Ask Amy: Mom’s script is now being flipped

Dear Amy: Our entire childhood, my mom consistently used my own achievements to push my brother to be better.

I was two years younger, a year ahead in school, bolder and more fearless than him in every way.

Mom made it a competition between us to help him overcome his fears. She fueled it until she died.

My brother and I are now in our late 40s.

We are both successful, but have made very different choices.

I turned down lucrative opportunities to prioritize my children over work.

He and his wife did the opposite. They both placed their career first and neglected their child. I ended up taking care of my nephew a lot over the years to make up for it.

These days, my brother takes every opportunity to blast his success to me.

He tells me how much money he makes, how much his wife makes, how much money they have in the bank, etc.

I am trying to be a better person and ignore it, but it is exhausting.

He never asks about my life and what I care about.

I wouldn’t trade my life and the strong bond I have with my kids and their son over all the money he has, but how can I change the dynamic?

I know he only brags to me and not to our other brother.

At this point, I am considering cutting him off completely.

Am I overreacting? Why does it bother me so much?

— Annoyed Little Sister

Dear Annoyed: Imagine how it would feel to be told that you are never “enough.” This is the script that your mother wrote for your brother.

He is trying to flip that script, and establish that he has finally won your lifelong competition. I suggest that you — the bold and secure one — be brave enough to let him off the hook.

Basically, I’m suggesting that you try to take the air out of this through gently surrendering.

You could start with: “You talk about your wealth a lot when you’re with me. Why is that?”

You could try telling him, “I know that Mom always set us up in a competition. I can only imagine what it was like for you. But I think she would be really proud of your success. I hope that you don’t feel like you have anything left to prove.”

Only do this if you genuinely want to try to change the dynamic.

Dear Amy: I am 76 years old. My husband passed away eight years ago.

Four years later, I moved to be near my son and grandchildren.

I left a small town where I lived for 58 years, a church I loved, and many friends. Two of my grandchildren are now in college.

I pick the youngest one up from school every day. We do lots of things together, but he is almost 12 and growing more independent.

I am active in my church here and have a few friends, but I still pine for my hometown. I taught school there for 34 years, then took care of my parents and my husband.

I have babysat for my grandchildren for 21 years, keeping them after school, on weekends, and taking them on extended vacations.

I want to move back to my hometown, but I am afraid that I will feel guilty for leaving my grandson.

I feel time slipping away and want to have some time to do what I want to do while I still can.

Do you think I should stay here for my grandson, or should I move back to my beloved hometown?

Am I being selfish?

— Guilty

Dear Guilty: I think you should do something — for you. You might start by taking an extended trip to your hometown — perhaps staying in a rental or with a friend.

Talk with your family.

I hope they will encourage you to freely make the choice that is best for you. After decades of taking care of others, it’s time to take good care of yourself.

Dear Amy: I recognized myself in the letter from “Nice Guys Finish Last,” who is a softy as a landlord.

After 25 years as a landlord, I finally hired a property manager, and it was the best thing I ever did. It was worth the money not to have to deal with the problems that arose. And they were the “bad guys!”

— Former Softy

Dear Softy: It helps to remember that this is essentially a business relationship — on both sides.

(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

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