I Told My Daughter My Ailing Parents Need Her Old Room. She Completely Flipped Out. (2024)

Care and Feeding

I’ve just about had it with this grown woman’s tantrums.

Advice by Jamilah Lemieux

I Told My Daughter My Ailing Parents Need Her Old Room. She Completely Flipped Out. (1)

Care and Feeding is Slate’s parenting advice column. Have a question for Care and Feeding? Submit it here.

Dear Care and Feeding,

I currently have a two-bedroom, two-bath condo. My daughter is in college and living with her boyfriend. I pay her expenses. My parents both have suffered serious health crises and can no longer live alone. My sister and I decided they needed to move in with me until we can sort out a long-term plan. I have a spare bedroom and am located near the major medical center. I knew my daughter would be unhappy about losing “her space” despite the fact she hasn’t used it in the past year (she spent her breaks traveling). I didn’t expect her to flip out.

She screamed at me that I couldn’t “kick” her out, and that she wouldn’t let me touch her stuff. She was unintelligible at this point, so I told her she needed to calm the hell down and deal with it. Honestly, her attitude towards me and her grandparents was really sh*tty. She is now blocking my calls, and part of me is ready to stop paying her bills. My ex pulled similar stunts, and right now, I don’t have the bandwidth to deal with this and my work and my parents. I have tried to give my daughter the best start in life, but she is 21 and too old to act like this. Please advise.

—Unappreciated

Dear Unappreciated,

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Send your daughter an email explaining again why your parents will be moving into your spare bedroom, and remind her that she has not used this space in a year. Emphasize how serious the situation is with their health and that there is no other option but for them to move in with you. Remind her that you currently pay her bills, but that you are not required to do that and that you can change this arrangement if she can’t see fit to be appreciative of your sacrifices and understanding towards her grandparents’ needs. Give her a reasonable time window to pick up any belongings of hers that you will be unable to store and advise her that after that, anything left is subject to be discarded or (if you’re feeling generous) placed into outside storage. Reiterate that you do not have to continue supporting her at this point in her life and that you won’t continue to do it if she insists upon acting like a petulant child.

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Focus on making your parents as comfortable as you possibly can; hopefully, your daughter will see the error of her ways and come to realize just how good she has things. If not, perhaps you’ll have fewer expenses to worry about in the future. She is grown; don’t be afraid to cut her off to teach her a lesson. She is old enough to find a part-time job (and given her age, presumably a full-time one shortly) and maintain her household on her own.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My brother has three girls. Two from his first marriage and one, “Mika,” from the second. Mika is the youngest by more than 14 years and has had little to do with our family; her mother fought constantly to keep her away from us and my brother has always been conflict avoidant. He didn’t push the issue if Mika said she didn’t want to visit.

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When the older two girls were in college and getting married, business was booming, and my health was wonderful. I was extremely generous towards my nieces back then. This was over 15 years ago and my fortunes took a significant downturn. I survived two bouts of cancer and nearly went bankrupt with my business suffering. While I am better now, I am nowhere near the same financial level I was back then. This is common knowledge in our family.

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When Mika announced her engagement, I sent her a check for a grand and she proceeded to throw a hissing fit to anyone who would hear—including my elderly parents and her sisters. She claims she has always been the “unfavorite” and that this is proof. I dutifully sent presents and cards throughout Mika’s childhood even when I was sick. I texted her that we needed to have a conversation. When she didn’t respond, I put a stop on the check. This put a bug up my brother’s butt. He accused me of trying to sabotage his relationship with Mika. I told him that he needed to look in the mirror if he wanted to judge how relates to his daughter, but Mika is 23. If she thinks any of this is acceptable behavior, she has a lot of growing up to do before she gets married.

