Excluded! What Do I Do Now?

Updated on June 25, 2012
K.F. asks from Denver, CO
27 answers

My brother, his second wife & their baby (my first niece - the same age as my first baby girl) were in town visiting recently. They stayed with my mom & stepdad. Before they came a schedule was made of what they would be doing everyday. I only know there was a schedule (i never saw it) because my stepdad sent me an email letting me know we would be seeing everyone 2 times during the visit for a couple hours each time. I thanked him for letting me know & then wrote my brother & sister-in-law to let them know we would be completely free when they were here. I gave a couple of suggestions of things we could do. My sister-in-law responded with "we are just going with the flow" and said how excited she was for our girls to play together.

I should preface all of this by saying that my brother, sis-in-law & I got into a fight about a year and a half prior (right after the last time I saw them). They had done some weird, offensive stuff & I told them I was offended. I apologized & moved on, but they never apologized & never budged. I didn't really know where we stood since we rarely speak.

I texted some with my bro & sis-in-law before they arrived. Again, I was suggesting something we could do to have more time together. The sis-in-law told me the two times they would be seeing us and asked if we would be free then. I told her that wouldn't give us a lot of time and she suggested I keep the kids up past their bedtimes.

One time that we met up I sat with her (sis-in-law) on a blanket at the park and tried very hard to connect with her, opening up about being a mom, telling stories about my friends & admiring our little girls. She sat there as if she were being polite in listening to me talk. She gave no personal info or connection and didn't seem to be interested in anything I was saying. There was very minimal effort on her part, but I was still continuing to try.

My stepdad was weird the entire visit.. very awkward & uncomfortable. Within the past few months we've stopped allowing them to see our kids unless we are there. They are alcoholics & have put our kids in unsafe situations. My brother made it very clear to me (around that time) that he thought us setting limits was the wrong thing to do & told me he would never do such a thing. So during this visit it really felt like they (everyone) were all punishing my husband and i by drastically limiting our visit time & putting us on a schedule. Schedules aren't a new thing around here.. my mom & stepdad created a schedule to see our kids after we had to set boundaries with them.

The last day they were here we were set to meet in the afternoon. It was an event that we got invited to because I asked what they were doing the next day & my stepdad had a guilty conscious.. "Well we didn't think u would want to go because you had gone 2 weeks ago..." I wasn't asking to go & never agreed to until my mom texted that evening saying how glad she was we were going. ?? I texted in the morn (again with ideas on stuff we could do). I got a few texts back from my mom and sis-in-law. Sister-in-law immediately cut me off saying that we would see each other at the scheduled time. She was actually responding to a text I sent my brother but acting as if she hadn't just read it. I had suggested going to the coffeehouse or going to lunch or even swinging by my mom's for lunch. 3 hours later I get a text from my mom saying they are going for a walk, going to lunch and would meet us at the scheduled time. Again, excluded. I was so upset at this point that we didn't meet them at the scheduled time. My mom texted and said they had a Groupon for 4 and that's why we hadn't been invited initially. The sis-in-law texts and tells me she wishes we were going (but yet they never invited us?). I let my brother know that if he wanted to see us he could let us know. He did (the only time they invited us to do anything) & we met up later that night to visit while they packed & did laundry. I gifted the sis-in-law with a her favorite movie.. it was a special gift, but she reacted as if i had just handed her a candy bar. I gifted my stepdad with a photo of my kids (late father's day gift) and he began acting more normal for the rest of the visit. The sister-in-law pulled her baby out of a photo as hubby & I were trying to get photos of me with the babies. She let me know that my eyes looked "glazed over" (from crying) and went on & on about how her baby loved my mom so much (rubbing it in). She knows I don't consider my mom to be a safe person to be left with my kids & she made it clear that she (who lives STATES away) completely disagrees (this was prior to the visit). She walked away when I told her that I was impressed that her sister breastfed for 2 years.. because she thought it was ridiculous. She was also ignoring me when I was trying to talk to her.

The second day they were here they went with my mom & stepdad out of town (spent the nite). We, of course, were never invited. That was about 2 days of their visit. We were so exclued I was crying every night.. but trying hard to be okay with it when I saw them.

