How to handle my reactions to a 18yo niece while she's here on vacation?
January 16, 2018 8:52 AM   Subscribe

My much missed & loved niece turned 18 & came to visit me in the USA. I hadn't seen her for 3 years & looked forward to it immensely. Unfortunately she turned into a teenager in the mean time & I have no idea how to handle it. Now her teenage antics are putting a damper on a long awaited trip to Disneyworld. How do you vacation with a teenager?

My niece came to visit me. I was looking forward to it so much I cried with excitement the night before she came as I missed her very much after moving from Australia to the USA. She was warned repeatedly I live in a smallish midwestern town & that December & January is a terrible time weather wise to come & visit. That there was almost no public transport & I can't drive at night or in snowy weather (the flickering moving lights trigger ocular migraines which leave me almost blind). She insisted that none of this was a problem & came anyway.

She would give us no idea of things she wanted to do insisting she'd be happy doing whatever & she'd make her own arrangements if she didn't want to do what we'd planned. So we arranged numerous activities including trips to Chicago several times. Basically she told us she was bored the whole time & hated everything & OMG we're so boring why are we so boring. Which came as a huge surprise to my husband and me as we'd spent most of the time with her all of us laughing & having fun, or so we'd thought.

She then went off to NYC where low & behold she has a friend working as a Nanny in NYC. She is currently in NYC staying with her Apparently the whole visit to the USA was a ruse to to stay with this Friend in NYC. No one including her parents & Grandmother she lives with currently, know why she lied to us about staying with her friend in NYC as no one would care if she did, in fact we'd think it was great, she was under no pressure to even come & visit us. But now she was reminded by my facebook feed that my husband & I are off to Disney in a week & suddenly she wants to come with us (we offered to take her way back when she was planning the trip but never heard from her about it). We're sort of happy to take her, my brain says this is just a stage, you have to fight to keep connections with teenagers as they go through this weird friends over family stage. Trouble is I just can't figure out how to do it without resenting her OMG you're all so boring but the second you do a thing I want to do I love you again behavior.

I'm resentful and angry that she's complaining about the boredom of her visit here when we put out selves out a lot financially & physically to try & give her a good time & not even a thank you. I'm worried whiny eye rolling teenager & dramatic sighs are going to take from my very dorky geeking out when I'm at DisneyWorld. Throw into that the silly pointless lying and I'm at a loss. We'll be sharing a 2 room apartment & she has her own ticket so we were just going to go here you go have fun, but yet again she was all I don't know how to fastpass/book meals can you plan everything for me & tell me what to do when I'm there but then I'm going to complain because you booked Asian food (which we love & she hates) twice in a week in a park full of other food options she's free to buy and why did you book me on Haunted House that's a kids ride etc (seriously I should disown her just for that comment *joke*).

Sample conversation. I want to go to Universal (OK go) but it costs so much(Well we aren't going there but we're happy to drop you off when we go to see the manatees) so you won't pay for me to go? (no) oh then I don't want to go it's almost $100 (yes we know) but I my friends all told me to see Harry Potter (did you ever read a Harry Potter book?) No but my friends all did (so go) but it cost so much (so don't go) etc.

I know it's brain chemistry, I know it's part of separating from adults into adulthood yourself but parents of teens please oh please tell me the secrets of going on vacation with a teenager without wanting to throttle them or resenting them the whole time.
posted by wwax to Human Relations (29 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
We're sort of happy to take her, my brain says this is just a stage, you have to fight to keep connections with teenagers as they go through this weird friends over family stage

Your brain is right. In some ways, this is no different from dealing with her when she was a toddler throwing crayons. She will no doubt look back in ten years and be mortified at how she behaved. Separate this conduct from her underlying character.

