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Psychological Effects of Extreme Favoritism


Dear Annie: My brother, "Lenny," lives in upstate New York, and I live in Texas, but we've always been close and call each other often. Lenny has been raising two grandsons, ages 9 and 10, since the parents died in an accident four years ago. They are both good boys.

The problem is Lenny's favoritism. One boy has everything: a smart phone, a TV, a sunny corner bedroom, cool clothes and great Christmas and birthday gifts. You can hear the love in Lenny's voice when he talks about that child. Not so with the other boy. That child lives in a large, unpainted and windowless storage room next to their laundry. While his brother received an iPod for his birthday, this child got a plastic AM/FM radio.

These boys love each other, but I can see where such disparity has to be affecting them. I have tried to discuss this with Lenny, but neither he nor his wife sees any problem at all because they say they give each child what that boy asks for, nothing more, nothing less. What can I do? I feel my hands are tied while my heart is ripping apart. — Twin in Texas

Dear Twin: Someone should pay that family a visit and see what is really going on. It's sometimes hard to judge from a phone call. You could be projecting your own fears onto a situation where the children are perfectly happy. Please plan a visit to see your brother so you can better assess the situation. If there is indeed such extreme favoritism going on, it will be easier to discuss it with Lenny and his wife when you can lovingly point out what they seem oblivious to. And it also provides an opportunity to give the less-favored brother some extra TLC while you're at it.

Dear Annie: I have known "Paula" since high school. She has been married for five years and has a year-old son. She doesn't get along with her husband and calls me often, sometimes crying, to tell me all the terrible things he does and says.

Not every phone call is like this. Sometimes the subject never comes up. But the rest of the time, it is exhausting listening to her, and she never listens to me. I've tried to be helpful, lending an ear, and frankly, I'm tired of it. Should I screen her calls? Should I tell her during a "normal" conversation that I don't want to talk about her marriage anymore? My husband says to stop answering the phone.

Paula sees a therapist and attends Al-Anon meetings. Any suggestions? — Frustrated Friend

Dear Frustrated: Between her husband and her child, Paula is obviously having a difficult time coping. She needs to talk about it — a lot. If you can allow her to vent, that would be supportive of you. You do not need to offer advice. But if that is too exhausting, it's OK to tell her gently that you do not have the energy to be her sounding board and you hope she is discussing these things with her therapist.

Dear Annie: Like "Frustrated Wife," I am married to a man who won't lift a finger around the house. But I can't let dirty dishes, clothes, tools and garbage pile up in the house in which my children are growing up. I also can't let the lawn turn into a jungle, the bills go unpaid and the car run out of gas.

I do what I must to take care of the children and myself, but I see no reason to make my husband's life any easier when he does nothing for mine. He refuses counseling. Maybe after a decade of his wife juggling full-time employment with exhaustion at home, "Frustrated's" husband will write you wondering why they don't have sex anymore. — Household Slave

Dear Slave: Your marriage sounds miserable. If you can afford it, hire some household help. And please consider counseling for yourself.

Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 5777 W. Century Blvd., Ste. 700, Los Angeles, CA 90045. To find out more about Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at



39 Comments | Post Comment
LW1- I disagree with the Annies. This is favoritism. You can mention this to your brother, but it won't change his behavior. He has already told you that the brother in the storage room has supposedly asked to be treated as if he were less important than his brother. I recommend reaching out to the neglected brother and letting him know you care about him.
Comment: #1
Posted by: Michael
Tue Nov 1, 2011 10:24 PM
Re LW1: I used to work in a call center where we worked in a windowless room (complete with gray walls and harsh, fluorescent lights). When I told a friend who was a career prison guard about my working conditions, he told me that denying even the worst criminals access to a window was considered a violation of their human rights: cruel and unusual punishment.

Forcing the less-favored boy to live in a storage closet that lacks windows and ventilation could be considered abusive. If the conditions can be confirmed, it may be appropriate to contact Child Protective Services. If it comes to this, the LW should be prepared to take custody of the boy, if necessary.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Jeanne
Wed Nov 2, 2011 1:16 AM
L1- A windowless room is also dangerous if there is a fire. There should always be two ways out. You would never be able to legally rent that space or call it a bedroom if selling the house. If there isn't another bedroom with a window, he needs to share the bedroom with a window.
Comment: #3
Posted by: Renee J
Wed Nov 2, 2011 2:03 AM
These boys lost their parents at age 5 and 6, they don't know that the grandparents are making mistakes in raising them. The boy who is NOT asking for things may be psychologically rejecting things as he is afraid of having them taken away from him like his parents were.
As the Great Aunt/Uncle, you can be a patch of cerulean in their lives. Visit your brother and his wife, observe what you can about the children, make a fuss of the less favoured one (and the favoured one, too). Discuss parenting techniques, lend them books, advise them to have counselling, see if you can have the lads to your home for a short holiday during school breaks. Just don't give up on your twin or those two lovely boys.
Comment: #4
Posted by: Word A Day Mate
Wed Nov 2, 2011 2:24 AM
LW1: where do the Annies get the idea that the LW has NOT seen the rooms? I don't get that impression at all It seems to me that the LW has seen the environment (pretty detailed description).

