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'AITA for telling my nephew that his birthday game tickets were sold behind his back?' UPDATED 4X

'AITA for telling my nephew that his birthday game tickets were sold behind his back?' UPDATED 4X


"AITA for telling my nephew that his birthday present was sold behind his back?"

I am unmarried and do not have children so I don't understand this situation from a parent's standpoint. I have a niece, Kay 21, and a nephew, Joe 16. My sister and her husband have spent the last few years (since the pandemic started) trying to get Kay sorted. By that I mean she has a lot of unexplained ailments. They've been seeing specialists, chiropractors, acupuncture, etc.

To this day I'm still not entirely sure what is wrong. Kay posts on social media a lot about feeling fatigued, having migraines, weakness, and other symptoms along with her various appointments.

Personally I worry this is being driven by attention because it has become her entire personality. I try to help Kay when I can (I've taken her to a few appointments because she doesn't drive) but I've tried to be present mostly for Joe who is overshadowed by all of this. Joe is a very simple young man and doesn't ask for much but I can tell he wants some attention.

He makes this known by pushing himself in sports, getting the best grades, getting a job, and trying to be as independent as possible. He's 16 but acts 20. It kind of sucks to watch. For his birthday I bought two tickets to a football game and transferred them to my sister so that she or her husband could take him. I told them that if they absolutely couldn't then I would but they accepted the tickets.

Fast forward a couple weeks later and I see a post from my sister selling two football game tickets and they were very quickly bought. I confronted her and said those tickets were for Joe. Her response was they needed help covering new allergy testing for Kay and that's what the money would be used for. I took Joe to lunch yesterday and asked him how he is really doing.

He was honest and said he doesn't feel like an equal member of his family and I told him I see it too. I asked him why he agreed to sell his birthday tickets and learned he never did and never even knew anything about them. I told him the sequence of events.

He was quiet for a bit and then sighed and accepted it. To my surprise he must have said something to his parents because they called me for a conversation, accusing me of being an AH and saying I hurt Joe's feelings and that he was better off not knowing. I disagree wholeheartedly but am open to other perspectives. AITA? And yes I am trying to buy new tickets for Joe.

Commenteres were quick to weigh in.

sherlocked27 wrote:

NTA. You should have taken him. Hindsight is 20-20.

OP responded:

I agree. I told them specifically it was for one of them to spend some damn time with him and if they absolutely couldn't then I would. Gladly of course, but my hope was they would take the free opportunity.

teresajs wrote:

NTA. Please take Joe to a game. And if you are able to do so, please put money on his lunch account, buy him some clothes (nothing so expensive or flashy that his Mom or Stepdad would take them), sponsor Joe for a bank account of his own, and prepare to help him once he's 18.

OP responded:

I'm not sure what is in place for his money but you raise a good point.

He_Who_Is_Person wrote:

NTA. And now you know that if you want to do something nice for Joe, you have to do it in a way that the parents won't be able to block (ie, taking him yourself). But....you know...it may not be that Kay is attention whoring. Her misery may be her whole personality because the condition of unknown etiology is making her miserable all the time.

Normal-Height-8577 wrote:

"But...you know..it may not be that Kay is attention whoring. Her misery may be her whole personality because the condition of unknown etiology is making her miserable all the time."

This. Some chronic illnesses take a long time to diagnose because there aren't reliable tests for them. Working through a diagnosis of exclusion (ruling everything else out) is a long and exhausting process that drains your hope - and that's with a helpful doctor that believes you and doesn't just go "I think you're depressed!"

Also, when you're sick and isolated for a long time, you often find that you don't have anything to talk about except your health. Because that's literally the only thing that's happened to you recently. It sucks. Please give Joe the attention and love he needs right now, but also, please don't doubt Kay just because she hasn't got a diagnosis yet and her parents are being AHs to Joe.

Aggressive-Mind-2085 wrote:


THEY ST-LE from their kid. IT was GOOD to out them to him. Have you considered helping your nephew move out and escape his parents? Any chance of that? He is 16. - If they refuse, tell them there will be a report about the tickets.

OP responded:

Oh yes, he's welcome at my house whenever no questions asked. He knows this. His parents know this.

Aggravating-Pain9249 wrote:

Joe is becoming the "glass child." He will continue to resent not being seen.

It was incredibly wrong of them to sell something that was for Joe. I am glad that you are looking out for Joe. NTA.

After receiving a good deal of responses, OP shared an update.

I'll try to respond to people as I can. I spoke with Joe individually today. I'm not surprised, but he said he confronted them because he wanted them to give me the money back. As usual the kid is thinking of others. While I don't want to be accused of trying to turn him against his parents, I do want to follow his lead in regards to him potentially staying with me.

That said, I am going to make more of an effort to spend more time with him.

As far as Kay is concerned. I know her health issues are very real and I want more than nothing for her to feel well.