However, she's 18. That's old enough to make your own decisions and live with the consequences of your decisions, at least in the context of planning a vacation! If she's capable of getting herself off to NYC to hang out with Friend she can book her own meals/passes/whatever. Just don't do it for her. Her ability to sort things out for herself will no doubt magically reemerge when she realizes you aren't doing it for her. If she complains about something, tell her she is free to do [other thing she wants] by herself. "But if you're spending time with us, we're all going to have to compromise and take turns doing what each enjoys more, so that we all have a good time together." (Sounds like her parents have radically failed to impress this concept on her brain.) Don't get into a long-drawn-out discussion about it, just put it to her. And cut short the endless wheedling conversations. "Well, then I guess you just won't be going to Universal."

Finally, at that age you are certainly old enough to be told you are hurting someone's feelings. It sounds like she would benefit from that conversation. "We were so looking forward to seeing you. When you act as if you're unhappy even to be around us, that's painful."
posted by praemunire at 9:04 AM on January 16, 2018 [70 favorites]


Have you told her this? And stop helping her right now. “We love you but you’re being really rude. You’re still invited but you need to make your own plans.” Repeat as many times as you need to. She’s a guest but she’s also younger generation family which means that you can tell her she’s being shitty.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 9:11 AM on January 16, 2018 [43 favorites]


This isn't a stage, this is an entitled, spoilt brat who used you as an excuse to come to the country and then take off to hang off with someone else. Would you be reacting with such rose-colored glasses if she'd run off to hook up with some guy she met online?

Recommendation: stop enabling.
posted by stormyteal at 9:12 AM on January 16, 2018 [17 favorites]


Agreed with praemunire. At 18, she's technically an adult. I'd suggest handling this like you would any other adult member of your family who was exhibiting these behaviors.
posted by Malleable at 9:17 AM on January 16, 2018 [4 favorites]


There is 100% zero reason why you shouldn't let her know that she's being a terrible guest. Of course you won't tell her in those exact words, but if she wants to be treated like an adult (most 18 year olds do), she needs to get a reality check. Would you accept this behavior from a peer? I hope not.

You can convey your love for her at the same time you tell her that her behavior is not acceptable. If her parents aren't teaching her these lessons, someone needs to or she's going to be even more insufferable until she gets a very rude awakening.

BTW, there is absolutely no way either of my children (currently almost 21 and almost 18) would act this way. Never. My rose-colored glasses aren't on, I'm being very realistic about the way we've raised them. So do not wave this away as "teenage behavior." This isn't that.
posted by cooker girl at 9:19 AM on January 16, 2018 [33 favorites]


Part of the problem is that’s a really between age. It’s the age when you are starting to have your own taste, but you don’t have the money to make them happen, nor do you have the real understanding of what money means. Or, because you have not yet worked as an adult, that people’s time has value.

It sounds like she wanted to come, kind of wanted to see you, but mostly wanted to see her friend, because she knows you will always be there, and doesn’t know that her friend will.

It sounds like she doesn’t have the money for any of this trip that she wants. And is the mother of a teenager, I’m really familiar with the whole “I didn’t want you to feel you had to spend money, but if you were going to spend money, why didn’t you do it that way I liked better?” Teenagers are a mess of contradictions.

We are also boring. I love my daughter, and she loves me, to the point of tears sometimes. But I am also, in her eyes, kind of boring. And I think it’s really important to separate the boring factor from the love. It’s not that you planned badly, it’s not that she didn’t have a good time. It’s that she has believed that at this age she will have a much better time, and that there must be a good time somewhere out there, that someone else will show her. It is hard for teenagers to learn the secret that there is no magical age after which life is just awesome.

