A: Your family is an accomplished one, yet struggles with a dark strain running through it. How much suffering your younger brother has endured. I agree with you that it's time he got the love and attention you would be able to lavish on him. I know you're a lawyer, and eventually you might have to turn to the legal system to resolve this. But right now, if conversation continually reaches a dead end, suggest to your brother that you two hire a mediator, or social worker, or counselor to help you two work out the best way to continue to raise your brother. Please don't back down in your quest. Your sister-in-law is so overwhelmed with child-rearing duties that she can't give your brother the kind of nurturing he needs, and because of his work duties, your brother is gone all day. There is, additionally, an extremely alarming message in your letter: Your surgeon brother uses drugs to keep him going. Now that he's confessed to you, you must do everything in your power to see that he addresses this. His drug use is a calamity waiting to happen for his patients, himself, and his family.
Q. Re: Courtney/Isabelle, but at work: The name problem happens to me at work. A much-beloved colleague changed jobs, which I assumed recently, and now I'm referred to using the previous colleague's name. They'll fix it in time. I consider it a compliment.
A: Thanks for this demonstration of graciousness. But I hope you are gently correcting your colleagues.
Q. New Nanny Is Irresponsible—and I Helped Hire Her!: For several years, I worked as a nanny for three young children and had a great relationship with the family. I recently left to start my own family and helped them fill the position when a casual friend was interested. She has been working for them for a year now. I'm friends with her on Facebook and see her statuses, which include negative comments about the family and even comments saying she has gone to work "hungover/still drunk." She has called out last minute saying she was sick leaving the family in a huge bind, when in reality she was out drinking all night. I keep in touch with the mother of the children, and she seems pretty happy with the new nanny. I don't want to be a troublemaker, but part of me thinks I should say something because she's so involved with the care of these young children. Should I let my former boss know what's going on or just mind my own business?
A: How rarely I say this, but thank goodness for Facebook. You don't have to report rumors or private conversations to your former boss. If your casual friend has not put privacy protections on her page, simply contact your former employers and let them know there's some interesting reading material on the Internet and where to find it. If she has been sober enough at some point to figure out Facebook's privacy rules, then take a screenshot of her proclamations about her work ethic. You obviously are concerned about the well-being of these children. You know they should not be in the care of a self-professed drunk.
Q. Re: Controlling Brother: Why doesn't the brother offer to take the little brother over the summer break. He can come live with him full-time over the summer and Middle Child can offer to take the nieces for a weekend or two to keep things equitable between the kids. This will allow the surgeon and his wife some time to decompress and get used to the idea of the boy staying elsewhere. Once Middle Child has had him for a couple of weeks he can then raise the question (to both brothers again) about the younger one staying with him during the school year and maybe visiting the older brother during breaks.
A: I think taking younger brother for the summer is a great idea all around. Thanks for the suggestion.
Q. Relative Relationships: I was recently at a young niece's birthday party. The guys went to the living room to watch sports, and the gals were in the kitchen. One of my sisters-in-law fixed a plate for her hubby and took it into him. My father-in-law proceeded to order me to fix a plate for my husband as well. I told him no, and that my husband has two feet, he can get it himself. My husband didn't stick up for me. He just sat there as his dad and I went back and forth; him ordering me to do as he told, and me telling him I will not! Should I have kept the peace and just got the food?
A: If there was ever a time to simply say, "Baloney!" this was it. Your father-in-law's demand was obnoxious, but it's always better to respond to such incitement with a neutral tone, and if that doesn't end, a departure from the room. Yes, your husband should have told his father to back off. But, alas, some people feel like they are being churned through a meat-grinder when they are in the position of trying to stand up to their parents. So your husband sat there like a lump while you and his father went at it. I hope that you and your husband were able to talk about why this incident was so jarring and that he acknowledges a few words to his father could have diffused the cold-cut contretemps. It's better you didn't go get the food. At that point you may have been tempted to give all the men in the family a pie to the face.
Emily Yoffe: Thanks, everyone. Talk to you next week.
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