Dear Annie: I am the youngest sister of 10 siblings. Over the years, five siblings have died. You'd think we would try to be closer after such awful losses. So when does the bullying stop?
I have tried to be an upstanding sister and aunt, but no matter how much I contribute my money, time and empathy, they think it's OK to belittle me and encourage their kids and friends to do the same. I never talk trash about my sisters. Actually, I speak very highly of them in front of and behind their backs. They do not return the favor.
I've put up with the "little sister syndrome" for decades and am quite tired of it. It's worse when they get their friends to gang up on me. At last year's Christmas party, my sister's best friend said I was the "screw up" of the family in front of everyone and not one person stood up for me. My sister's mother-in-law snickered at some other nasty comment someone made about me.
I have decided to limit my contact with my siblings and avoid them altogether on holidays, since I become everyone's target. They don't think their actions are wrong or hurtful. I'm done with being the nice sister just to be thrown under the bus and run over repeatedly. They say I'm "too sensitive," but if someone treated them this way, they would fall to pieces. I thought time and maturity would soften this behavior, but it's just gotten worse. Any suggestions? -- Sister in Situation
Dear Sister: It's too bad your siblings haven't managed to grow up, but not everyone does. This is the family dynamic they are accustomed to, and not even the deaths of five of you have altered it. Ten children is a lot, and in some families, kids feel the parents are neglecting them in favor of a younger sibling. This could be how things began, but it no longer matters. You get to decide how to handle them now.
Try talking to each sibling individually. Say that you love and value them, but you are tired of being mocked and hurt. Ask them to be more aware of the way they treat you, so that your remaining years together can be happy and loving. Give them the opportunity to change. But if they are unwilling to work on this, it makes sense for you to see less of them.
Dear Annie: I think your response to "Confused and Torn" was perfect. She said her boyfriend thought she should put her 15-year-old Pomeranian, "Clover," to sleep because the dog was in constant pain and not likely to improve. I've had to put several pets to sleep because of old age and it's always a horrific decision to make. However, Clover's owner is doing a great disservice to the dog by insisting on keeping her alive when she's in so much agony.
I would like to make a suggestion that may make the decision a little easier. She should have Clover cremated and indicate in her will that she would like Clover's ashes to be put in the coffin with her. In that way, the little dog will be with her forever. I will do this with my one remaining cat when the time comes and just the thought of it makes the burden a little lighter to bear. -- Indiana
Dear Indiana: Thank you for writing. We hope "Confused and Torn" will consider your advice for Clover's sake.
Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to anniesmailboxcreators.com, or write to: Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. You can also find Annie on Facebook at Facebook.com/AskAnnies.