I felt very left out (which has always been a soft spot for me with family) & hurt & was actually relieved to see them go. Before they arrived I had high hopes & was excited to meet my brother's first baby & get to see him on his first Father's Day (which they spent out of town w/my mom & stepdad). Now I feel like I have lost my whole family (parents & sibs- i'm disconnected from my other brother & have never been close with my father). Of course I'm still left to deal with my mom & step-dad because they live here. Do I bother trying to keep in touch with the brother & sister-in-law? Do I bring this stuff up or just let it go?

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

Thanx for letting me vent- that was helpful. And thanx to those of u who answered my questions- I appreciate it! "they are sending a message".. That really made sense to me. I didn't want to hear it (obviously) because I want everything to be good and okay. I was just struggling with what direction to go.. And that gave me what I needed. Thank you all so much. I talked with my therapist about this today but I just needed a bit more help. Thanks for taking the time to give your thoughts and advice- it helped.

Featured Answers



answers from Boston on

Please, sweetie, let it go. You just wrote an 8 paragraph essay about people who are clearly sending a message that they don't like you or care about how you feel or what you think. Do not waste any more time or energy on them. Really, you'll feel a lot better when you stop caring. It doesn't even really matter who is right or wrong, or who is sane and who is crazy. They are sending a message. Hear the message. You can't have a relationship if you're the only one participating. You sound thoughtful and sweet but they just aren't receptive for whatever reason.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

So you are super critical of everyone and let them know it but you can't understand why they are leery of being around you?


If my brother, and I only have a brother, criticized my lifestyle I would give him the big middle finger as well. If my kids judged me, again same thing.

I am not saying they don't have flaws but unless you walk on water you do too. You pushed them away so don't cry that they left.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Boca Raton on

With family like that who needs enemies?

I'm so sorry you're going through this K. . . . these people would have very little place in my life.

4 moms found this helpful

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answers from Norfolk on

You are trying too hard.
What ever the broohaha was last year, they still are not over it and it seems they don't want to be.
They worked you into their schedule in a minimal way.
Leave it at that.
They'll either come to you, or they won't, but don't pursue them.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Wow. Sorry...could barely get thru this.

All I kept seeing over and over is that they let you know two particular times they made time for you and you kept badgering them with ideas, places to go, etc.
Then your stepfather -- (who was probably offended and hurt) by being given his FD gift late, as an afterthought.
You make the boundaries and rules for YOUR kids. Your SIL and bro don't need to agree to them, nor do you have to spell it out at every opportunity.
And if someone came & watched my pack & do laundry---might have to cross them off the list for the next visit! LOL

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

The fact that they stayed with your mother and stepdad speaks volumes, they have no problem with them around their daughter, as your brother made clear when he told you he thought you were wrong to set limits with your mom and stepdad and that he would never do it. It doesn't mean that you don't have valid reasons to limit contact, just that they feel differently. Maybe they would change if their daughter was put in harm's way, but that's another story. The point is that your brother and SIL have taken sides, and that side is not yours.

You also said that your brother and SIL offended you about a year and a half ago, that you apologized and moved on, they never apologized or budged. Seems as if they don't feel they did anything wrong, and, therefore, saw no need to apologize. As a matter of fact, they may still be feeling you were wrong to call them on it, which would explain the "distance" you felt on their visit. Honestly, if you have moved on that incident isn't important any longer, it's done.

It truly sounds as if your brother and SIL came primarily to visit with your mom and stepdad, not to visit with you, or they would have contacted you themselves. And I believe your mom and stepdad were aware of how your brother and SIL felt, hence the awkwardness when you made suggestions for getting together. Plus the fact that you wanted to share and your SIL did not and didn't talk or open up to you tells me that perhaps the times together were not really wanted activities on their, or at least her part. Stepping aside and contenting yourself with the 2 "scheduled" times to get together might have been the preferred way to handle things.

And being one who advocates breastfeeding, (I nursed my son until he was 3) I have to say that the comment about how you were impressed that her sister breastfed for 2 years, when you KNEW your SIL thought it was ridiculous, strikes me as mean and calloused, kind of a "haha, told you so" comment, as if you were trying to put her in her place. Maybe you really were impressed and felt you were complimenting the sister, but it didn't come off that way.

