My niece is a very bright and interesting teenager of 16 whose father no longer speaks to her.
She was living with him and his second wife, along with their six-year-old son whom she adored, for almost three years of high school.
Suddenly, last December, her father said it’d be “better if she moved to her mother” in another city.
What he didn’t say, because he’s spineless regarding his current wife, is that she wants all the focus to be on their son.
The father’s ex-wife is my sister. She’s remarried and moved away five years ago.
The parents shared custody and my niece preferred to stay in the city where she grew up.
Her mother understood and visited her every month at my place where she moved last December, because it’s not far from her school. When the lockdown started, she stayed on with me.
Now, moving to her mother means leaving the school at which she’s doing very well, and her very close friends, just when they’re all able to get together in person.
She can still stay here but it’s a small apartment, and I’ve already raised two children through college education and jobs, so I’m not eager for a long-term “foster mother” role.
Do you see a solution here?
She’s lucky to have you as her aunt. And you’re lucky - to have had this bright, interesting niece around during what’s been for many others a very lonely lockdown.
She’s apparently entering her graduating year in September - a very important time for her to focus on her studies towards getting into the higher-education courses she seeks.
What a good match - you, with experience from monitoring your own children’s studies, and she, with the security of a home near school and friends.
Now you both need a clear, mutual agreement on a new deal for the academic/social year ahead.
First, she goes home to her mother for a while, to keep their relationship ongoing and intact.
The impact of her father’s lack of support for her cannot just be buried. She needs emotional sustenance from her other parent and you, too.
Next, when she returns for school, you and your niece set up a timetable for school work, and rules of engagement for living together. It’s a 10-month deal that launches her future.
I’m betting it’ll enrich both your lives.
FEEDBACK Regarding the husband upset about his wife’s frequent texts with a male neighbour (June 12):
Reader – “If there’s nothing to hide between his wife and neighbour, she shouldn’t be “outraged” when asked to see the texts and should be sharing them with her husband.
“Whatever the texts contain are definitely the husband's business. He has the right to know what she’s sharing with another man. The neighbor should be told that it’s inappropriate to be texting his wife.
“I've lived this. My partner insisted that messages between him and a former lover were innocuous, they were merely good friends.
“He refused to show me anything to/from her and gaslighted me by saying I was being jealous, crazy and imagining things (making ME the problem).
“Well, one fateful night he told me tearfully that he’d deceived and betrayed me for months and my suspicions had been correct.
“Jealousy isn’t the problem here. The wife's lack of openness about her “friendship” is. I doubt the husband would have suspicions if everything was innocent and her actions reflected that.”
Dear Readers - While determined to live safely and survive through a pandemic during those early days of lockdown last March, many of you developed your own strategies that you now know as helpful, in all kinds of emergencies.
Share your stories. Here’s one that I’ve recently received from a young woman who’d been travelling as part of her search for herself… only to find an uncle she hadn’t seen or heard about in years, ever since a family rift.
When informed that she had to return home before borders closed, she anticipated being quarantined alone when she got home.
Then, her now-elderly uncle - caught in the midst of a snowbird vacation - heard about her and reached out online. They agreed to quarantine together and ended up repairing a family relationship.
Send your stories and I’ll publish them anonymously, for us all to have at the ready in difficult situations, while hoping we’ll never need them again!
Tip of the day:
When a parent emotionally abandons his/her own child, there’s a sad legacy on both sides.