Tough Love

Patricia Prudente on Unsplash

I’ve been having a series of conversations with my brother over the past few weeks. This is unusual for us, as he does his own thing in the southwest, and I do my own thing here, back east. However, it’s at the key moments when we have our pow-wows or invent silly inside jokes.

Sometimes it’s tough on us, too.

When our father died, for instance, we had to navigate the ugly, messy waters with my now former stepmother. There is nothing that I want to recall about that event but one thing that still makes me laugh is how my brother and I came up with the slogan, “Go Team!” whenever we had to deal with a terrible moment. He would even punch his fist in the air, yell, “Go Team!” and I’d dissolve into a pile of laughter, and tears, at the same time.

If I remember my dad’s funeral, it’s like watching a slide show or PowerPoint presentation in my head. There are certain bullet points that stand out. The moment I remember most of all, was when I was in front of the congregation, paralyzed in fear before speaking. My brother pressed his hand into the small of my back and whispered, “Go,” giving me the small push forward I needed to walk up to the podium.

My grief now turns toward my nephew. He’s been great and has made it through Covid-19 better than most. He faced leaving school in the middle of his last semester of college, finishing the last two months at home and graduating, online, with his fellow classmates. Me losing my New York City employment was a loss, but I could not imagine losing my last semester of senior year in college.

What has been concerning, is that my nephew has not at all taken the initiative to work, full time. My brother and I are coming to the bitter conclusion that he is brilliant but lazy. He will make any excuse not to go out and get full-time employment. He has part-time work, but barely enough to pay for extras, like gas for the car and a burger out. He’s currently living with his mother, and from what we can tell, he’s not paying her any rent or living expenses.

I think my last straw with my nephew was when we talked about what he wanted for Christmas. He asked me for a $300.00 gift and I told him that was out of my price range. A few days later, he texted that he was considering a few small things, and then hit me up for a $170.00 gift.

I’m not a cheap person, but I did not spend on myself this Christmas. I took the “extra” money I had, which I spread over two months, and gave it to the people who took care of me this year. That would be the hairdresser who made house calls when I was housebound after my accident. The superintendent and porter of the building I live in. The postman who delivers my mail. The garage attendants who have watched over my car when I haven’t been able to take the walk to check that that car is clean and running. I call these people my people, and know need to be taken care of because they go out of their way to take care of so many other people besides me.

So, hearing my nephew ask for an expensive present when he hasn’t worked and could afford or save up for a $170.00 item for himself if he did, set me on edge. I spoke to my brother about it, and the excuse my nephew is currently giving for not applying for work is that he is going to grad school in a few months.

That may be, and that may not be, but the truth is, he can still work a forty-hour week, even if it’s in retail or hospitality, while he’s waiting to go to school.

I called up my nephew and discussed with him my path to grad school and beyond. No one in my family paid for my grad school education. I worked full time and applied to grad school at night. I attended fourteen months of classes at night before grad school, to qualify for entry, while I continued to work full time. Then – I went to grad school at night and continued to work full time during the day. I took out a student loan and started paying it off from the first month of school because I could, through work.

When I relayed this information to my nephew, he said, “That’s a nice story.”

What?!!! In that snide comment, he dismissed three years and two months of the most relevant years of my life. I’ll admit it, I wanted to smack him in the head.

I then said, “You need to get up in the morning, get your ass out of bed, and get to work.”

After this episode, I did what I always do, which is, research something when I don’t know how to cope with or deal with it. Most of the advice I read stated a theme and variation of the following idea: “If someone is financially irresponsible, then cut them off.”

I’m not in the position to cut off my nephew as I am not responsible for his immediate welfare, but I am in the position to cut off buying expensive gifts when they are not warranted.

4 thoughts on “Tough Love

  1. I struggled with something like this once (not a family member). I have only started to understand that I am not responsible for someone’s else happiness or life choices, but it is hard when it involves someone you care for. I hope that everything turns out for your nephew.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your insight, Diana. I think the only thing that will help is when my nephew is forced to work by life circumstances. I hope it will be by his own choice, rather than at a late stage of the game.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” – 2 Thessalonians 3:10
    To continue to accommodate your nephew is to enable him to continue to his detriment and your frustration. Tough love is tough, but necessary Yve.

    Liked by 1 person

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