At any rate, I think the advice to try to stay close to the storage room dweller (oh man, what a nickname to have) is the good idea.

LW2: Did the Annies miss the reference in the letter to Al-Anon? It sounds as if Paula's troubles may include a drunk husband, which is a pretty serious thing, especally with a young child. My advice to the LW would be to be there for her friend as much as she can, but to encourage her to talk to her sponnsor at Al-Anon as well as to her counselor. Sometimes people use their friends as therapists, not knowing that they are over burdening them. It soundxs like that is the case here and the LW is not equipped to handle the magnitude of Paula's problems. I wowuld suggest she commnicate that to Paula directly. Blowing her off without telling her why would just make things worse.

LW3: You tolerate this behavior, which is a tacit way of saying that it is ok. I agree with The Annies that counseling is in order here.
Comment: #5
Posted by: nanchan
Wed Nov 2, 2011 3:17 AM
I think the Annies are on the right track with LW1 . Favoritism is a serious charge, one that I think requires direct observation rather than speculation based on phone calls. LW says the "disparity" HAS to be affecting the boys -- she has not seen with her own eyes any evidence that there really IS disparity.

It's VERY possible that if that a large, windowless room that's further away from grandparents and brother was exactly what the brother wanted, just as Lenny said. Sunny corner rooms aren't always primo real estate for kids (particularly if they're inclined to sleep in late in the mornings!) I also see legit reasons that one boy might have a smart phone and the other doesn't. There are legit reasons why a family might give one child a smart phone, but not the other.

LW needs to:

1. Pay a visit and see for herself how the boys relate to each other, their grandparents and others. It's possible that while Lenny relates especially well to Boy A's temperament, traits and appearance, his wife relates more easily to Boy B for the same reasons. Seeing the family dynamic will either reassure LW or give her powerful ammo for discussion of the situation. with Lenny.
2. Make sure that unpainted bedroom is up to fire code --if it's in the basement, it won't meet fire code no matter how many doors it has, and many people don't know this). See what the boy living in it wants in the way of decor.
3. Remind Lenny and his wife that kids don't always know best about what they should ask for and what they should get. A kid who asks for something worth substantially less than what his brother received MAY be reflecting a belief that he doesn't "deserve" as much as his brother -- OR he may be simply unaware of the relative value of what he's asking for. But if it's the latter, he will at some point wonder why his grandparents didn't recognize the disparity and take action. And it's going to even worse if he feels Lenny and his wife LED him to ask for the shoddy radio and his brother to ask for an iPod.
Comment: #6
Posted by: hedgehog
Wed Nov 2, 2011 3:41 AM
LW1: Best to assess this in person, it may not be as bad as it sounds over the phone. If it is, then you may want to see if there are other locals in these children's lives to be better able to effect a change -- it will be hard for you to do much long-distance.

LW2: Set up your calls on speakerphone or with some hands-free device like an earphone or a bluetooth. Then, simply go about getting other things done while your friend does her badly-needed venting. You'll get your housework done, for example, and she gets a chance to vent. Keep encouraging her to stay in counseling. It's not much effort on your part for someone who is a friend. (I like to fold and sort laundry when on these kinds of calls).

LW3: Indeed, if you are paying the bills, too, you should cut back on something he likes -- maybe certain cable channels? -- in order to justify the expense of an occasional housecleaning service. Or a spa day for you.
Comment: #7
Posted by: Mike H
Wed Nov 2, 2011 5:45 AM
LW3: Why do you put up with this?

There are many single parents who are doing the same thing you are. If you are that miserable with your situation, do something about it. Don't sit back and let it happen. Take control.
Comment: #8
Posted by: ppclps
Wed Nov 2, 2011 5:47 AM
What Word A Day Mate and Hedgehog said.

Sometimes kids don't know what to ask for, don't know what's good for them and what they really need. That's what parents are supposed to be there for. And the kids' poor judgement doesn't mean they won't notice a huge disparity in treatment.

The LW has obviously seen the room - I don't think this is the description the brother would make of it. As others have pointed out, it may not be up to code, which means it's not safe. And I don't care if the boy may have seen reasons to prefer it (perhaps larger, more quiet, more private, easier to sleep in the mornings etc), dear Bro and his wife could at least have fixed it up and made it pleasant! That, to me, is a dead give-away. This is ridiculous - one boy is the Golden Child while the other is treated like the unwanted red-haired step-child.