However, she has been behaving manipulatively towards her parents, grandparents, myself, and Joe for a while now. Again, I worry that how she is dealing with her ailments is unhealthy for her and the family. We all support her and do what we can to support her and help her to be well.

OP went on to add a comment explaining Kay's manipulation.

Most recent I can think of was July 4. We were having a cookout and she said she was not feeling well and wanted to walk to the convenience store to buy pepto or something (I can't remember) but she'd left her wallet at home. She asked me for $10 which I gave her. She asked Joe for $10 too but he pointed out to her that I'd already given it to her. She said she forgot though it hadn't even been 5 minutes.

When she came back she had a white claw (or something). I asked how she got it without her wallet and she said she ended up finding her wallet but she still used my $10 to buy medicine. I didn't raise the issue further but it was one of a few that I haven't appreciated being involved in or hearing about.

Their collective efforts to help Kay be comfortable and figured out is what is leading to this and other issues for Joe. He spent his 15th birthday at home by himself all day because Kay made a slew of appointments for the same date, and even though it only takes one of them to drive her, they both insist on going to as many as they can together. That's why I wanted one of him to take him to the damn game.

Unfortunately the pattern I've seen emerge is that instead of Kay recognizing how much Joe is cast aside, she doubles down on needing both of their attention very, very frequently.

A day later, OP shared another post.

TLDR (had to look up what that meant!): What are some ways I can share concerns with my adult niece and her parents while being stern but also supportive?

I want to have a conversation with my sister (40F), her husband (44M) and their daughter (21F). The issues are two-fold.

First, my niece is coping with some health challenges. I am deeply concerned that her use of social media to share health updates and the attention she receives is doing some harm and is changing the way she treats members of the family. Second, I have concerns regarding how my sister and her husband are parenting.

To respect this sub I won't share more about that. There is another post elsewhere if more context is desired. To respect this sub please limit feedback to addressing the three adults. My sister and I are very close. She comes to me for advice when she and her spouse have their spats, she vents to me, and I love her dearly.

That said, at times she uses me being unmarried and having no children against me, usually if I share advice she disagrees with or when it wasn't asked for. What are some ways I can have an honest discussion, not maliciously, while also emphasizing that I want to help and be supportive?

A commenter jumped on with advice.

DPlusLPLusKPlusM wrote:

"Hey, Sis, you know I follow Daughter on social media. I just wanted to let you know that she's posting some TMI kinds of things and receiving some pretty spurious responses to what she shares."

"Social media can be dangerous and I don't want her to get herself into trouble. I just thought you should be aware of this". Then let your sister talk to her own child if she wants to. Unfortunately this kid's parents have all the power in this situation.

OP responded:

Thank you. You are correct, but I think I should clarify. I think her reliance on social media to cope with her problems has become unhealthy in some ways in and of itself. Her parents don't seem to see it that way and are encouraging it/adding to it.

A day later, OP shared another update.

Thank you to those who have taken interest in my family. Many of you have offered very insightful perspectives and have encouraged me to invest more into both Joe and Kay.

Kay: I can clarify more of what I mean by being concerned about her behavior. The more and more she has used social media to cope with her ailments, the more down she is, and I worry it's becoming an obsession. Recently we had a dinner with some other extended family members and she was talking to them about her health struggles.

I noticed her showing them her social media and the comments she is receiving. She was disengaged from any discussion that was not about her and her health, which drove her back to social media. It worries me greatly. I asked her if there is anything she still likes to do for fun and she gave me some ideas.

Her grandmother and I would like to organize some things to get her out of the house to enjoy herself.

Joe: I have asked him more about how he is treated at home and I am concerned. Some of you were worried about his money being taken.

He said he has not had any withdrawals from his account. However, he said he is asked regularly to go to the store to get certain medicines or food/beverages to help Kay feel better, and is not compensated. Additionally, they supposedly have a rule that once you are working, you pay for your own cell phone bill. I fully agree with this.

However, Joe has been footing Kay's bill as well, as she is not working. I am trying to find another date for him and I to attend a football game together. I am not worried about the money being returned. Money is replaceable, time isn't. It's okay if anyone disagrees. Since this started I've noticed he is not quite his usual self.

He told me today that, as his parents have spent more time with Kay over the last couple of years, it feels to him that they've become a family unit without him. He said last spring they attended family therapy...while he was in school, so he could not participate, and it really bothered him. Both Joe and Kay seem defeated, and it pains me to see it.

People were invested in the update.

Massive-Wishbone2828 wrote:

Thank you for the update, please keep looking out for him. You are the only one in his corner at the moment. There is a good chance he will want to move out once he is 18, so he doesn't have to pay for sister's bills too. Having an adult help them set up and get ready makes a huge difference.

Drewherondale wrote:

They are making him pay for her phone bill? That‘s insane.

