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Family! What can you do?

Hi,

I’ve just had a big argument with my sister over my niece. It’s, in my eyes, been long overdue - but it’s a shame that it caused an argument, and that I’m pretty sure it’s not made any difference whatsoever.

My niece, who’s 7, soon to be 8, and I would like to say that I do love to bits (I just don’t like her a whole lot at the moment), has had a serious change (drop) in her behaviour over the last 18-24 months - also, rather unfortunately, the same period of time during which I’ve been dx’ed with highly active RRMS and my condition has gotten steadily worse (particularly the fatigue) despite treatment. She not only doesn’t do as she’s asked when she’s asked, but will blind refuse if it’s something she doesn’t want to do, and just say ‘I’m not doing it/going’ etc… And if she doesn’t get to do something she wants to do, even when I explain that I can’t due to my condition and come up with a (what I would think reasonable) solution or compremise, it’s like you’ve destroyed her world - she goes into an almighty strop, often starts crying with it, and there’s absolutely no talking to her - an example would be that she loves playing with her dolls and role playing, a game that I find uses up my energy quickly if I’m having a bad day. But I can do it so long as I am sat in a chair. However, for this (and many other games she likes to play) game, she insists on me sitting on the floor, which just tires me out very quickly. And if she’s with me for a long period, I have to maintain my energy reserves as best I can, so I will explain that I can’t unless I sit in the chair. But it has to be her way or the high way, and she’ll go into a major sulk because I won’t do things her way.

She’ll quite actively say that she doesn’t want me to join in a game (if round at their’s - I won’t just let her win as her parent’s do, that’s not to say that I don’t make accommodations for her as I do) or wants me to go home. Or if I’ve bought her something from the shop she’ll just dump it down on the side, shrug her shoulders, screw up her nose and go ‘uh’ then continue doing whatever it was she was doing to being with - no thank you. Every sentence when asking for something is either ‘I want’ or ‘get me’, no ‘please may I have’ and no thank you either. She rarely sleeps in her own room, normally ends up in with her mum and dad which means they don’t get a good nights sleep as she takes up half the bed. But her room looks more like a toy store than a bedroom so why would she.

To some extent, most of the behaviour in the above paragraph is none of my business when it concerns her behaviour at home and is not towards me. But when she is rude and cheeky to me, or when I’m looking after her, and demands her own way or refuses to do as she’s told, that’s not something that I can deal with with my health as it is, which was what I was trying to explain to my sister (thus you now know why there was an argument). Surely that does concern me? I would never have dreamt of speaking to and treating an aunty as she does, and would have been humiliated if I had done. But there again, my upbringing was not normal either which is something I must remember. I perhaps expect things from 7 year olds which aren’t natural, I was much older than my years. But maybe you can all tell me if this is normal for her age.

Do any of you have any advice about what I should do? I don’t want to not see her, but I’m beginning to think that that may be my only option until things change. I don’t think it would affect her particularly, apart from the fact that she rarely seems bothered about seeing me when I go round and moans about coming to mine, I got the distinct impression from my sister that she said something about me not playing with her and being bored at mine (e.g. with her dolls). I try and come up with other stuff that we can do e.g. cooking / baking something - my lounge and kitchen are joined onto one another so we can sit in the lounge to prepare things. I get her to do all the mixing etc, and I basically just read the instructions, pass the ingredients, put the things in the oven, and supervise - that’s about my level. But she rarely wants to do that. Any suggestions?

Thanks,

Emma

Goodness, what a lot of power you are allowing a naughty little girl to exert over a grown-up! That’s quite a burden to lay on young shoulders.

It does sound as if you have put yourself at the mercy of this child’s whims and behaviour, and that isn’t going to be doing either of you much good. You are the grown-up. She is seven. You don’t need to make excuses to her and nor should you. If she is picking up your sensitivities and anxieties and distress at the limitations caused by your MS, then you are giving a naughty little girl way more ammunition than it is good for her to have! Please don’t let her wind you up so much. It isn’t good for either of you.