LW, you signed "Twin in Texas". I have news for you: in the permanent absence of their parents, it is not just your twin brother's responsibility to take care of these boys. Ask the neglected one if he'd like to come live in Texas. Start visiting more often, take a look at what he needs and start showering him with gifts, thus reversing the actual trend. Get him an iPod for Christmas, for Pete's sake. Invite both boys over for holidays if they don't want to be separated and don't expect your brother to travel the extra mile, come get them or send tickets. Do whatever you can afford to make the neglected one feel special. That kid is being given the short rift right now, and he needs someone to fill the gap.

Oh yeah, and give a token gift to the favoured one, and explain to him that you're reestablishing a balance, so he understands. No use creating another wrong here. Makle sure they both know one grandparent is taking care of one boy while his brother is taking care of the other. This way no one is neglected and no one feels slighted.

What nanchan said. Considering she is obviously dealing with an alcoholic and possibly abusive husband, she doesn't sound so much overly needy as overwhlemed. If you find it exhausting to listen to her hardship, can you imagine how much worse it must be for her to be living it? Try to have a little more compassion, especially since, by your own admision, not every call is like that and sometimes the subject doesn't come up at all. Which means she is not obsessed, she's just talking about it when the crisis is fresh.

This being stated, you are not equipped to be her therapist and she already has people in her entourage who are - her therapist and the people at Alanon. She is obviously doing what she can to help herself, it's not like she just wants to use you as sounding board. If she is not "'listening'" to you, it is perhaps because what you suggest is not practical, even if offered in good faith - you are not trained to offer advice in a situation like hers. Stop suggesting and start listening - up to a point. Do listen, but not for three hours. Change the subject gently at one point and let her know you care - and try to care.

Why are you putting up with this yurunda? Nanchan is right, by tolerating it, you are giving tacit approval.

"I do what I must to take care of the children and myself, but I see no reason to make my husband's life any easier when he does nothing for mine. He refuses counseling." This sounds like a smouldering war, brimming with resentment on both sides and where tension could be cut with a knife. "Taking care of the children" would include not subjecting them to such living conditions.

The Annies are right, you need counselling yourself to to sort out a number of things, among others to find out what's really going on here, why you are tolerating this and what you should be doing about it.

Comment: #9
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Wed Nov 2, 2011 6:03 AM
Re: Mike H

LW2- Why didn't I think of that myself? Especially since I do have one friend who's always in the middle of a crisis. She's also very much of a drama queen - you don't need to watch the soaps when you know Sandra.

I just put her on speakerphone when she calls and do something while I listen to the tragedy of the day. And why do I tolerate that from her? Because when *I* am in the middle of a crisis myself, SHE WILL LISTEN. That's called being a friend.

And that's another thing, Frustrated "Friend": be careful of how you treat people in need of a shoulder to cry on, as some day you may be in need of one yourself.

Comment: #10
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Wed Nov 2, 2011 6:13 AM
Mike H and Lise: Yep, speaker phone is a beautiful thing!

I have one friend who has had soooooo many issues this last year that I was literally developing a crick in my neck from cradeling the phone (2 hour long conversations). However, she is a good friend, and she has REAL problems and I'm happy to be there for her. Plus sde (as Lise points out)? When I went through a horrible time this summer, SHE was the one listening to me for 2 hours at a time. It''s called being a FRIEND.

I think the thing ith the LW is that (and I can really relate to this), the problems Paula has are too big for her to handle, so she wants to avoid the calls. Plus, honestly, I am single with one adult child living at home, not married. I have found that many of my married friends, or friends who have "significant others" don't have the bandwidth the be available as much as my single friends (my friend mentioned above is also single). That could be a big part of the reason that the LW is also overwhelmed. Her husband says to stop answering the phone, he may be putting pressure on the LW to stop supporting her friend because he's sick of the time she's spending on the phone.
Comment: #11
Posted by: nanchan
Wed Nov 2, 2011 6:34 AM
My heart aches for this child. I am very concerned about unintentional child abuse.
Child protective authorities should be contacted to assess this situation. He more than likely
needs counseling to help him deal with the deaths of his parents. Please Twin in TX
plan a visit to as soon as possible. At the very least contact Child Protection in your brothers
city for assistance.
Comment: #12
Posted by: Kim Jones
Wed Nov 2, 2011 6:37 AM
LW1 - Go check it out in person. You'll learn a lot from watching the dynamics is in the household and by getting to know the boys. Maybe it's okay....maybe not but you can't know from just talking to your brother over the phone.

LW2 - Your friend is in a bad situation. Mike H stole my idea about the speaker phone or headset. I do that a lot with long calls (even from people I enjoy talking to). Be as supportive as you can and, you also get to say, "Ya know, I'm just not up to it today. I'll talke to you later. Love ya".