Honestly, I wouldn’t take her to Disneyland though.
posted by corb at 9:20 AM on January 16, 2018 [32 favorites]


After this trip ——— whatever you decide to do———, write a physical letter and mail it to her mom. Outline in the letter (along with I love you) pretty much what you just wrote here. Explicitly tell her mom to GIVE her the letter, and make sure her mom tells her who it is from. I agree this is a "phase" but this is extremely shitty, not jail-time shitty, but as far as teen phases go... this is bad.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 9:21 AM on January 16, 2018


Here's what seems to have happened here.
You had an idea what this visit would be like. This was informed by your knowledge of your own life and what your area is like. She also had an idea of what this visit would be like. And your ideas about this were very different. And it also sounds like you all were not 100% clear with each other about the financing of various aspects of the trip. If she was 12, you'd probably have a chat with her parents about it - like, hey you guys pay for the ticket and when she is here we will cover everything else. But she's 18, so this is a more awkward situation. At 18, many young people are just starting to work out what the financial deal will be with their parents and this really varies by family. This would be a really tough age to do a trip like this whereby she may (because this is how it works at home) expecting that adults will pay for her to do things and you all are not in that groove.

Is it rude that she is complaining about it being boring? Yes. Is it possible that she had fun in the moment with you but later said it was boring because she was somehow trying to lash out? Sure.

Does it really matter that she is visiting her friend in NYC? No. It sounds like she spent some time with you all and now she is spending time with her friend in NYC. Undoubtedly it is more fun to be with a friend in one of the world's most exciting cities. She probably should have been more up front with everyone that this was her plan. But maybe she thought that someone (you? her parents?) would be upset/offended if she went to visit the friend in NYC, so she lied. It seemed logical at the time to lie probably.

So now it is Disney time. I would probably say to her something like this: "Monica, we mentioned this Disney trip to you back in October and you didn't say that you wanted to go, so we didn't make plans for you to go. And now you want to go, but to be perfectly honest with you, I have a few concerns. First, this is really expensive and since we didn't plan for a 3rd person to go, we're not entirely sure if we can afford it - as you've already seen, nearly everything cost over $80. Second, those Chicago trips were really tough for everyone, I bet you can agree. We didn't seem to get along very well. Based on that, I'm really nervous that we all wouldn't get along on this Disney trip. I don't want to ruin the trip because of this."

And then you and your spouse need to decide how much you're willing to spend on her coming with you.

I think that your plan of sharing space with her but not making plans for her SEEMS like it would work but yet so far it isn't. Perhaps putting it into a different context like -- "Monica, we have already done all the planning for this Disney trip and we have specific things that we want to do. Because we didn't know you were coming, we didn't take your desires into consideration. So I will provide you with our plans and if there are things that you absolutely want to do, tell us and you're welcome to come to them. If there are things that you don't want to do, that's fine. Don't do them. Moreover, if there are things that you want to do, like go to Universal Studios, do them. Go online and book the tickets, figure out the transport, etc."
posted by k8t at 9:31 AM on January 16, 2018 [16 favorites]


"Sample conversation. I want to go to Universal (OK go) but it costs so much(Well we aren't going there but we're happy to drop you off when we go to see the manatees) so you won't pay for me to go? (no) oh then I don't want to go it's almost $100 (yes we know) but I my friends all told me to see Harry Potter (did you ever read a Harry Potter book?) No but my friends all did (so go) but it cost so much (so don't go) etc. "

You've written a great script right there! You need to keep responding to your niece in exactly this fashion. Be clear with her what you're willing to do for her, what you're willing to do with her, and, most importantly, what you won't put up with in terms of complaints, eye-rolling, sulking, pouting, etc.

You're not under any obligation to have a vacation that you're looking forward to, have spent time planning, and are expending considerable money on spoiled by inconsiderate behavior. Before you go you need to sit your niece down and tell her clearly how her behavior has impacted you and how you aren't willing to be treated that way going forward. She absolutely shouldn't join you on this vacation if she can't treat you nicely. If she can treat you nicely, then she needs to make decisions about what she's going to do with you and what she's going to do on her own. And everyone can do a little reasonable compromising.