Alison

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Thanks Alison, I’m just not sure what the solution is. My sister uses her as a pawn to get what she wants as se knows how much I love her. I don’t think my sister does a lot of the things she does intentionally, I must be making her sound dreadful. But she just reacts sometimes rather than thinking things through. Se has mental health problems (as do I), and I think we both have like an emotional switch (i.e. we go completely numb, or feel some sort of extreme), so it’s difficult for her with her daughter anyway. She also works full time and feels really guilty for it (even though I try and tell her that this is completely normal in the stay and age) as by the time she gets in from work she’s exhausted, so has her tea, may have 30 mins with my niece, but then it’s my niece bed time (not that she goes to bed). But I think this is at least in part behind her lack of wanting / being able to deal with my nieces behaviour and why she gets so many toys (plus she’s an only child). Her partner, who works full time but is home by lunchtime, was brought up in a family that I guess could be described as non-traditional. He rarely went to school, either going and playing pool with his older brother or going to work with his dad. He can’t use computers or at least struggles with them a lot so chooses not to use them as much as possible, he doesn’t believe in homework for kids, he doesn’t drive (not for any medical reasons - I don’t either but only because I can’t) and his ideal life work be living on a farm in the middle of nowhere - he likes simple, but can also be very stubborn. So she doesn’t get much help from him either. Thus it’s kind of back to what can I do? I am thinking more and more that I should just distance myself from them for a while. The only problem with that is that they are my only family and I live in a small village so am quite isolated.

Thanks

Emma

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That sounds a hard situation. I know a bit how you feel as I have two children 5yrs and 8yrs and the 8 year old REALLY pushes my buttons a lot of the time and I don’t know what to do with him. Also both of them don’t understand that I am not capable of a lot of physical play and get frustrated with me.

However I think you should just ignore the bad behaviour from your niece and not let it get to you. If she is unhappy, that is her own doing, you are not responsible for her happiness or her discipline.

I think it’s nice you want to do things with her and spend time with her, but maybe she’s just at that age where she isn’t so in to family. I know I had the stage when I just wanted to be with my friends and family was “uncool” and my son is similar.

I feel like it will sort itself out, she’ll not get along in life for long with that behaviour and all you can do is be there for her.

Take care, don’t let it get you down xx

Thanks red lou, I do hope so. I have to say the sooner the better for me. I hope things sort out with you son too.

Emma

hi Comet, you have just been diagnosed with dx’ed with highly active RRMS? have I just read another post by you about uni choice? My advice (ex uni lecturer): be careful! You may be doing too much, don’t underestimate the Ms! try to stay out of conflict and anything that pushes you too hard, in the end of the day always go for the easiest, least stressful option.

Thanks gingerlil, I’ll try and bear that in mine. I just often don’t seem to get much of a choice, that or the easiest option is to just give in to my sister and pretend things are fine. I was due to be having her tonight, but they wanted me to go round to theirs and stay over instead of her staying with me (said that she’d have more things to occupy her and that if she played up and they had to come back, which it was agreed that she’d go home if she was naughty for me, they wouldn’t have to walk as far). But their is only a 2 seater sofa to sleep on at theirs and I find it easier to manage her in my own environment rather than someone elses. So I said no. But even that I found really difficult and feel dreadful about. All I’ve wanted to do since is cry - I feel so useless.

Hi again Emma,

You sound as if you see your sister and niece really a lot? I’m just judging by the amount you know about her behaviour and bedtimes etc. On first reading, I thought you and they must be sharing a home!

Now don’t get me wrong, I would love to see my nephews more - they live in the back of beyond hundreds of miles from me, and I don’t drive, so I think I’ve seen them once in two years. It might well happen that the next I’ll see of them is if one of them gets married - or if my sister decides to marry again (which is unlikely, at the moment).