I have a similar situation in my family, I brought something to my then future SIl and brother's attention, I was then uninvited to the wedding and we (SIL and me) have never been close. The night my father died earlier this year in February they were called back when it became obvious he was dying soon, and they arrived after he was gone. I hugged and talked with my brother (who has never had a problem with me) for a few minutes, and as he moved to someone else I told my SIL, "Let's end this now, I want another sister." and we cried in each other's arms. She was nice to me at the memorial and when they came to visit over the next couple of weeks, but was slightly cold at the funeral. We haven't spoken since, though my brother has been back to the house a few times. It is what it is, she is still upset that I called her out (nicely) on something years ago, frankly it is her loss, I'm a great person, as I'm sure you are.

You can't force anyone to want to spend time with you or your family. Unfortunately, sometime family hurts us more than others, simply because they are family, a "friend" we might just blow it off. I certainly wouldn't bring this stuff up, it will sound as if you are needy, and that you haven't got their message. Think about the things said to them a year and a half ago, and ask yourself how you would feel had roles been reversed and the things you said to them said to you. Sometimes, and I say this from experience, our words, no matter our intent, come back to bite us in the behind. We may not like it, but sad to say, we bring it on ourselves, we reap what we sow.

Keep at arm's length from your brother and SIL, and if they someday decide to be back in your life welcome them with open arms and be the better person. Oh! And be happy your niece loves her grandmother, your mom, so much, that's how it should be, regardless of if she's an alcoholic or not. Family is family, we love them in spite of their faults.

I truly hope that none of what I have said has offended you, but rather opened your eyes to what has happened, and help you to understand.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

Give it up. They have no intention of being the kind of family you are after. I have a brother like that, and when he comes into town, my life sounds like your story too. It's not worth it. Don't waste your thoughts and worries on this. I know it hurts, but you are just filling your heart up with anxiety, and it won't go away unless you let this go. Just take it at arm's length, and take what you get, if you want to. As for your SIL, I wouldn't trust her at all.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

ETA: I am adding this at the top because it's important. I just read you previous post. Was you Mom always an alcoholic? If so, let me gently suggest that what I am talking about below may be due to long training you had in being co-dependant. Is so, you'll need to work on learning to not need people to need you. You'll be okay if you take care of your own and maybe make some new friends.

Original response:
Perhaps I am misreading, but a lot of this read like "badgering" (from you) to me. They didn't exclude you; they specifically made time to spend with you. You wanted more.

Visting family and trying to make everyone happy can be exhausting - even if there isn't a family member who wants most of the one's time and has lots and lots of ideas about how one should spend that time (nevermind what the vacationer wants). You have a right to set boundaries, but it doesn't sound like you are respecting the boundaries of others.

Here's the thing - if they share that feeling - you'll get most of their time. Otherwise, you need to accept that they don't have that to give you. Perhaps they are being unreasonable. Perhaps you are being needy. Maybe some of both.

It's hard to tell over the internet, but - do people often hurt your feelings? Do you often feel left out or turned away? I have a dear, dear friend who I once advised "don't give until you are angry, give until you feel like you've given enough, then PULL BACK."

He always wanted to spend more time with people than they had - or than they wanted. It wasn't that they didn't like him (or in some cases, love him). It was that he wanted too much, or too much too fast.

If that's off-base, then certainly draw your lines and do what you need to do. But if it hits home, then *you* have a lot of power to make this better simply be redirecting, and diffusing (among many people), some of your desire to be close.

good luck to you,

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Salinas on

Stop complaining to your brother and his wife about your mom and step dad. They are not around them enough to feel your pain, therefore you are seen as complaining too much.

this is a good place to vent...then let it go. they annoy you and accept that you annoy them

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

What exactly is it that you want to bring up?
Even with family that I haven't had any falling out with, I get annoyed if I tell them "here is when we will be able to get together during this trip" and then they call/text me EVERY DAY and suggest more times/places to get together with them. It is tiresome.

