College turned bro into a jerk

A letter writer’s brother went to college and now he won’t stop fighting with their mom.

Stay out of their arguments, says our elder, and tell yourself the things you need to hear.

Dear EWC

My mother and eldest brother are arguing. And it doesn’t stop. All I can think about is that it’s just like when my father was around. Everyone says I was too young to remember any of it, but I remember all the fighting between them. And it hurts. My bro is becoming more and more like my father and I’m scared. Now my bro’s in college and he messed up financially. My mother’s a teacher so money’s really tight. I’m searching really hard for a job so I can help. But it’s really depressing to think about how poor we are, and it makes everyone uptight and edgy.

Arguments break out often between me and my other older brother. And I feel like I’m useless because I can’t help out. And my brother keeps telling me how I’m going to fail in life just because I was too scared to take fishsticks out of an oven. He says things about how I’m not normal and I can’t help but hate myself for it because I try to fit in but I can’t because my personality is so flamboyant. I don’t want to die. But I wish I was never born so many times. I’m so sorry for turning this into a rant, but I can’t tell my mom without her getting stressed or my grandparents because shit will happen. My brothers will just tell me how weak I am for crying. I cry myself to sleep at night because I’m scared of the future.

GranJan replies

I don’t know how old you are, but I’d guess around 10-14 and I’m going to talk to you as if that’s the case. Please forgive me if I’ve got it wrong. I also need to remind you that I don’t know you or any of the other people in your life; all I have to go on is what you wrote in your letter, so I may be missing some important pieces.

It does sound like you’re taking on a lot of responsibility that doesn’t belong to you. Your brother has gone off to college and has (temporarily, I hope) turned into a jerk. It happens to a lot of kids when they first leave home; they begin to think they know more than anybody else, and they try to boss everybody else around. Do your best to have patience with him, and ignore the nasty things he says — he’ll probably grow out of it.

As for the arguments — yes, those can be painful. But much less so when you let the problem (and its solution) belong to your brother and your mom. It’s not your job to fix it; it’s your job to stay as far away from it as you can. Even if you have to leave the house so as not to hear it.
You do need somebody to talk to about how you feel. If your mom or your grandparents aren’t available, for whatever reason, try talking to your school counselor, or to a teacher you trust. Or to the mother of a friend. I think you’ll find that there are lots of adults out there who would be willing — even honored — to let you share your concerns with them, and who might even have something helpful to give you in return.

Above all, do learn to be your own best friend. Stop making excuses for being normal. Don’t call yourself a “bother” or “useless”or think that you’re wasting someone’s time when you talk to them. Instead, begin telling yourself the things you need to hear, and have needed to hear for a long time: “I’m special.” “I’m loveable.” “I’m doing my best, and that’s enough.” “I’m going to be a beautiful, capable woman.” At first, when you say those things to yourself, it will probably feel silly and fake — but, since all of them are true, gradually you’ll come to believe them. And that’s the first step toward being the person you were meant to be.

When I was a kid, I too was afraid of the future. I couldn’t imagine how I could function out in the world, on my own. I felt small, and stupid, and trying to look ahead was terrifying. What I didn’t realize was that, when I was old enough to take care of myself, I wouldn’t be the same person as when I was a scared kid. I would have skills, I would know how to manage my life. I would have friends to support me, people to love who would love me in return. And — wow! — all of those things came true. Just as they will for you.

So have faith, and be patient. Deal with today’s problems and challenges as best you can, and know that you will be able to deal with tomorrow’s problems when tomorrow comes.

I’m glad that you wrote to us, and I hope some of what I’ve said makes sense for you. Do write back when you feel like it; I’d love to hear from you again and learn how you’re getting on.

Meanwhile, I’m sending you a whole bucketful of virtual hugs, and wishing you all good luck.

Letter #: 429496
Category: Family

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