I recently took in my 17-year-old niece after she was kicked out of her house. She had a volatile relationship with her mom (my sister), and they recently got into an all-out brawl. The mom pushed her daughter, and the daughter hit back. Her mom told her to get the hell out of the house. I let her come stay with me.
Now my sister and I aren't speaking. She told me that I've turned my back on the family by taking in her daughter. She said her daughter needed to live on the street for a while so she could learn a lesson. I want to bridge relations with my sister, but I think I did the right thing by taking in the child. What should I do?
-- The Good Sister
Dear Good Sister,
Taking in your wayward niece was the right move. She's still a minor, and probably still in high school or about to graduate. She surely can't support herself on her own, and life on the streets could lead to many more problems (drug addiction, prostitution, pregnancy, STDs, chronic homelessness). As a parent, you should never, ever kick your kid out on the street ... no matter what they do.
What your sister has done really amounts to child abuse. If I were you, I wouldn't worry about bridging your relationship right away. I'd concentrate on taking care of that kid and letting your sister come around on her own time.
If she has a heart, your sister will eventually get over it and thank you for protecting her daughter from the seedy streets of Memphis. Does she really want her daughter fending for herself out there?
In the meantime, talk to your niece about how she feels about her mom's actions. Would she be willing to move back home if her mom was okay with it? If she'd rather stay with you, let her. She'll be 18 in a year, and likely ready to get her own place soon after. She's probably better off spending final year as a minor with a loving aunt than with an abusive mother.
Perhaps one day the niece and her mom can rebuild their relationship. Teen girls and their moms don't always get along, so maybe when they've both matured, they can repair what they've messed up. And at that point, your sister will probably forgive you too.
Got a problem? E-mail Bianca at firstname.lastname@example.org.