LW3 - When not recommending counseling the Annies are recommending a cleaning service. That will solve everything. Forget the cleaning service, forget the therapy. Is this how you want to live? If yes, then continue. If no, then get with an attorney. If you're husband is really that lazy and unengaged you're better off without him.
Comment: #13
Posted by: Rick
Wed Nov 2, 2011 6:40 AM
Message to "frustrated friend," if Paula goes to Al-Anon and is working the program she should have a sponsor. Suggest she vents to her sponsor who may be able to give her suggestions that will help her cope and also someone else to talk to.
Comment: #14
Posted by: Peter H.
Wed Nov 2, 2011 6:51 AM
Lol! ! Someone could have written this LW1 letter about my family, and trust me, it is NOT about favouritism. The Annies are right, and this woman should pay attention when her brother says they give the kids exactly what they ask for. My two oldest kids once fought--FOUGHT--over who would get to sleep in a windowless storage room in our basement. Why? Because with no window, the room stayed dark, allowing them to sleep in. It was also cooler in the basement and they both hated hot summer nights. When we moved into a house where there was a huge bedroom with a big window and ensuite bath, we gave our oldest child still living at home first dibs on which bedroom he would choose. To our surprise, he bypassed the nice room and chose the smallest bedroom in the house. Why? Because the window faced onto the backyard, and he liked the view better because he was a nature nut. The ensuite bath held no appeal to him at all. We've also had some kids who were simply more materialistic either in general, or at certain stages at their life, and others who simply didn't care to have expensive "stuff". Give them a stick or a rock, even, and they were happy to play with their imagination. Why would we want to ruin that by buying them stuff they didn't want, just because their siblings wanted it? Why encourage materialism? This situation does not mean the kids are not loved equally, as they should be. It could very well be that the kids are just being treated as the individuals that they are, and if Auntie goes there and sees that's the case and the kids are happy, she should leave it alone. All of our kids seem quite content with having their choices about what they want respected.
Comment: #15
Posted by: Jane
Wed Nov 2, 2011 7:28 AM
I wouldn't be quick to judge. The 2nd kid, may, honestly have his own preferences, I've had friends who were siblings who were like this (more bizarre, the parents thought one of them was a weirdo because of his lack of materialism, as compared to his younger sibling, sounds nice for an adult, sounds weird and strange for a teenager in high school). The kid may not want an iPod, he may prefer a room without windows (kids, like to sleep late, and a dark room is better then a bright one). You would have to go down there and see for yourself, you also may wind up finding that "Lenny" is a little weirded out by the siblings preferences, and may wind up favoring the other because the other seems more "normal" in his requests. See for yourself.
Comment: #16
Posted by: Mookster
Wed Nov 2, 2011 7:40 AM
Thank you Jane! Pretty much what I was going to say, only you had the personal experience to throw in. And I can't believe what I'm reading "possible child abuse" "call protective services" "ask the unfavored child if he wants to come live in Texas" . Are you folks serious? LW1 is projecting her own fears, as in this sentence: "I can see where such disparity HAS TO BE affecting them." Why has to be? Because she thinks it should. If Lenny lives in a two bedroom home and gave the boys the second bedroom, it is highly likely that the other boy just wanted a room of his own and is fine with his little "cave." Whether or not it's up to fire code is a separate issue that should be addressed, but not under the popular banner of "potential child abuse" or, God help us, "Unintentional child abuse", whatever that is. And by all means, encourage the children to ask for the most expensive presents they can think of. No cheap toys here - have an ipod! But I do agree that sister needs to pay a visit herself and stop looking for monsters under the bed. In a few years, she can write in puzzled how one child is a layabout and expects to be given a new car, college paid for, and whatever he wants, and the other one is just happy with what he can get from life on his own.
Comment: #17
Posted by: Maggie Lawrence
Wed Nov 2, 2011 7:53 AM
LW1--"I have tried to discuss this with Lenny, but neither he nor his wife sees any problem at all because they say they give each child what that boy asks for, nothing more, nothing less." Your hands are tied. Frankly, none of this is your business; you're basing all of your conclusions of adroit favoritism on assumptions. You say this favoritism HAS to be affecting them. Why, because that's how you feel? For all you know, one child is a gadget loving trend setter while the other eschews such nonsense in favor of simpler pleasures in life. In short, unless the boy has complained or shows signs of mental anguish over his Grandpa's alleged favoritism, you will be completely out of line by trying to "fix" what isn't "broken." Even if there is real favoritism going on, there's still not much you can as you have no control over how your brother raises his grandchildren. I don't think you want to try to wrest custody from him do you? A move like that could explode in your face and leave you shunned by all involved. My advice is to simply treat the boys as you would and leave the parenting to your brother.

