I don’t do something to get this lunkhead to work, he’s going to lose his job (again!) and then he’ll be hanging around the house all day (still!), soooo….”

    And of course, the fact that they need the car to get your mom’s meds did turn the impoundment into a real emergency.

    I suppose you were the one who got to pay the impoundment fees to free the rolling stock?

    This guy needs to be impounded, himself…

  4. Anonymous says:

    Sometimes you just have to cut the link. It’s a survival skill. How long are you going to carry these people on your back?

  5. Wow, Revanche, this was a pretty powerful piece. I’m sorry to hear about this, but hope you feel better just writing it out. I think we might all have that sibling/family member that just can’t get on the right path for whatever reason. And you can’t just let them go, because you worry/fear for their health, but at the same time they are an emotional/mental drain on your very existence. I think the best thing to do is to continue to love and support this person without so much as an ounce of regret. It’s tough to do this, but this as family, you know you would want him to do the same if the roles were reversed.

  6. Quest says:

    May I ask, is there drugs involved? I am curious.

    Another thing I want to tell you is this: he doesn’t clean up his act because he doesn’t have to. He has made his problems YOUR problems and you are going to have to take a hard line with him and let him hit bottom if you ever want peace in your life.

    I know it’s hard. We have a family drug addict that manipulates us to death and, because we love her, we are vulnerable. But … she doesn’t clean up because she doesn’t have to. There are too many family members who “care” too much about her right now to make her take full responsibility for her own life. I am slowly edging myself out of her orbit because I feel like I’m enabling her in killing herself by giving her money.

    I wonder why your sibling is so unmotivated. Depression? Does he suffer from any form of adult ADD or autism? Something clearly is wrong. If it’s pure laziness, you have to make a decision regarding what side of the fence you’re on and then stick with it. No easy answers but neither of you are getting any younger.

  7. Kathleen says:

    My younger brother (it’s also just the two of us) is pretty forgetful and also takes advantage of my parents’ (and my) kindness, but thankfully, he’s learned a couple of things since going to college and graduating. I know it is probably too optimistic and farfetched to say this, but maybe your brother will change some day.

    I feel for you and it is just so sad to hear that your own mother would undermine you to stay in good with him. In principle, you know the best way to make all of them learn is to cut them off and wait for them to fall and pick themselves back up, but you’ve got your hands tied because of your mother’s condition. Stay strong in dealing with this.

  8. Niki says:

    This is so sad to read. After all the work and sacrifices you have done for your family it is so hurtful for them to take you for granted. It also sounds like they are taking advantage of your sense of duty too.
    Sometimes it really sucks beyond words to be the responsible one.

  9. -Betty says:

    Were we seperated at birth? I think we share a sibling! Grrr…. Sorry you have to go through this, I know how maddening and depressing it can become. Keep venting!

  10. I agree with Quest that these are the classic signs of an alcoholic/addict. My little brother is one and basically he has done everything you mentioned and more. Addicts know exactly how far they can push you and when they should give in. And they have no shame in manipulating you – all that matters to them is their next high. An addict who is using is not capable of love for anything but his drug of choice.

    I strongly suggest that you consider Al-Anon or some other counselling to decide how to handle your brother from here on out. My family’s experience is that this is not something that you can work out on your own, because love for your sibling (and the frustration stemming from that love) makes it too difficult to deal with the situation rationally. Here you have the additional problem of your parents and their desire to help your brother. I have no idea what I would do in your situation, but it was my experience that having a support group of other people who had lived through this and a therapist that could help me plan how to deal with it in the future was extremely helpful at a time when I had to learn how to cut my little brother loose and stop enabling him.

  11. Karen says:

    I feel for you.
    I guess you can’t kick your brother out because of your mom?
    I know it’s hard to be stern with your parents but you may need to. Tough love.

  12. Revanche says:

    @eemusings: Could be worse, but at least it’s only infuriating. Still it’s at least that much!

