Am I a Bad Uncle?

I think my sister is overly harsh on the 16 year-old boy she has guardianship over (he’ll be 17 in June). This past weekend, I was asked to watch over him to make sure he didn’t misbehave like a normal 16 year-old.

We rented some video games, both of which were rated as “M” for mature. They were Dead Or Alive 4, a fighting game, and Call of Duty 4, a realistic first person shooter. I also took him to see an R rated movie, “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” which had an over-abundance of male nudity, and non-graphic sex scenes.

So, my question to you all. Am I a bad uncle for doing these things my sister would certainly not allow? OR, since I believe she is being outrageously protective of a 16 year-old boy, am I right to give him access to things I’m certain other 16 year-olds have access to?

I certainly don’t see the movie as a big deal, and I’m certain that he can play those games at a friend’s house.

But that said, if she’s having problems with him - and you’re not specifying what those problems are - then you might be pushing it a bit to take him out and treat him to these kinds of things.

Don’t be shocked if she thinks you’re out of line and doesn’t allow you to do it again.

I wouldn’t allow you to have him another weekend, were it my kid.

Let me be more clear: for those exact things, I’d personally have no problem. But if my brother (or anyone) was letting my kid do things I didn’t approve of, I’d have a problem. I don’t care if it’s as arbitrary as eating off blue china instead of white (and your examples are far less innocent than that), if you can’t follow my parenting rules, then you won’t be asked to substitute parent for me. Sorry.

I do think that kids and other adults should be left alone to have their own relationships, but I think that the adult needs to be adult enough to honor the parent’s wishes. Not so much because the games or movies are going to harm him, but because you’ve shown him that he can say fuck you to his (foster?) mother, her rules, and her values with no consequences. That’s not cool in my book. If he can ignore her rules about video games and movies, why not drinking, using drugs or ditching class?

I think he probably sees it more as ‘I can only do these things with Uncle Yeeter.’ Hopefully he thinks spending time with his uncle is a special treat and won’t use it as an argument when dealing with his mother.

No, I don’t think you’re a bad uncle. You sound like a fun uncle. But that’s obviously because you don’t have to take care of the kid every day.

Bad uncle? No.

Bad brother? Maybe.

I’d say you might be a fun uncle, but you’re a bad brother. You may not agree with her choices in raising him, but to surreptitiously undermine her authority when she’s not around is not cool. Was this a one time wink-wink incident, or is it going to act as a dangerous precedent where he pits you against her in the future (whether it be over small, “petty” things like a movie or something more)? You don’t say, but if you valued your time with him, I wouldn’t necessarily be doing things with him that might give her cause to question her willingness to leave him with you in the future–especially if she sees this as a violation of trust (which it sounds like you acknowledge she probably would).

I don’t think you’re being a bad uncle. IMHO, what you did is what uncles are for. If I were to have my kids stay with either my brother or my wife’s brother, I’d just want to get them back in one piece. I wouldn’t expect them to eat right, go to bed on time or even wash their hands before supper. My rules are for my house. If uncle Bill wants to give them chocolate cake for breakfast, they’ll survive. They might even have a little fun in the process as it sounds like your nephew did.

On preview, I missed the part where she was a guardian. I’m not sure if that would change my opinion or not. It would probably depend on the kid and how long she had had him. At any rate, he needs to know that he can’t get away with murder at home and run to uncle Yeeter’s where everything will be cool.

I would love to have had you as an uncle, but I would have a serious talk with you before letting you watch any (purely hypothetical) kids of mine.

Sure, but then Uncle Bill wouldn’t be telling his message board friends that his sister **KRM **“would certainly not allow” the eating of chocolate cake. You might not allow it at home, but you allow it at Uncle Bill’s (as would I).

Or, maybe, I need more clarity. Is it that Mom wouldn’t allow these video games and movies at her house, but she’s (even if eye-rollingly) okay with it being an Uncle **Yeeter **thing? Or is it that Mom, where she to be asked by Uncle **Yeeter **ahead of time, certainly would not allow it even on Uncle **Yeeter **time? Those are two very different scenarios, and my answer applies to the second, not the first.

Sheesh. The kid is 16. I think you’re a great uncle.

Wait, the kid is 16 and he’s not allowed to watch an R-rated movie or even play CoD4? Damn. You’re not just a good uncle, you’re a necessary uncle!

Point taken.