LW2--While part of being a true friend is supporting your friends through the good and bad times, listening to a steady torrent of depressing and sad news can be a real downer. While you should try to lend a sympathetic ear occasionally, for those times when you've reached your limit here's absolutely no reason whatsoever that you can't say some variation of "Sorry Paula but I'm in a really great mood today. Let's talk about something else okay?" Then change the subject to something more pleasant. If the conversation swings back around to Paula's marriage woes, then you can simply make an excuse and be on your way.
Comment: #18
Posted by: Chris
Wed Nov 2, 2011 8:10 AM
This is for "Lenny's Twin",
If you find a disparity in the ways the boys are being treated when you visit, see if you can find the source. It may be that the difference comes from a combination of suble factors. Is one child is large for his age and expected to act more mature than he is, or is one child is small for his age and celebrated for acting more mature than expected? Is one child doing better in school because he is a fall baby and older/more mature than most of his peers, or a spring or summer baby that suffers by comparison to older student peers? Does one have an undiagnosed learning or behavioral disablility?
Did the boys and their grandparents recieve counseling when their parents died to help them with the grieving process? Could some of the favoritism be based on the boys' individual responses to the loss of their parents. Did one act out or withdraw emotionally while the other sought to please and was "extra good" and "extra loving"?
Is one child naturally outgoing and gregarious and the other shy and reserved? As a mom and former childcare worker I know that sometimes adults place unreasonable expectations on children--especially in the areas of behavior and of communicating their needs.
One thing that needs to change is the "windowless room". The grandparents need to be aware that this is a safety issue and the child needs to be in a room with a window large enough to escape through in the event of a fire or natural disaster. It won't hurt the boys to share that sunny corner bedroom and it might even be good for them.
Comment: #19
Posted by: Gwyn
Wed Nov 2, 2011 8:22 AM
The storage room without a window is NOT legally a place for ANYONE to have as a room.
Call social services and have them check it out.You can do it anonymously, and don't have to mention anything else about the favouritism, just voice your concern over his being in a room that has
In every municipality I have lived in, this is against the law or safety ordinances.
Since they are, actually if not through the courts, foster parents to these children, they can't do this.
She should call their local children's services and the fire department and report it.
Comment: #20
Posted by: moon
Wed Nov 2, 2011 9:02 AM
Re: Maggie Lawrence

I said "ask the unfavored child if he wants to come live in Texas", I didn't suggest he be abducted. With more regular visits, the situation can be assessed more clearly, but my guess is that the LW has seen the room already.

Jane and Mookster have a point, but so do the others, including me. Neither of us know for sure which one is right here.

Children have a very keen sense of fairness and, when inequities are perceived, it can be devastating when it's occuring on a chronic basis. Definitely, this should be investigated, although I agree with you that calling child services at this point is not only premature, but also using a cannon to kill a fly. There are other ways to countermand this if the LW's concerns prove justified.

Comment: #21
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Wed Nov 2, 2011 9:07 AM
LW3: knowing that there are two sides to many stories, I'd like to hear what your husband has to say before passing judgment. But assuming things are as you say, I would recommend that: you let the lawn go as it will reflect on him, not you; you do all laundry except his, and let him do his own; and you cook only for you and the kids letting him fend for himself. When he complains give him a list of things you expect him to do regularly, and tell him that when he does them, things will be back to normal as far as the cooking and laundry. This is about the only thing you can do, short of divorcing the lazy ass.
Comment: #22
Posted by: Dave Galino
Wed Nov 2, 2011 9:23 AM
Most of the comments have dealt very effectively with LW1 and the perceived favoritism. Good suggestions all around.
As far as LW2, many of you pointed out that her friend has other resources, obvious challenges, and several positive suggestions were made to handle the phone situation. In defense of the friend with a new baby and probably an alcoholic spouse (belonging to Al-Anon does not mean it is her husband who is the alcoholic- though as the 8-ball says, "signs point to yes...") getting to a therapist, a meeting, or a phone call with a young baby can be quite the challenge. Child care must be hampering to some extent her ability to reach out and deal with some of her problems.
Comment: #23
Posted by: scrappy
Wed Nov 2, 2011 9:36 AM
Hi all! Sweet of ya to wonder about me :) :) I'm still around, just really busy. I have been reading the column and comments but I often don't have much to add, or no time to.

But today, I make time! LOL

LW2 - I don't like the way the Annies tried to make LW2 feel guilty about not wanting to be her friend's "therapist" anymore. It's one thing to be supportive, but another to have to hear about all of someone's woes on a regular basis. That, and I've been there - I know how annoying it is to have someone constantly complain about how awful their spouse is. Eventually you can't help but think... divorce them if you are so miserable. It is also frustrating that when this person is venting, you can't talk about yourself or your life. Which is fine periodically, but when it's most of the time, I can totally see how LW2 is getting fed up.
I do think LW2 should tolerate as much as she can. Take Mike H's advice and do other things while she is venting, or try to change the subject ("hey, let's talk about something happy! has your son learned any new words?") - to be supportive without agreeing to be her sounding board three hours a week.