At 18, hell at 16, I was making meals for myself, getting myself to school, holding down a job, paying my utility bill, deciding whether or not to spend my money on a night out, you know all the basics. And, yes, I got help and support from family, but they weren't holding my hand through every life decision or paying for absolutely everything. She can figure out how to feed herself and get herself on any rides without you being there 100% of the time.
posted by brookeb at 9:34 AM on January 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


Some added info I left out of above to save space but I think might be needed on reading the answers. She had the money for the trip, her Great Aunt left her $10k to be given to her when she turned 18 to be spent on travel as my Aunt thought that was important. She also has over $10k in savings from jobs she's had since she was 15. Also we'd be happy to pay for her to do the things & can afford to do so, we just don't like wasting the money if she's not enjoying it.

Her parent's went through a super messy divorce, think drugs, ICU visits for her dad, her mother disowning her etc etc. She has been raised by her grandmother for the past couple of years (who has some recent health issues & probably needs more care than she gives right now) Her father has only recently gotten clean (1 year last month or so) and is back in her life. Her mother sporadically gets in contact with her.

So appearing to be reliable is important to her Uncle & I. There is also the undue influence of a weird cult like Hillsong Church type group I'm worried about but if I included all that info it's a whole other question. So basically I want to be a rock for her in all the crazy that is/was her life, but that's my head, my heart wants to cry & tell her to stop being such an asshole. But at the moment in her family I get to be the only adult in life and I want to do the best for her I can, and that starts with me getting her to trust me. The only other adults she is influenced by are part of the church and are trying to get her to donate the $10k to her church for a leadership training course.

Thanks for all the great advice so far. Please keep it coming, it's nice to not feel as alone in all this.
posted by wwax at 9:41 AM on January 16, 2018 [6 favorites]


If that's the case, then she's probably looking for boundaries, in much the same way that younger children do when they first start exploring their freedom. Feel free to set those (kind) boundaries so she feels some security.
posted by Knowyournuts at 9:48 AM on January 16, 2018 [25 favorites]


Yeah she’s regressing. My firm simple boundaries are still relevant. Explicitly: you’re being rude. Just say it calmly and set boundaries that are sustainable and don’t leave you wanting to cry. Saying no = playing the long game.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 9:58 AM on January 16, 2018 [6 favorites]


I'd tell her to stop being an asshole. Exactly that. But in a loving way. Loving but exasperated and about to put on your Aunt panties and tell her off like she's 12 again. She needs it, whiny and ungrateful is no way to go through life.

Give her a few warning shots first: be visibly annoyed at her rudeness or say simply "that's not acceptable" or "that's not up for debate" then if she persists sit her down and explain why her behavior isn't ok. Be kind but firm and tell her you know she's been through a hard time but you are sure she's better than this and besides you never let anyone treat you or your husband this way not even her. Explain it is simply unacceptable for her to come to your house and criticize you and your SO. You live him and do want to see him hurt and you simply don't let anyone talk to you that way: not your SO, not your coworkers and not her.

Give her a hug. There will be tears but she needs to hear it and she needs to see you model self respect and good manners and how to have a calm conversation about needs and emotions more than she needs you to buy her a multi pass.
posted by fshgrl at 10:01 AM on January 16, 2018 [8 favorites]


Also lots of kids from bad divorces feel loyalty to their shitty parent(s) and feel the need to criticize/distance themselves from other parent substitutes. It’s shitty to have a kid you love tell you you suck. But she’s trying to handle her grief about her parents by telling herself that the alternatives aren’t all that hot.

Doesn’t mean you should let her verbally trash you. But acknowledge to yourself and maybe even to her that you know she misses her family and home.

You should definitely invite her to Disney. God knows she did some crazy shit in NYC and you should check on her.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 10:02 AM on January 16, 2018 [9 favorites]


I can't really advise you about the emotional aspect; it's been a long time since I worked with kids that age!