But, between your position and mine, there must be a happy medium, surely? Do you and your sis need to live quite so much in one another’s pockets, or have I got a wrong impression of how much time you are spending together? Is it most days, once a week, once a month, or what?

I would certainly suggest you tone it down a little, but definitely NOT link it to your niece’s behaviour, as that sounds a bit like blackmail (“If you don’t get her to behave better, I won’t see her!”) I agree with Alison that you do NOT have to justify yourself to a seven-year-old. No means no, and if you can’t or don’t want to do something, that’s just tough. She may not like it, but she’ll get over it, and perhaps when she sees that sulking or throwing a fit doesn’t get a change of decision, she might in time learn it’s not worth trying - at least, not with you - even if it works on her mum!

But obviously, if you decide to reduce the amount of contact, your sister does need to know it’s not blackmail, spite, or revenge, so rather than focus on your niece’s behaviour, you need to make clear that you cannot cope with ordinary things as well as you used to - it’s not just their visits - it’s everything! Of course, so soon after a row, it’s probably going to look like tit-for-tat, however you present it. So maybe bide your time, if you can, until things have calmed down a bit. When your sister is a bit more approachable, perhaps you can explain that whilst you really do enjoy and look forward to their visits, you are finding yourself exhausted afterwards, so you may not be able to do it as often as you’d like.

This does sound harsh on the little girl - but as you say, it’s not clear whether seeing her auntie less would have any major impact on her life anyway. Is she going to feel punished for something, or is it all the same to her either way? Perhaps if visiting Auntie became an occasional treat, instead of something she takes for granted, she might behave a bit better?

I hear terrible stories from my sister about my nephews’ behaviour. Only this week, she said the older one got in a temper with an expensive electronic game (can’t remember if it was a Nintendo or what), and threw it on the floor and broke it. Then he got in a strop because she wouldn’t fork out immediately for repair or replacement, but said: “You did it; you’ll have to live with it!”

I’m sure she’s not making these things up, or exaggerating, but when I do get to see them, they’re like butter wouldn’t melt! So I’m sure they do try it on with those closest to them, but know how to behave in front of people they don’t know so well. Maybe less is (sometimes) more, and your niece would behave a bit better if she didn’t see you so often, and believe (possibly correctly) she has you wrapped around her finger?

Tina

x

hi comet

there is such a lot of emotional baggage between you and your sister.

it makes it hard to discuss things that are personal to you.

would it be easier to write down how you feel?

focus on your ms more than on her naughty daughter.

it amazes me that my husband still doesnt understand how fatigue affects me.

i think we will be blue in the face before they understand!

you are not useless, you are suffering from a horrid chronic illness and you do your very best.

i have come to understand that just being alive is draining me of energy.

for example: bladder works by two different muscles working in synchronicity - one relaxes, as the other contracts.

now my signals don’t get through so it just so much harder.

go easy on yourself. you never asked for ms, it just gate crashed your life.

stop feeling guilty. guilt is for things that you had a choice over.

to be honest, your sister is the one who should feel guilty but you love her and need her in your life.

she needs to know how she can help you. it’s not all about you helping her.

hope you’ve stopped crying by now!

now get yourself a drink of your fave tipple.

relax, you’re in your own home, away from adorable(?) children.

carole x

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hi comet

there is such a lot of emotional baggage between you and your sister.

it makes it hard to discuss things that are personal to you.

would it be easier to write down how you feel?

focus on your ms more than on her naughty daughter.

it amazes me that my husband still doesnt understand how fatigue affects me.

i think we will be blue in the face before they understand!

you are not useless, you are suffering from a horrid chronic illness and you do your very best.

i have come to understand that just being alive is draining me of energy.

for example: bladder works by two different muscles working in synchronicity - one relaxes, as the other contracts.

now my signals don’t get through so it just so much harder.

