Or whatever the technical term is.
A reader responded to They reeeeaaally don’t get it saying that we did not come off well in the post. Her view is that we put them in a demeaning situation:
” I get that they are needy people but the constant reminder that you are in charge and will only respond to their needs when it suits you is a very demeaning spot to be in.”
Here’s the thing: I get where she’s coming from. I don’t like that his parents are this dependent on us — most importantly, I don’t like all of the emotionally squishy results of that power imbalance.
But the fact is that they got themselves here mainly of their own actions. Or inaction.
When they had money, they spent it. Then they were screwed. Then illness came. At least then the hospital bills were mostly written off due to their financial straits.
They made poor choices. Illness did play a part, but not all that big of one. It’s true that Nadine could only work part-time, at first, and then not at all. But I’m pretty sure the extra money wouldn’t have made all that big a difference.
And, yes, I hear the resentment in my words. Whether it’s a fair reaction, well …that’s in the eye of the beholder.
Most of you seem to think it’s fair. Some of you don’t. I can see both sides. Arguably, we chose this situation. On the other hand, it was the best option we felt we had. The best of a set of bad options, anyway.
I’m sure it’s horribly uncomfortable for them to be so dependent on us. It’s uncomfortable for us, too.
Yes, we have all the power — but we don’t like having to be the authority all of the time. We don’t like having to always be the ones to police them just because they can’t police themselves.
When we didn’t put a limit on errands, they were running Tim around once or twice a day. It doesn’t sound like a lot but when, three days in a row, you have to go to the grocery store for ingredients? You get ticked at the lack of planning. They didn’t plan because they didn’t have to.
Similarly, Nadine didn’t make an effort to save some food stamp money from one month to the next. They spent it all. Why? Because more would come the next month. She also didn’t use coupons until they were off of food stamps. Why? Because she didn’t have to. Now she goes out armed with the suckers. Why? Because she has to.
They only do what they are actively propelled to do — by us or circumstance.
So we asked them to cut down on the errands. To make it fair, we pledged to do the same.
The errands did go down in frequency, but not in time. No matter how many times Tim expressed annoyance at the two-hour (or more) grocery store trips, nothing changed. He was going to start dropping them off and then having them call him to come back. Extra gas, but it would have saved his sanity, at least.
But then two things changed: priorities and presumption.
First, they announced they wanted to save for a bankruptcy lawyer. One of the reasons we were running them around was because there was an end in sight. Now that they were done paying us back, they would save for their own car. Sure, it’d take six months or more, but it would happen.
Instead, they wanted to do the bankruptcy thing first — despite the fact that she had had 6+ months to get it started while they were still in Washington (I sent her a book on DIY bankruptcy almost a year ago) and despite having non-garnishable income and credit that certainly wasn’t going to get any worse.
Bankruptcy lawyers cost $1,000-2,000. That’s at least four months of saving before they even STARTED saving for a car.
During a discussion about interpersonal issues they were having, Tim told his mom that we wanted them to prioritize a car over a lawyer. She changed the subject without addressing it.
The second thing was perhaps less of an overall offense but hit us hard. They asked us to run errands while we were sick and grieving. They didn’t even ask, so much as presume that we’d keep taking care of them when we most needed to take care of each other.
It wasn’t just the presumption (though that certainly pissed us off). It wasn’t just the stubbornness — we asked them to change pharmacies for one month and offered to pay the difference in price, but it didn’t happen.
In the end, the last straw was that Nadine never checked into alternative transportation. We mentioned Dial-A-Ride, and she had never heard of it. In the six months that they’ve been here, Nadine never checked into ways to get around Phoenix without us driving them.
Why? Because she didn’t have to.
And that, in the end, is why I feel justified in putting down boundaries and even imposing limits. I also feel sick when I do it. Tim and I were taught to help others regardless of the toll it takes on you. (Real healthy, that.)
But it IS taking a toll. And no matter what we do, they don’t seem to want to change. Why? Because up until now, they haven’t had to.
We will make sure they get to doctor’s appointments. We will make sure they can pick up their medication. They will need to arrange for other errands like the big girl and big boy that they are.
Why? Because we’re not their parents, and they’re not kids. And if we keep letting them act like dependent children, that’s all they’ll ever be.