But a few practical tips about the Disney trip I can manage! If she has the cash to pay for her own meals, when you get to the dining reservation and she doesn't like it, be familiar with Quick Service locations nearby so that you can tell her (kindly but firmly) that she can go eat somewhere else if she doesn't like the food. Same deal if you're on the Dining Plan, really; you can use a table service credit for a quick service credit if you want. And even if you're all Linked In My Disney Experience, she can still use the phone app to change her Fastpasses on the day of.

I've been to WDW with a noob who had no clue and didn't want to be involved or even consulted in the planning. It was tense for a little while, but then hey just split off from the group and did his own thing, only joining us for a few meals. He didn't get a lot out of the trip, but it was his loss. We were too busy enjoying the happiest place on Earth to worry about it.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:10 AM on January 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't take her to Disney. Not as a punishment, but because it's going to be awful for you, you'll wind up more resentful than you already are, and ugh.

She will grow out of this (not at all normal! behavior) phase or not, but I don't see how enabling it is going to help anyone.

"Filbertina, it's nice to hear from you and I hope you're having a great time in NYC. I think after how bored you were with us on your visit it's probably not a good idea for us to travel to Florida together. Love you so much, and door is always open if you'd like to visit us at home."
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:22 AM on January 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


She's an adult taking advantage of the fact that you view her at least in part as a child by pushing some of her adult responsibilities onto you to see how much you'll do for her. It's lazy and rude, and it's something a lot of people do when they're around that age (and much older if they can get away with it). Treat her like an adult family member and don't let her get away with coaxing you to treat her, support her, and put up with her shit as if she were a child. Learning to take on the full yoke of adulthood is really difficult. Help her with that, but nicely and with a lot of patience.
posted by The World Famous at 10:23 AM on January 16, 2018 [4 favorites]


I don't really have better answers than the very good ones above, as I don't have much experience with things like this (my niece is an adorable 3 month old). However, the info you added clarifies a lot about the reasons for her antics, and I suspected something like this. I think you shouldn't be too hard on her or go head to head with her. She seems to be in a tough spot. I'd take her to Disney; even the most weary teenager will have fun there, right?

Actually I wanted to suggest an episode of Frasier, "High Holidays", which has a subplot that is quite comparable to your situation. Frasier's teenage son Freddy - who lives with his mother on the other side of the country - comes to visit for the holidays. However, it turns out he's changed quite a lot since Frasier last saw him. He acts like a typical teenager (only, he's about 13 or 14 here) and doesn't want to do most of the stuff that Frasier has planned for them, which annoys and hurts Frasier. They do make it work, however. They even connect deeply in the end. I know - this is a subplot in a sitcom episode, not a usual source for life lessons or pieces of advice. But it does offer some relevant ones, and it's funny to boot.
posted by Desertshore at 10:37 AM on January 16, 2018 [5 favorites]


But at the moment in her family I get to be the only adult in life and I want to do the best for her I can, and that starts with me getting her to trust me.

So here's some bad news: with kids and teenagers especially if you're going to get them to trust you you're often going to make them not like you. You're going to need to set boundaries sometimes, they're going to push and you'll need to stay firm. And you'll need to pick your battles because clearly that's going to lead to a lot of fights.

My suggestion is to do the best you can, you sound like you're doing great so far. I have two concrete suggestions:

1 - just tell her how she's behaving, kindly. But it's not a conversation. She may try to rebut things you say or argue with you but you don't have to respond to what she says, Just make your points, ask if she hears you and then leave it at that.

2 - don't get too invested in all her dramatic moments. Yes, they're a pain, but it's amazing on how smooth things can go if you just ignore them and move on.

can you plan everything for me & tell me what to do when I'm there but then I'm going to complain because you booked Asian food (which we love & she hates) twice in a week in a park full of other food options she's free to buy and why did you book me on Haunted House that's a kids ride

So for me, here's what I'd do here: walk her through the planning. Don't plan it for her, but ask her what she wants to eat, what rides she like, etc. It sounds like you may have to kind of tease it out of her. Bizarrely one thing about teens is that they know what they hate (and love) but are sometimes bad at translating that into a plan. So you have to help her with the executive function part of planning without making the actual choices. When kids say "I want you to plan it for me" it isn't literally true, but they are bad at planning and need help. Also, don't fall for "I just want to relax" because they'll inevitably get bored quickly.