LW3 - Hey, come be my wife. I could use a full-time house cleaner, gardener and lawn mower that doesn't have the nads to tell me to eff off and get out. You work full time and obviously you have you stuff together; get a divorce, a cheaper home, and enlist the help of your kids (I was cleaning my room and doing dishes as soon as I was mentally and physically capable of doing so). Let your husband live in his own filth.
Comment: #24
Posted by: Zoe
Wed Nov 2, 2011 10:12 AM
re LW1 - I agree with Jane, Mookster, Maggie L. and Chris - LW1 seems to be projecting a lot of her personal feelings on the son who s/he is viewings "less favored". Also, I think those who mention the windowless room as a fire hazard need to get a grip. I have a windowless den that doubles as a guest room when friends visit. It is probably safer than my bedrooms with windows in the event of a fire because 1) it is on the first floor of the home and 2) it is the closest's room in the house to the front door. A window doesn't do much good if you are on an upper-level without a fire ladder in each room. If the child likes sleeping in the room and his grandparents don't object, then he should be fine as long as the family has a fire safety plan in place (which they should have anyway) and everyone is aware of the safest routes out of the house.
Comment: #25
Posted by: sharnee
Wed Nov 2, 2011 12:23 PM
LW1- I don't really like the Annies response to this one. Growing up, my family was very, very poor. I barely saw my father cause of the hours he worked. We had an old computer which was still operated by joy stick and only used the big 5 1/4 inch floppy disks. We only had it cause a co-worker of my father's gave it to him. We did not have internet on it til high school and that is also when we got an old hand me down printer from a friend of the family. While my class mates typed essays on computers, for the longest time I typed them on an old type writer cause the schools did not have 5 inch floppy disk access. We did not have a lot growing up.

I said all of this to say this. I only have an older sister. When my parents managed to save up the money for a new tv, my sister got the old tv for her bedroom. My father then asked me, "what would you like for your bedroom? A tv?" I asked if I could have a radio too. My sister already had a cd player in her bedroom, but I had neither a tv nor any form of music player. Father then explained to me he could not afford both a tv and a radio, so I had to choose. I chose a radio, so my father bought me an old AM/FM cassette player (note: My sister owned cds, but I only owned cassettes cause I would play them off of the vinyl record/cassette player in the living room... so it made no sense for him to buy me a cd player). Next year, he gave me a tv out of the blue. It was an old, dusty tv from a pawn shop, but it was a tv nonetheless. When I asked him "why, I thought I could only have one," he said it was because my sister had a tv.

The same thing happened often. When my sister became old enough to drive, she was given the spare car. My family was a lot better off financially at this time, but we had only moved up to lower middle class. When I was old enough to drive, there was no spare car. My father went out and got my mom a new car, then gave me the old one saying, "We gave your sister a car." He did this even after I told him not to, that I could just practice on mom's car and ride the bus. I knew my parents still did not have much money, so I did not want to make things more difficult for them, but they were insistent.

When my sister graduated college, my parents took everyone out to dinner. They did this because my sister's graduation was just a few days before my wedding, so she felt like everyone was just in town for my wedding (I planned my wedding at this time cause mom suggested it thinking it would make travel easier on the guests). When I graduated college, I did not expect to be taken out for dinner. I was surprised when father asked where I wanted to eat. I told them they did not have to, that I understood why my sister had a dinner party, but my parents insisted saying, "We took your sister out to eat for graduation." My parents still do this to this day.

What is my point with all this? It is a point I very much hope both the LW and the grandparents of the two boys will read. The boy does not have to ask for the same nice things as the other boy. He is the child, you are the adult. It is YOUR job to make sure you treat them equal, not his. The Annies may be right. If the child is the one asking for the lesser valued goods, then he may not notice the disparity... yet; however, I can promise he will always remember you going out of your way to give him the same nice things his brother has. I know I do. Even though I did not get the nice things at the same time as my sister, I never felt less loved because my mom and dad bent over backwards to ensure I did eventually get them. So save up to get him a cheap iPod. Even if it is one from a pawn shop or a rebuilt one from the internet, he will get the message he is equally loved.