Throw in that you DID have some sort of falling out with your brother and SIL, (didn't explain what that was over... so can't really comment on whether it was appropriate for you to call them out on whatever the offensive behavior was), and I would say you were really bordering on being on some of the last nerves some of those folks had.

Why do you assume that your SIL was throwing her daughter liking her grandma in your face? Why couldn't that be an innocent comment? You sat with her on a blanket for how long? And she had zero interest in anything you opened your mouth to say? Was she distracted by keeping an eye on the kids/babies? Or does she really have no interest in anything you had to say?

I think I would just give them some space. They tried to have some without making waves... and it didn't work. Don't chase them down at home to write them letters and text them about "what's wrong?".....

Maybe you were right about setting rules for your parents and your kids, and maybe whatever you said to them in the past was valid as well, but you can't beat them over the head with it and expect them to suddenly open their eyes and see the light. Their head is just going to hurt from the beating and they are going to run the other way.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

You can't pick your family. I think it is important to maintain family ties with the grandparents for the sake of the kids, it's not really so important to maintain a relationship between adult siblings, especially if they don't even live nearby. I'm sure you have friends who you actually enjoy spending time with, and who also appreciate you. Worry about those people. If you and your brother/SIL end up at a family function together be polite, and leave it at that. You shouldn't have to try this hard.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

You don't allow your kids to spend unsupervised time with your kids.

You got into a fight with bro and SIL after their last visit and you don't speak much.

Then all of a sudden you want them to include you in everything they're doing while they're in town? Why would they and your parents want to do that. You have made it clear to both what you think of them. Just because you've been able to forget and move on doesn't mean they have or that they even want to.

I think you expected way to much. SIL was trying to be nice when she told you she planned to just go with the flow. She obviously didn't mean your flow!

It's easy for your brother and SIL to say things that appease your parents as far as spending time with their grandchildren because, at least for the foreseeable future, that is not a situation they will have to deal with. Brother is trying to get along with his parents so he doesn't feel the need to take your side on that issue and estrange himself from his parents. Can't say I blame him - this is your issue not his.

Sounds like you wanted everyone to flock around you and that didn't happen. What do you do now? Go on about your life like you did before the visit. If you want to repair your relationship with your brother and SIL take it in baby steps and eventually you will get there. I would suggest, however, that you and brother and SIL DON'T discuss your parents or your issues with them - that is not going to get you anywhere!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I think you have been given some good advice here. Especially in regard to the 'stop trying' advice.

Here's the thing: you made clear boundaries with both your brother and sister in law, and your folks. Whether you were right or wrong to do so is irrelevant at this point. Whether they are just responding to your boundaries or are trying to be hurtful is also irrelevant. Personally, to me, it sounds like everyone feels hurt and is tolerating the situation.

You have the right to tell people not to do offensive things, and you certainly have the right not to leave your children in the care of people who might inadvertently hurt them due to addiction issues-- I can understand all of this. What you must also understand is when you impose rules on family, you do take the chance that they are hurt or indignant or angry.

I know this personally, by the way. Sometimes, when we try to make things reasonable for ourselves, our 'reasonable' is not theirs. My circumstances are a bit different than yours, but human behavior is pretty much the same. People don't like being 'told' what they can or can't do. They don't like feeling like the 'one down' person in any given situation. You took some control and they didn't like it and are taking some of that control back.

If it is upsetting you to the point that you are thinking about it a lot or crying about it, go talk to a counselor. Sort it out. See what's beneath some of the feelings you are having. And then, find a way to let it go. The more you try to make them happy with you, the more rejection you are likely to experience. I have a whole half of my family who doesn't speak to me because I decided (with the support of a counselor) to get healthy. Did it hurt like hell for the first few years? Absolutely. But I accepted it while it makes me sad, it doesn't hurt any more. So stop trying. It *does* get better.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Let it go and let them come to you is the most basic answer I can give you to all of this. Sometimes family is just not worth it when they do this to the ones the "love"

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Charlotte on

Added - GrammaRocks, wonderful post! She has given you excellent advice, K., and in such a thoughtful way, too.

B is right. You are trying WAY too hard.