—No Good Deed

Dear No Good Deed,

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There’s an old saying I really love: “Not my clown, not my circus.” Mika is not your child and her drama is not your problem. It was very generous of you to send her a financial gift, and if she can’t appreciate that, oh well. You were correct to tell your brother that his issues with his daughter are his alone; perhaps if he had had the backbone to advocate for her to have more time with your family when she was a small child, she may not feel like the “unfavorite.” Either way, your largesse towards her siblings took place during a different time in your life and your family is well aware that you don’t have the means you once did to spoil your nieces. If Mika was not aware of this, a mere conversation with any of your relatives would have cleared it up for her. You would be well within your rights if you chose to skip her wedding all together. She’s a young woman, but a grown one, and she’ll need to learn that her bratty behavior has consequences.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My daughter told me that part of her end-of-year school show includes a “cowboys and Indians” themed dance. Some of the kids will be wearing headbands with a feather as part of their costume; I’m not sure what other accessories the teachers have chosen. (My kid is one of the cowboys and the details are fuzzy.) We live outside of the U.S. and I’m having a hard time finding the words to explain to my European kindergartner why this is so disrespectful. Ideas?

—Lost

Dear Lost,

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I would consider requesting that your child sit out for the “cowboys and Indians” dance. It is definitely offensive and trivializes the genocide that Native Americans experienced during the United States’ westward expansion. (It’s also weird that something like this would be happening in Europe, but I guess this speaks to the globalization of American culture, flawed as it may be.) Actually, your first step should be to speak to the school’s administration and complain that the performance is inappropriate. None of the kids should be doing this. But if you can’t shut the whole thing down, the best you can do is prevent your child from participating.

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Your little one is old enough to learn about how America was stolen by colonizers who did great harm to the people who first inhabited it. Explain that many years ago, this land belonged to Indigenous people, best known as Native Americans, and that the Europeans who settled here did not respect the way they ran their society, nor their right to live safely in their homeland. There are children’s books that talk about the Native experience; We Are Still Here is written for slightly older children, but may be helpful as you try to explain the history of the U.S. to your little one. Stolen Words, which talks about how Indigenous culture was lost to colonization, may be a little easier to digest.

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Ask your kiddo to consider how they would feel if everything they knew and loved was stolen from them, only for people across the world to reduce that experience to a silly dance.
Acknowledge that some of this history may be hard to understand, but that it is important to respect other people and their experiences. Let him know that for that reason, you don’t think the routine should happen and that you don’t want him to participate in it. Hopefully, his own sense of empathy will kick in and he will agree with you that abstaining from the dance is the right thing to do.

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My mother is 84 and lives by herself in a different state. My dad died five years ago. Recently, Mom shared a story about a friend who went on vacation with all her kids and grandkids. My mom expressed the desire to do something similar. Here’s the problem: My mother is exceedingly judgmental. Whenever she’s around my kids, ages 19 and 21, she comments negatively about their piercings, hair styles/color, tattoos, activities, etc. She also has strong political opinions and tends to preach them to my kids. Understandably, they don’t like to be around her much. I have tried talking to my mother about this, but she gets offended and seems to feel it is the grandkids’ duty to love their grandma unconditionally, no matter what she says or does.

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So I have several choices: Invite my mom on vacation with just me and my husband (we are used to her and are experienced at managing her criticism) and make excuses why the kids can’t join us, invite the kids and ask them to suck it up to make Grandma happy, or scratch the whole idea of a multi-generational family vacation and just pay the periodic visits to her I already make by myself. Is there another option here? Is there anything I can say that will get through to Grandma (or, potentially the kids, although I understand where they’re coming from) and allow all of us to have a nice vacation?

—Vacation Is All I Ever Wanted

Dear Vacation,

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I think you’ve adequately summed up all the available options here. For your mother to get the family trip she so desires, your kids are going to have to put aside their distaste for her. It’s worth considering that she is of an advanced age and may not have many more years during which she can handle a family trip, so you’re not running the risk of setting the expectation that this will happen yearly. I would suggest asking your children to suck it up and deal with Grandma for a few days. However, you should talk to her about how she treats your kids and let her know that her consistent judgement makes them feel bad. Tell her you’ll take her on a family vacation only on the condition that she will watch what she says to her grandkids, which includes skipping the political talk.

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Explain that your children are secure in who they are–colorful hair, tattoos and all–and that in order for everyone to have a good time, she’ll need to keep some of her views to herself.
Be honest about the fact that her behavior makes them loath to spend time with her, but let her know that you all conceivably could have a great time together if she is willing to show these young adults the respect they deserve. If she refuses to change her ways, let her know that you and your husband would be happy to travel with her, but that you won’t subject your children to her judgement.

—Jamilah

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I Told My Daughter My Ailing Parents Need Her Old Room. She Completely Flipped Out. (2024)

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