If you cannot afford to get something as nice and expensive as an iPod for both boys, then perhaps you should settle on a cd player for both of them instead. The one boy may be asking for cheaper things for the same reason I did... I asked because I knew my parents were strapped financially and did not want to be a burden. Which do you want the boy to remember? Favoritism or equal love? You're the adult. Act like one and stop putting the burden of choosing off on the child!
Comment: #26
Posted by: Maria
Wed Nov 2, 2011 12:23 PM
Re: Kim Jones
I understand that your heart aches for this child; mine does too. But I think people need to be very careful about leaping to contact child protective authorities (an underfunded and overworked agency.) Personally, I think that if there is a chance of handling this within the family, then that is where the problem should stay - and not be handed over to the government.
This home sounds like it's being led by some naive people who need a bit of schooling in parenting - maybe they lost their skills, maybe they need to learn new ones. But if this child is yanked out of his home he not only will have lost his parents, but now also his brother and his grandparents. He will then be placed in a facility or a foster home (rather, series of.) Studies show that children growing up in foster programs face severe difficulties in life, both present and future. It sure would be a damn shame to put a child in an awful environment when perhaps a simple intervention would suffice.
Comment: #27
Posted by: kristen
Wed Nov 2, 2011 12:44 PM
Lise, I know you weren't advocating abduction, but why would you advise this woman to ask the kid if he wants to come live in Texas? What a great way to stir up endless problems with the twin brother! And why would a child want to leave the only family he knows to go live with a distant relative a thousand miles away? If she wants to invite them both to come visit, more power to her, but I think your suggestion would do nothing but cause trouble.
Comment: #28
Posted by: Maggie Lawrence
Wed Nov 2, 2011 1:02 PM
@Maria - Welcome back! I see your point and I vaguely agree with you in that it is the adults responsibility to be certain that the child who is asking for more modest gifts is doing so because that is what they genuinely want and not because they are asking out of some sense that the parents can't afford it. It should never be a child's responsibility to worry about money. But, I disagree that each child has to be given exactly the same thing regardless of what they want. Growing up, my brother went through 6 or 7 bikes between elementary and high school. Why because he was a daredevil and kept wrecking his bikes he and his friends were some sort of a pre-cursor to extreme sports. My parents gave the bikes to him because that his what he wanted. I got a bike in 1st or 2nd grade and found that I did not care much about bike riding. I preferred to roller skate. So you know what I got? Roller skates. When I was in high school and wanted to try bike riding again, I asked and received a bike. This is the same with all other gifts. When my oldest brother got a computer, I wasn't jealous - he asked for it and he got it. I am dating myself -but at that time he got a top of the line Comodore 64, LOL. That was not what I wanted at that point in my life - I was much more interested in a Barbie Dream house.

I do the same with my children. I have a set of twin boys. When they were too small to tell me what they wanted, I bought two of everything just the same. Now when we go toy shopping the absolutely never pick out the same toy. One son is very much in to trains, the other loves Legos. I get them each what makes them happy and I don't worry about jealousy issues. Now sometimes issues do arise where one child wants to play with the other's toys. I let them work it out among themselves but when the problem escalates to an argument, I step in and remind the child who wants to play with the toy that he had the opportunity to buy the same thing and he chose something else. I then remind the owner of the toy that sharing is a kindness and his brother will be happier to share with him the next time he wants to borrow something from him. This usually squelches the issue.

In fact, some of the worst problems I have had with my mother have been when she buys me a "gift" that has nothing to do with my wants. For example, she will buy me clothes that I don't like - we have very different tastes and she is much more flamboyant than I so I feel very out of place in some of things she buys for me. She gets her feelings hurt when I don't wear the item and accuses me of being ungrateful. I am grateful for the thought, but I simply don't want to look like a clown, thank you very much. The best gifts that I have received are the ones that were tailored to my personality, wants, and likes - not things that were given to me because my brothers got the same thing.
Comment: #29
Posted by: sharnee
Wed Nov 2, 2011 1:03 PM
@Zoe - Glad to see you posting again!
Comment: #30
Posted by: sharnee
Wed Nov 2, 2011 1:07 PM
Re: Maggie Lawrence
Actually, I realise there is a lot left out in the post I wrote. I was taking for granted that the complaint is valid and that the kid really is being neglected. If he is not and is content with the situation as it is, as many other posters pointed out is possible, then it's a different story.

But if really the other child is the golden child and this one the red-haired unwanted step-child, then it would be the LW's responsibility to chip in. That's where an invite to Texas fits in - after discussing the matter with the bro, of course. And the matter should be presented along the lines of, "You've done a bang-up job, I really like what this kid has become, how about I take him in for a while" - as opposed to attacking his parenting. There is no reason why the burden of caring for these boys should fall on Lenny only.

I guess this resonates with me because I know so well what it feels like to be neglected. When my mother died in the fire and my father remarried right away with the woman who was already pregnant by him, I was left holding the candle. They weren't pleased, and my father wasn't happy at having a constant ghost of marriage past every time he looked at me, especially since I have my mother's face (almost - she looked like a movie star). I know VERY well what it feels like to be shoved in a corner like a piece of unwanted furniture you can't get rid of - trust me, you never forget, no matter how long ago.

But it is true that the situation may not be as the LW perceives it, which is why I qualified my answer even in my first post to you.

Comment: #31
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Wed Nov 2, 2011 2:48 PM
Re: Sharnee,

I can understand that. My parents always bought us presents based on our personalities and preference. For example, my parents bought me baggy clothes instead of fitted clothes like my sister. My parents would have never bought me make up for a present like they did my sister. I was a tom boy and they bought me tom boy things. I was mostly referring to big ticket items like iPods, TVs, and expensive phones... It seems strange to me the grandparents would buy expensive things for one child and then get something cheap like a AM/FM radio for the other. Even if the child is not interested in an iPod or smart phone, they still could've gotten the child a really nice CD player or something. When buying big ticket items for one child, a parent shoud buy (not necessarily right then, but eventually) a big ticket item for the other child as well. My parents always bought us both equal big ticket items, even though one of us had to wait a little while for the equal item since they could not afford it at the same time. To not do this strikes me as favoritism.