go easy on yourself. you never asked for ms, it just gate crashed your life.

stop feeling guilty. guilt is for things that you had a choice over.

to be honest, your sister is the one who should feel guilty but you love her and need her in your life.

she needs to know how she can help you. it’s not all about you helping her.

hope you’ve stopped crying by now!

now get yourself a drink of your fave tipple.

relax, you’re in your own home, away from adorable(?) children.

carole x

Hi Tina,

Thanks for the reply. Lol! - We were until recent years what I would say was an unhealthily close family. The family had a business together which was a 24/7 type of business (pub, though not live on), but sold it 4 1/2 years ago when my mum past away. Apart from the fact that we spent 7 days a week working together wit work starting at 7am and not finishing until around 1-2am most days, I did spend a short time over that period (8 years) living with them. So yes, we’ve all come to be somewhat in each others pockets.

They don’t visit me, it’s me that has to go to them. So if I don’t make the effort, there will be no contact. Contact is usually (it’s been a little more over the Christmas period) once by phone every 1-2 weeks to my sister (again me to her, she would not phone me), and once every 2-6 weeks in person depending on what we’re all up to / how I am. So it’s a lot less than it used to be. I hardly saw her at all when I was doing my nursing course as I rarely had the time to come through (it’s a 2 1/2 hour bus journey from town), so I don’t think it would bother either my niece or my sister. It just would me I guess. I have no other contact with the outside world (socially) other than through them. I don’t drive as I also have epilepsy, and buses in my village stop at around 18:30 so most hobbies / clubs are out. I guess I only contact them because I get lonely.

Hi Comet, sounds to me like you need to put your health & well being first, your neice could do with some tough love and boundaries amongst some education on others needs & wants outside of her own.

she is old enough to be taught that the world doesn’t revolve around her. I realise its not something you can take charge of,but I would try and find a way of discussing a childs milestones with your sister in a non confrontational way, I’m sure for instance your sister would appreciate not having her in the same bed at night, story time and a cuddle in her own bed for instance could be suggested I know from bringing up 4 of my own and working full time it takes consistency and energy to make them into independent & considerate people.

Changes really should start at home sounds like your sister could do with your help, if boundaries dont happen then as she gets older you & others will not enjoy being with a selfish person.

Remember also absence makes the heart grow fonder!! I also suggest When you spend time with her take yourself off to do what you want without inviting her to join in, when you go to your sisters concentrate on your sister not your neice like doing a facial or a manicure just on your sister. Its amazing what non- verbals can do for kids. It will help her to see others are important to and she will most likely beg to join in, this would be a perfect opportunity to talk about others needs in an indirect way.

Pauline x

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Hi Comet, wrote this last night, but forgot to post it. I think it is important to shut off and not worry about anybody else. It’s exactly those dilemmas that cause/strengthen the Ms. Don’t feel useless, the Ms makes enormous demands on all of us and the people around us just have to understand! Go to bed and have a good night sleep! (God don’t I sound boring!)

Far from it gingerlil - I’m not sure what I’d do without sleep.

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Sounds like your niece needs a bit of tough love to bring her into the real world. Difficult though because really it is down to your sister to show her how to behave and have respect for others.

While she is at your home then she should abide by the rules that you set. If you don’t feel up to sitting on the floor playing with her then you should say that you are not up to it but may be later when you have rested.

Good luck with it anyway Comet.

Shazzie xx

Hi

I agree with Alison. This little girl is clearly enjoying the power that she is wielding. Decide what is reasonable for you and tell her, don’t feel you need to justify yourself. ‘I’m tired, I need to sit in the chair’ is sufficient.

Don’t let this cause trouble between yourself and your sister. It’s up to her to raise her daughter as she sees fit. You also have the right to establish the relationship with your niece that you are most comfortable with.

It won’t be easy but your niece will come through this. She is trying it on as all children will do.

Good Luck

Anne

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