The reason your SIL and brother say that you shouldn't put limitations on your child's time with your parents is because your parents have never put THEIR child in harm's way while drinking. They are punishing you by using this because you got in an argument. And they are enjoying it.

Why do you care so much? Because of your niece? I understand that, but truly, it's not worth it because of the rudeness of the parents.

Stop trying to be with them. They can have the alcoholics all to themselves. The first time something happens similar to what happened to you, the lightbulb will go on. (Not that you'll get any apology. They obviously don't believe in accepting blame for anything.)

You can't change these people. What you HAVE to do is protect your child. If your mom and step-dad continue to act this way, they will lose a LOT of time with their granddaughter and it will be their fault. You don't have to put up with their rudeness and excuses for excluding you.


3 moms found this helpful


answers from Hartford on

Your family members are clearly still hurt over the fallings out you had. You weren't the only one with hurt feelings, and they probably aren't the only ones who have said or done hurtful things. You decided that you're ready to move on and act as if nothing has happened but they're not there yet. They haven't forgotten the fights or being judged or being cut/restricted from your and your childrens' lives.

So the fact that you want to reconnect and be part of their lives, and grace them with your presence doesn't mean that they're ready. It doesn't mean they're at a point where they can forgive you or are able to spend time with you without continuing to feel hurt. It's not about leaving you out, but avoiding feeling pain or judgment and avoiding more uncomfortable situations and fights. You may not believe that you did anything to be forgiven, but I guarantee you that their version of events is quite different than yours.

Just something to consider. I'm not saying you're wrong... only that I doubt you're the only one this whole thing stresses out.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

honestly, it sounds as if you have set boundaries you feel are appropriate, and they have done the same. of course your feelings are hurt. whose wouldn't be? but when you think about it in that context, it makes sense.
as you expect them to abide by your boundaries, you have to deal with theirs. and that means keeping your visits within the scheduled times and not trying to push past them and getting offended if they won't comply.
your SIL may well have felt awkward about your attempts to share. many of us don't really feel comfortable with the paradigm of 'i've shared something intimate with you, now you must reciprocate.' true intimacy grows organically and can't be forced. it doesn't sound as if she feels that with you, nor you with her.
it's hard to move past issues with families, and when difficult subjects have been broached, the genie doesn't go back into the bottle. try not to be too attached to the process. you're not actually being excluded, there are just limits put on your participation. and this isn't a bad thing, as you yourself wanted limits on your participation. rather than be offended that all the limits aren't of your making, accept them with good grace and enjoy what time you do spend with them.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Indianapolis on

I am constantly left out when it comes to my brothers and my mom. It's just a fact of life. Complaining about it will make you look pathetic. Shoving your nose in everyone's business makes you look horrible. So just leave it be. If they wanted to spend time with you, then they would contact you.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

Honestly, you should just focus on your husband and your baby. If they want you around then they'll let you know. Stop trying so hard cause it's hurting you in the end when they push you away. Focus on you and on what your family needs. It's their loss if they don't want to spend time with you not yours.

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answers from San Francisco on

Family drama YIKES! Last year around Thanksgiving....things got really strange and then when it was about time for the Christmas festivities, my younger sister decided to make yet another change in holiday plans. I respectfully and as lovingly as possible let her know to please go forward with their plans but I would not be attending.

Sometimes you just have to love people from a DISTANCE.

I love my family, but do NOT miss the drama and having my holiday plans revolve around theirs.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Denver on

I get the feeling that maybe your brother and mother are more alike than you and either of them, given the boundaries you have set on seeing your parents, and the fighting with the brother and SIL. Even if the fight last year was justified, it still set the tone for hard feelings, and if your bro thought he was "in the right" before, he and his wife likely have had a hard time forgiving you.
I'm guessing that not including you and your family was a way for them to come and fully enjoy their visit, and not have to deal with any potential drama having you there might bring up. Again, maybe not justified on their part, but their feelings nonetheless.
I have issues with my family, so I understand where you are coming from, I do. And I am on the receiving end of a lot of the "excluded from" events. I'm sure my sisters and brother and mom leave me out b/c they "assume" we don't want to go, but I think the underlying current is that they also don't really want me around, either.
My suggestion is to let this go. You already said you don't feel comfortable with your mom and SD being with your kids, so why is this bothering you? They obviously know that you have chosen to limit their access to them, so what do you expect? Alcoholics or not, they are people with feelings, and perhaps feelings of entitlement when it comes to their grandkids, so from their perspective, the "son who lets us actually see our grandkids" was who they wanted to be with that week.
As for your bro and SIL, sounds like SIL has more of an issue with you than bro, and therefore has more pull with how bro will act around you. Most wives do have that pull. Talk to your brother and try to get things straightened out if you want to. But let him deal with his wife for now. I wouldn't make any grand gestures with her at this point.
Good luck.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