But I do get your point. The only thing worse than receiving a gift you are not interested in is receiving no gift at all. Every now and then my parents will do it to me in vain hope I will become more girly... but for the most part, they don't. :)
Comment: #32
Posted by: Maria
Wed Nov 2, 2011 5:55 PM
Zoe, I'm glad you're okay.
Comment: #33
Posted by: Michael
Wed Nov 2, 2011 7:16 PM
Zoe (#24)
I love your comment to LW3! What a comeback!

Maria (#26)
Thanks for the good examples you gave. It really brings things to life.

Kristen (#27)
You have hit the nail on the head - we shouldn't get social services involved without some clear talking going on first. Well said.
Comment: #34
Posted by: Miss Pasko
Thu Nov 3, 2011 3:11 AM
If you disapprove of how they treat that kid, why not have him live with you in Texas? If you do, how are YOU going to raise him? Are you going to give him every goddam thing he wants? If so, what'll you do when he's 16 and starts driving drunk? Are you going to say "what happend, you used to be a good boy?" Are you going to say "why are you such a rotten kid, I gave you everything you wanted?"

I don't approve of windowless rooms or favoratism, but spartan living can foster independence and self-sufficiency. The sibling that gets what he wants won't necessarily grow up to be a well-adjusted adult. He might have severe troubles as a teenager because his grandfatehr spoiled him. It's possible that he spoils the boy in order to buy his love.

Don't be so quick to shower the "cinderfella" with loads of stuff.
Comment: #35
Posted by: Roger
Thu Nov 3, 2011 7:45 PM
Re: Roger

Actually, this has nothing to do with the amount of spoiling or indulgence as opposed to the benefits of spartan living, but is rather about equal treatment. AND with a boy not living in a room that'll be a death trap in the case of fire or other catastrophe.

Comment: #36
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Fri Nov 4, 2011 5:55 AM

This being stated... "cinderfella", good one.

Comment: #37
Posted by: Lise Brouillette
Fri Nov 4, 2011 5:56 AM
I'm confused as to why the Annies seem to think that no one has seen the rooms and the boys' living conditions. They also assume all of this information was gleaned from a phone call. it seems to me that someone in the family has seen how the younger boy lives and has expressed concern about it.

Most telling to me is that the LW states that the older boy is spoken of with a special kind of affection. Many times, parents/grandparents will have clear favorites and it's reflected when they speak of the child.

This doesn't mean the younger brother is being neglected, though. It's possible he's less mature than his brother and wants different things. Nevertheless, he could also be asking for less expensive items out of a feeling that it's all he will get anyway.

Tough to tell. I'd definitely reach out to little brother and make sure that he's not subordinating his wants based on what he perceives as his lesser status in the home.
Comment: #38
Posted by: Wordsworth
Thu Dec 8, 2011 8:43 AM
I would like to reply to Twin. If indeed Twin is not part of the family on a regular basis, Twin has no idea what is going on. I have been in the same situation. From the outside, I watched this child and wondered what was wrong with the parents. Well karma kicked me in the teeth and I ended up raising the 'neglected' child for a few years. This child was the spawn of Satan. If one bought this child something-anything-it would be promptly destroyed. During the three years he lived with us, he terrorized the schools and the neighborhood, and our home. He lit fires in his room and actually lit his younger brother on fire. (Luckily, the child was only scorched.) He lied, he cheated, he stole; in our efforts to treat him like the other children, he destroyed about $10,000 worth of objects and electronics. He wiped his boogers and his feces on the wall, and punched and kicked holes in the wall. There are still holes in the walls, all made bigger by the child who refused to walk by them without making them larger. He convinced his new school he could not read, and had to do jumping jacks in the halls during class or he couldn't concentrate. He refused to acknowledge any responsibility for anything, from homework to room cleaning to anything else, including his attitude.

I would like to be able to say I made some progress with the child, but any progress made was immediately crushed by defiant and disrespectful behavior. He lives with his mother now, and I hope God helps the child a lot, because he is headed nowhere fast. He treats everyone else the same way. Some children just don't want to be helped. To treat a child like him "like everyone else" is a failure of the parents to acknowledge that children are all different. An I pod apiece for Christmas in our house would have resulted in 5 I pods a year later--and one child who destroyed his $200 piece of metal within the first day he owned it. Everyone on the outside would have heard that we didn't care about him, would see him without one and assume we did not buy him one. No one ever knows the real story unless they are there all the time. If Twin is so concerned, Twin should ask. He might be surprised to find what there is to learn...

Sign me Been there, Done That
Comment: #39
Posted by: Melissa
Tue Jan 3, 2012 2:37 PM
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