But in the end I don't know this kid so my final advice is to be firm yet flexible. You sound like you're doing great so far. Good luck.
posted by GuyZero at 10:44 AM on January 16, 2018 [12 favorites]


Please do not hide your emotions from her. Otherwise, how will she learn how her actions affect other people?
posted by amtho at 10:45 AM on January 16, 2018 [8 favorites]


I would 100% take her to Disneyland btw. I'd just have clear expectations for her behavior. Which really, you should have for anyone. People treat you how you let them, teenagers included.
posted by fshgrl at 10:47 AM on January 16, 2018 [1 favorite]


My 2c:

(1) This girl would benefit HUGELY from having stable adults in her life who look out for her, so imo your instinct about that is exactly right. I urge you to open your heart to her, accept her completely as your own, and BE the steady presence. This does not mean you don't protect yourself or set limits or communicate your feelings to her. Please communicate directly but kindly, like so: "Niece, we love you, and you are always welcome in our home. Would you like to visit on [XYZ dates]? When you are here, please be kind and respectful. Our feelings were very hurt to hear your comments about your previous visit. It would be much better if we could talk things over together instead. Let's try again and find our groove! I'm looking forward to your visit."

(2) However, your instinct to hold her and rock her and fix her hurt with your wholesome care is off-target, albeit loving and kind. Even if you had her trust 100%, this would not happen, and more importantly, I think this shows that your attitude and expectations are slightly out of bounds. Especially combined with how disappointed you are with her trip to NYC, and her remarks about the visit with you being boring. I may be wrong, but it seems like you have a vision in your head about how loving you will be towards her, and how she will melt under the strength of your care, cleaving to you, being grateful to you, and/or returning your fierce caring. Sorry, but children are just not built that way! And that is not how life works!

If you could let go of expectations for her to see you consciously as an important person in her life, I think that would help you do for her what you clearly want to do. Most people begin to appreciate things like this in their 30s or later, I mean, seriously, weren't we all shitheads when we were 18? Teenagers need love and limits, but they cannot be expected to comprehend big things like family and gratitude on a deep level. That takes time. There are a whole bunch of life stages to go through before they get to that one.

On Children
Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
posted by MiraK at 11:48 AM on January 16, 2018 [14 favorites]


As an aunt of a bunch of kids of various ages, I'd say, the way that you can be a rock to her is to talk to her instead of about her. I have a nephew with a history of trauma and he can get very attitude-y at times, though is generally a wonderful person. I tell him, "You're being difficult right now, which makes it hard for me to talk to you. I love you. Go sit over there while we calm down." In the moment, he might get huffy but it has made us very close that he knows that I'm not just treating him like a guest in my life or in my home.

I think you may be hurt and betrayed that your niece seemed like she was having such a great time but then said how boring and uneventful it was to stay with you. That's legitimate. Be prepared for her to talk about how boring it was to go to Disney. Take her anyway. The memories will remain beyond the years of her acting too cool for school, I guarantee it.
posted by Merinda at 11:50 AM on January 16, 2018 [14 favorites]


Regarding the Universal go/don't go thing...I see that as her having difficulty making a decision and she's hoping you will decide to pay for her ticket so SHE won't have to make a decision. She's wanting to be rescued from an internal conflict that is causing her stress (Friends will be disappointed I don't go to Harry Potter...I have no clue what Harry Potter is about, etc). My advice is to not pay for her ticket and push her to make the decision for herself. In terms of being a positive role model in her family life that was chaotic, this decision is a very low stakes decision to force her to make on her own. She won't be losing a ton of money, she won't be ruining the next 20 years of her life, she just needs to decide if she wants to go to an amusement park!