    @Sense: I used to wonder if it was something to do with expectations. But seriously, it can’t be that powerful.

    We’ll have a break, but we need a better solution more than a break.

    @nicoleandmaggie: thanks.

    @Funny: Oh I know. It’s still a bad idea because he’s still a lunkhead who is going to learn nothing but “Dad will bail me out the next time I have a problem.”

    Because that’s the pattern they won’t break and that’s the one he LOVES.

    Absolutely no way was I paying the impoundment fee – they knew I’d rather pay to go down there and slap him silly. He’s got some friend who’s dumb enough to fork over cash for this.

    @Anon: My parents? Til they die. My brother? See next post.

    @Quest: Drugs- not that I know of. And agree that he doesn’t have a real reason to straighten up.

    When I took the hard line and enforced it without interference, I was winning the fight. Then when mom’s mental health went (see previous posts on that), she became part of the problem and it went downhill.

    As for mental illness, it’s possible but he’s not been tested. Depression & bipolar disease do run in the family.

    @Kathleen: Yes, she did what she did b/c she wasn’t mentally competent. She had blackouts, she wasn’t able to reason, etc.

    @Niki: *sigh*

    @Betty: Can we find a Bad Sibling Corner to stash them in? 🙂

    @The Lost Goat: He’s a good part of why I started this blog! It’s cheap therapy. 🙂

    He’s taken to hiding from me now when I come home because he knows I won’t take any crap off him. Probably a bad sign he’s up to no good again.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I had to post as anonymous for fear my similar siblings would come across this!

    I have a similar issue with a borther and sister-in-law who are almost 40 and still mooching off my parents. And what’s worse is they have kids (who my parents are supporting) who at a very young age have a moochlike (in a kid way) mentality as well. Unfortunately they’ve just realized I live in a great school district, theirs is terrible – and have asked (demanded) that they and my nephews live with me, and also then (when I refused) said they would settle for my letting them use my address – which I immediately said no to – it’s a felony in our state!

    Now I’m just venting – what I really wanted to say is that you’re not alone, and I really feel for you. You are a better person than I, I’ve cut off financial support and with kids involved I feel horrible.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Your parents are never going to say “thank you for all that you’ve done!” and neither is your brother.

    I have a family much like yours. My sister had her baby taken away though. Let’s hope your brother doesn’t have kids.

    At some point I realied that if I wasn’t blood-related to these people there is no WAY ON EARTH I would associate with them. So I don’t. It hurts sometimes. But my family (husband and kids) and “family of choice” – friends who are like family – are much more important to me than people who crap all over me (and themselves). You’re just going to hurt yourself trying to change them and doing everything for them.

    I second the posters who ask if there is a drug/alcohol problem.


  15. Marilyn says:

    gah! icky, icky, icky. Your brother sounds like a sociopath or he has a personality disorder. Therapy? Tie him up in seran wrap when he’s home? I dunno.

    Either way I’m sorry you are in such a tough spot.

  16. Revanche says:

    @Anon: I both applaud your refusals to let them steamroll you and shudder for your having to deal with seriously difficult personalities with children involved as well. That must be incredibly difficult and I can only imagine the escalation of difficulty should nieces or nephews enter the picture.

    @CS: To properly credit them, my parents do thank me regularly for the work I’ve put in, these posts haven’t mentioned that because the blog has so often, but my brother’s “thanks” are hollow with insincerity.

    So far as I can tell, there’s not a substance abuse problem but there’s a strong possibility of a mental illness problem. Getting him to diagnosis would be a feat, though.

    @Marilyn: Thanks. Hogtying, perhaps.

  17. […] can’t do that now because my sibling is, bluntly, a shit. He almost always has been but in the last 30+ years, we did have 2-3 years when […]

  18. […] the aftermath of my venting posts about my brother, The high costs of Parenting Fails, or a Bad Seed Part 1 and Part 2, I feel I did my parents a disservice.  In focusing on the mistakes that we made […]

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