My (49F) daughter Catie (17) is graduating high school this spring and was just accepted to her first college last week. I share Catie with her father (my ex-husband) Will (52M), but have been married to my husband Brian (49M) for about 6 years.
Brian has a son Nick (16) [my stepson] who is a junior at the same school as Catie. Brian has full custody of Nick while I share custody of Catie. Will and I divorced fairly amicably when Catie was young, and have grown into strong co-parents.
Will’s [my ex husband's] family comes from substantial money, so as part of the divorce we agreed that he would be responsible for the tuition and dorm bill for Catie’s college, and I would pay for the other miscellaneous living expenses.
I have saved enough to pay for these expenses, but I know that if something were to happen to my savings, Will or his family would be able to foot the entire bill for Catie’s living expenses without any changes to his lifestyle.
Will and I decided to sit Catie down and show her the whole picture of what college costs and what we will pay for. Brian thought it would be a good idea to have a similar conversation with Nick even though he is only a junior.
Unfortunately, the financial situation for Nick differs from Catie. Since his mother is not in the picture, it has been on Brian to save for Nick’s college. Brian was able to save, and I have also contributed a bit. Nick has about enough saved for a full associates degree or half bachelors degree at an in-state public school without living expenses.
We didn’t openly discuss the specifics of the different finances with each child, but did broadly say that they had different opportunities due to situations outside of their control. Nick has since surmised that his situation is very different from Catie’s and his choices will be much more impacted by finances than hers.
Nick came to Brian and I very upset over the weekend. He said that It wasn’t fair that Catie got to go anywhere she wanted and he specifically was upset that Catie would not have to pay for her own room and board. He then asked that if Catie gets into a school with scholarships, if he could get the difference in tuition for his college.
Or, he said that I should contribute the savings I had for Catie to his fund to try and make it more fair since Will could make up the difference easily. I kindly told him that no, I wouldn’t do that and that I’m really sorry that the situation.
Then I told him that unfortunately, sometimes “them's the breaks” in life and that we will do our best to make sure that whatever college he decides to go to that he can make the most of the opportunity even with loans.
Nick was obviously upset at this and Brian thinks my response to his asking made me a bit of an a**hole even though I shouldn’t have to change any of the agreement. I feel like I’m going crazy but AITA?
Most of the conversation was us saying that we were sorry about how this situation impacts him and that it’s really difficult seeing people close to you get opportunities you can’t have. I did not default to “them's the breaks,” but then yes, I did say those exact words (I must be older than I thought) after Nick got increasingly angry and frustrated.
I didn’t intend to be callous. I love Nick and I will apologize for being unkind and make sure to repeat the things Brian told him about the fund in the first place: there are so many options for you and we are excited to support you to make whatever future you want happen for you.
We are not pushing him towards loans by any means. His dream schools are mostly out of state and private schools, which means if he gets in even with a scholarship he will have to take out loans to attend.
I would say a soft YTA for being so flippant about it.
Your son is upset because he's staring down the barrel hole of a student debt shotgun. You could have empathized and sympathized with him and instead decided to take the heartless route. The world is cold enough, kids don't need the same attitude from their parents.
The tone of the post also feels like OP doesn't care about her stepson at all, even since she's been in his life since ten. She just told him to go get loans. Would be a pretty big slap in the kids face.
I don't get that at all. OP has contributed to her step sons college fund, though we don't know how much that is still better than most who come here. Then her step son wants to take what OP contributed to her daughter's fund?
Kid needs a metaphorical slap in the face to jolt him out of entitlement mode. Life ain't fair, and just because someone has the ability to pay for someone else, doesn't mean they have to pay.
Totally agree. I think OP seemed firm, clear, consistent, and compassionate, careful to not unintentionally overpromise for him what she can't provide. She has contributed to his fund over the course of the marriage and expressed that she'll support him in whatever way they can even though their monetary resources are limited.
Yeah 'them's the breaks' isn't the most wonderful phrase in the world, but over the course of an extended conversation, it seems like he needed something like 'life isn't fair, unfortunately' very clearly. OP provided that.
That literally happened to my brother because I got a full scholarship and he didn’t. My parents told him that’s life in the big city, and he got a job and worked his way through school with some breaks to work and save. It does suck, but it’s not her fault and life isn’t fair