We have the same type of drama here.
The best thing you can do is to let it go. Focus on your hubby and baby and put the rest on the back burner.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Good responses here. I would like to add:

First, just take a deep breath and be grateful that they live so far away. Think about it: If they lived nearby there would be a constant, massive schedule they'd tell you you must follow. Their physical distance makes it easier for you to try to let this go, let this go, let this go.

And second....Stick to your guns on how you have limited the grandparents' access to your children. Your brother and his wife have zero credibility if they say you should not do this. Bro and wife live far away and do not see (and refuse to recognize) the serious problem of alcoholism in the family, so they dare to criticize you for recognizing it. Any chance that bro and his wife like to drink a lot, too? Just wondering.

Bro and sister in law are what therapists used to call "enablers" -- They make it even easier for your mom and stepdad to continue in their alcoholism, because bro and his wife send the message to the grandparents that "You're doing just fine!" ....Which you know is not correct. Smile, stick to your guns, and, well, you already know that everyone is passive-aggressively punishing you for daring to tell your mom and stepdad that they have a problem.

Be sure that if the grandparents are being sticklers for their schedule, that it does not rule your family's life. I would be sure that I, not they, set any schedule for them to see MY kids. And if they insist the schedule is theirs, I'd get it, check it and say, "Sorry, not available these dates/times." They are trying hard to be in control, aren't they?

I'm glad to see in your SWH that you are seeing a therapist. Your kids will be glad one day too -- because you will have overcome what sounds like a pretty dysfunctional family situation. Like others said, focus on YOUR nuclear family.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boise on

I am so sorry that you have to go through this. I to have to go through similar situations, but with my in-law side of the family. Unfortunately, my in-laws are very mean about how they do their things. I have found that if you say anything it will only cause more problems. I also found, that for my brother in-law and sister-in-law it is easiest to send them birthday cards with a gift card in them, anniversary cards, and small Christmas presents. The last time they visited, they were so very glad to see us and talked with us whenever we were around, however, like you it was scheduled, and we weren't given a schedule. We just were friendly and acted like we were excited to see them when we could see them.
I hope that it will get easier for you. It has become a little easier in that I don't get as easily hurt by everything, but it still is there.



answers from Billings on

I haven't read the responses. But I don't see why you felt you should have been included. Maybe they just wanted to be alone with your mom and stepdad. I prefer to visit my mom and her husband without his kids there.


answers from Philadelphia on

It sounds like you are too controlling and then upset whe they don't want to hang out with you!

Honeslty if your mom and step dad were truly alcoholics I dont think you'd want to see them supervised or not. My dad was/is (always will be i guess) an alcoholic my whole life and I didnt want my daughter around him supervised or not when he was drinking. He held her one time in the 1st 2 years of her life and i snatched her right bacl because he looked like he was going to fall over. He stopped drinking and has a relationship with her now, but I don't see how if they truly are drunks, tou'd want to keeo hanging with them.
From the examples you have it seems like they drink occassionally and may have messed up once or twice and you are holding that against them forever, and treating them like their your children...btw none of my parents or their brothers or sisters put up baby gates for grand kids (i saw that was your issue in the past)

If they are truly drunks and not healthy be happy they are avoiding you! If not maybe yo need to let loose a little and relalize you cant babyproof the world for your daughter


answers from New York on

you choose your friends, not your family. Make some close friends and do get togethers with them. Stop being dependent on these family members who are not the people you want them to be. accept who they are - a-holes - and move on.

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