Accomplished_Deer wrote:

"I've noticed he is not quite his usual self."

It's possible that he's being more genuine when he's around you. Kids in his situation often put on a mask, they have to smile and say everything is okay while the other kid is given attention.

Anytime they are sad or sick or anything they get chastised and told "Look how bad X has it, stop complaining" or something to that effect, and so they go around smiling and saying everything is okay while privately they are suffering. You've probably given him the space to actually be himself. You might want to google "childhood emotional neglect" -- It's the term for what he's experiencing.

He's not actively being ab-sed but his emotional needs are being neglected. For me, recovery was basically impossible until I found that specific term. It might be helpful for you to understand better the effects of what he's experienced, and it might be good for you to mention the term to him because it was very validating to me to find everything I was struggling with written down.

If he find that helpful, you might consider getting him the book "Running on Empty: Overcome Your Childhood Emotional Neglect" -- A child who is neglected because of another child's health issue is specifically mentioned in the book.

The TLDR of the book in terms of healing is: Find somebody who will actually listen to you and support you, who will allow you to express your feelings without judgment or punishment. It seems like you might be that person for him, and as somebody who is almost 26 and still trying to find that person let me say, having you will be indescribably helpful for him.

Two days later, OP shared another update.

This issue started when I (45M) found out that two football tickets I bought as a surprise for my nephew (Joe, 16) were sold to pay for his sister (Kay, 21) to see an allergist without him knowing. The tickets were given with the intention that one of his parents would take him, or if they couldn’t, I would. I sat down last night with my sister and her husband (40, 44) and expressed multiple concerns, including:

Joe being made to pay Kay’s portion of the phone bill because he works and she doesn’t.

Joe being asked regularly to buy medicines, food, and comfort items for his sister with his hard-earned money.

Everyone attending family therapy last year while Joe was in school, so he could not be part of it.

Going to dinner and movies on nights when Joe is working.

The reason I was given for the last issue is that they have to do things based on when Kay feels well which I understand to a point. Regardless, I laid out these issues to help them see that Joe needs time and attention. They heard me and were a little defensive but ultimately said they agreed.

To make up for the game the first pair of tickets was for, and to make sure he gets some one-on-one time, I asked if I could take him to a game on Thanksgiving Day. I can get tickets that are affordable (through my employer) and while Joe and I would be gone for most of the day, we would hopefully be back for dessert with the family.

Initially they said they would think about it. Today they called me to once again say I am an AH (there is a previous post about the first conflict) this time for criticizing them for not spending time with Joe and then “taking him away from a family holiday” which they say is hypocritical.

Admittedly, out of anger, I said they owe it to the both of us since they sold his tickets and that they’ll have to figure out how to give him the attention he needs when it’s not simply out of the convenience of it being a holiday. This seemed to give them pause. They are willing to think about it more but are standing firm that I am in the wrong. AITAH?

Advice is also appreciated.

(I have not asked Joe his opinion as I do not want to get his hopes up to then be let down again.)

The comments kept coming in.

Standard_Addition541 wrote:

The first question would be why is their 16 year old son supporting their 21 year old daughter. It wouldn’t matter if she had all the disabilities in the world. Its the parents responsibility.

Agate55 wrote:

NTA. Honestly, it seems they're playing favorites to Kay. They've set rules in their house that they keep Joe to, (such as the phone bill) while also making him sacrifice his tickets, money for things for Kay, and Kay's phone bill as well.

They are actively driving Joe away without any regards for his feelings or well being, their entire focus is on Kay and it seems that anyone saying they give too much attention to Kay they seem to automatically go on the defensive stance that "you don't care about Kay being sick!" mindset.

Also from reading the past posts, one thing that sticks out to me is them ignoring events in Joe's life to attend appointments for Kay because she insists on having them both there, that example alone makes me think she has a golden child complex/narcissistic disorder.

Her only wanting to talk about her sickness in conversation and her posting about in on social media makes me think it more. My only idea of a solution is involving other family members to try to make them see how detrimental they're being to Joe, but also Kay too. They're setting Kay up to be a very attention seeking and lazy adult.

Live-Ad4493 wrote:

I know I’m late to the conversation but what got to me was the “hypocritical” comment from his sister and BIL. They painted it as “you say he’s not being included enough in the family and yet you want to take him away during FaMiLy tiME! šŸ«µHYPOCRITE!”

When it’s actually OP saying “Joe needs his family’s love and support. You are failing to give it to him. So AS HIS FAMILY(Uncle) I want to make sure this holiday does not go by with him feeling like an outsider/neglected AGAIN.”

He is being completely true to the values he’s expressed. Sister and BIL don’t like it and are trying to flip the script because it’s essentially saying he doesn’t trust THEM to prioritize Joe’s needs so he’s doing it himself. Textbook DARVO example.

ETA: NTA of course.

Sources: Reddit
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