Dear Annie: For years, I’ve been frustrated with my wife’s family and wished I could see her relatives change for the better. Count me among millions more, I suppose. But I fear this family, with three generations in the same household, is making some really bad decisions that will soon destroy the family for good. After years of not being able to pay for their home, her relatives lost it, and that same year, they had to borrow a lot of money from us for medical expenses. Then my sister-in-law quit her steady job and jumped into a really dicey business scheme. They have bought a larger home and still enjoy promising my children expensive toys.
Annie, it’s not just that I’ve had to raise my children not to count on empty promises. What I’m afraid of is that they’re on the road to ruin, and I’m too angry and frustrated to keep standing on the sidelines.
There’s a lovely young girl in the family who I just started to suspect has a serious speech delay. (I’m a professor of neurolinguistics.) The last straw was when I asked my wife what the pediatrician says about it. My wife says this child is seen in their home by a family friend who’s a nurse. Annie, my wife and I know it’s hard. She had the same upbringing as her siblings, after all, but she has fought to be independent of some really self-destructive habits. They may never be able to say the same. It’s impossible for us to keep watching. Is there any way to help them (money is out of the question at this point), or should we just cut ties before their ship sinks?
— Can’t Watch Anymore
Dear Can’t Watch: Though you can’t stop their ship from sinking, you could at least throw them a couple of lifesavers. The first would be regarding the girl’s speech. Seeing as you’re a professor of neurolinguistics, you have good reason to raise the issue with them. Let them know that based on your experience, you think the girl’s delayed speech may be cause for concern.
The second issue, related to the first, is that of the child’s general well-being. Implore your wife to talk to the child’s parents about seeing a pediatrician for wellness checkups. Although it doesn’t sound that extreme from what you’ve told me, if you ever start to suspect neglect, then visit the Child Welfare Information Gateway’s website, at https://www.childwelfare.gov, for resources.
As far as all the other leaks their ship has sprung — the house they seemingly can’t afford, business schemes and the like — let it go. For better or worse, they are in control of their own lives. You’re not the captain here.
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