Keep up what you've been saying to her regarding that. Maybe even tell her "I cannot make this decision for you. You have the information you need, so it's up to you to decide. We need to know by X time so we can prepare to drop you off on the way to manatees (or whatever)."

For the inevitable conflict of eating at Disney (a lot of kids ultimately don't want what everyone else is eating), show her what her choices are but don't plan it/pick it for her. Disney can be a confusing place for someone who has done no research on it (I went there for a convention...had no real desire to do the parks but just followed along with a friend who knew it like the back of her hand. Had fun because she had fun!) so show her where she can get the necessary info, give her a few pointers, and then ultimately let her decide. Maybe schedule a couple of FastPasses for her but let her pick the rest (I have no idea how those work anyways). Tell her you will be eating Asian at least twice and you know she doesn't like it, so here are some nearby options. I think that will show her that you are hearing her and you care, but you aren't doing it all for her.

Other MeFites are correct...this is about boundaries and structure for her. (And yes, she's being bratty, but it's worked for her so well growing up that it's an ingrained habit. It won't change until it doesn't work to her benefit anymore).
posted by MultiFaceted at 12:19 PM on January 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


Just as a data point - when you are young, you learn that grown-ups have all the power and you have none. Because of that, it takes a while for kids to learn that they actually have the ABILITY to hurt a grown-up's feelings. I remember when I was 13 or so, saying something snarky to my mom and making her cry- I was HORRIFIED. Because I shouldn't be able to make my mom cry! I was just a KID, what did I matter?

So what I'm saying is, call her on things. Let her know how what she's doing is affecting you. 18 is hard because people tend to both expect you to be Completely An Adult and still treat you like you're a kid who knows nothing, and you want to be On Your Own but also it's scary.

You've gotten a lot of good advice in this thread. Bless you for caring about her and doing your best for her. I think you can navigate this well by following the advice to call her on behavior that is rude or hurtful (remember BEHAVIOR not personality - "that was a rude thing to say" not "you're so rude") and putting the onus of decision-making and consequences back on her. "This is what you are doing. You can join us, or you can make your own arrangements."
posted by oblique red at 12:46 PM on January 16, 2018 [13 favorites]


Stepparent of three teens. It is absolutely ok to be brusque with teens and not shield them from your thought processes. You can tell a teen that they've been incredibly rude. You can tell a teen that their rudeness is a disincentive for spending time with them, and money on them. You can tell a teen that your willingness to care for them isn't conditional, but everything else is. And then you can tell a teen that you definitely want their company at Disney, but that it's on the grown-ups terms.

Teens are awful. I was an awful teen, and these awful teens will one day likely have their own awful teens. It's the circle of life.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 2:42 PM on January 16, 2018 [2 favorites]


This is a bit left-field but on reading your description, I thought she sounded a lot like the character Ja'mie from Summer Heights High. If both she and you have seen that, and if you think she understood that Ja'mie was not meant to be likeable or a role model, you could make that comparison. So she says something/does something, you respond with, "Wow! You sound just like Ja'mie, private school girl. [helps if you can do Chris Lilley voice there] Do you really want to be like her?" Might get through to her in a way that "you're being rude" wouldn't.
posted by Athanassiel at 2:54 PM on January 16, 2018


FWIW I'm extremely happy with people telling my daughter she's being rude and/or annoying (which she mostly isn't, but you know) and she's 9. Be blunt, she'll ultimately (if not immediately) respect you for it.
posted by Sebmojo at 6:09 PM on January 16, 2018


Thank you everybody, I'm off to pick her up from the train station in an hour so your words have made me feel a lot more able to do this, knowing it's Ok to set firm but polite boundaries & healthy for both of us to have them.
posted by wwax at 7:31 AM on January 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


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