I guess at the core of this, is the fact that I disagree with the way she treats him. To give you a little more background, my sister is just a year and a half older than me, she was the trouble-maker and I was the laid-back take it as it comes younger sibling (I think that’s a classic psychological construct). The boy’s real mother would let him do whatever he liked and he became too much for her to handle (she had no idea he was failing 2 subjects at school). She asked my sister to watch over him (not exactly sure how it’s arranged, but my sister has guardianship). I believe my sister sees her wildness in him and is trying to crush it. What I see is that he is sneaking around and finding ways to play M rated video games and so-forth (what I would consider normal for a 16 year-old). He’s already told me that he has a friend that is getting Grand Theft Auto IV the day it comes out, and is planning on spending some quality time over at his friend’s house. I think it’s better to know about these things and discuss it with him (in the case of GTA4, tell him it’s not ok to steal cars and kill hookers).

She hasn’t told me explicitly either way, but really the implication would be that I should follow her example…but I can’t bring myself to be that draconian.

Depending on your relationship with your sister, she might even be agreeable for you to channel a little bit of the nephew’s wild side. I chime in as well as a parent and say that I would want you to clear it with me in advance and respect some ground rules.

All that said, I am quite grateful to a much older brother that gave me cheap wine and Playboy’s on camping trips when I was a teenager. Most certainly he didn’t have buy in from our parents to do so.

I tend to think it’s the very fact that you consciously disagree with her parenting style and are counteracting it that makes this a problem. If you were just being the cool uncle that lets the kid do things that are maybe a bit on the sly, that’d be fine. But you’re deliberately trying to undermine her parenting, and that’s not okay.

Yeah, but that kind of depends on when he started having this crisis of conscience. Did he plan for the visit to be a violent video game and raunchy movie orgy specifically because the nephew is not allowed and Yeeter thinks they’re vital? Or did he suggest the movie and the games because they appeal to teenagers and what the heck else would they be doing, and only later remembered that Sis would not be overjoyed?

Basically, what neutron star said. If Nephew is not allowed to watch R rated movies and play M rated games, WTF is he allowed to do? Collect stamps?

I don’t have a big problem with other family members being a bit more lenient with my kids than I would. Grandparents and uncles and such don’t have the same responsibility that I do for seeing they grow up right. So a little bit of “spoiling” or doing some things that Mom might not do is acceptable. I do have a problem with what looks like deliberately undermining Mom’s decisions. It sounds like part of the reason you did some of those things with him is specifically that Mom doesn’t allow them. That’s trouble. My kids understood that Grandma’s rules were different from home, but Grandma would never have allowed them to do something that I had expressly forbidden.

My other question is whether there’s more reason for your sister being so strict. Is she trying to get him under control before she lets up a bit, seeing as how he’s been allowed to run wild? Or are those things she just really doesn’t approve of, for him or in general? Maybe it would be good if the two of you established some guidelines, whereby you respect her boundaries and she gives you a bit of leeway to be the “cool uncle” within reason. Otherwise you might just be giving kid an incentive to resent Mom and rebel even more.

Ultimately she’s responsible for him and they’re her decisions to make. As long as she’s not harming him you need to respect that. Don’t give him “but **Uncle Yeeter ** lets me!” to hit her with.

Not letting him see an R-rated movie is “harsh”? Really? (“Strict”, I’d buy…). Around here he wouldn’t even be let in the cinema door for another 2 years (okay, 14 months). And I suspect I know an awful lot of “harsh” parents by those standards too.

FWIW I suspect your sister is setting herself up for a fall by insisting on standards that are significantly stricter than what he’s used to, and would do better setting the line where it’s really necessary (grades, frinstance). But it’s really not going to help her or ultimately the kid to send the message that her standards are totally out of line and unreasonable (which is probably a message he’s getting already from all his 16-year-old friends).

I bet if you opened a thread in IMHO entitled “What can I do with my 16-year-old foster-nephew that’s G rated yet kick-ass fun” you’d get twenty good useable ideas in the first ten posts. You don’t have to go round behind your sister’s back to be the “fun” uncle

It’s a bit along the lines of going to grandma’s house, isn’t it? Mom won’t let you have candy but grandma likes to spoil you a little. It’s a nice break to have an uncle (in my case, it was my older sister) who will cut you some slack from time to time. So long as he doesn’t throw it up in her face, I mean.

Perhaps a little conspiratorial-ness, if that’s a word, is in order. Tell him, “If she finds out, she’ll lay down the law and we won’t be able to do these things any more” will help. I think a lot of times the other adults are in on the ruse, knowing full well what’s going on. The ploy allows her to turn a blind eye to it, yet maintain “authority” under her own roof.

And really, boys need an older male presence for “guy stuff” that the sister isn’t going to be able to provide.

This was my first reaction, but then on pondering…

It seems likely to me that mum knows that her brother’s ideas on how to treat a 16 year old differ from her own.

And so, if she was worried about that, she would have given her brother a list of do’s and don’ts, or at least a talking to before she left her son with him.

I’m assuming that she didn’t, based on the OP.

So I’m going with cool uncle. :slight_smile: