Should I get mixed up in this?

Bear with me on this; it’s kind of complicated. My mom is in Vegas right now, visiting my sister and nephew. Brad*, my nephew, is 20. He works at a convenience store, and he’s been in jail once and prison once. Those are the only facts I’m sure of at the moment.
My mom is a control freak. She would rather score points off someone else, at the price of permanently alienating them, than compromise. She raised me with ridiculous constraints; when I was 15, I had to live under the same rules as when I was 7. Naturally, I rebelled, and when I was caught shoplifting, her reaction was to scream and yell at me nonstop, for days and days, telling me how worthless I was and how my birth had been a waste of time and effort, and so on, until she had completely broken my spirit.
Now, she was able to dominate me and beat me down, because she had me from birth, but Brad isn’t a pushover. I haven’t seen him for 3 years (shame on me), but he wasn’t always a “punk” (my mom’s word for him). He was a bright, cheerful, intelligent child, but four years with a cokehead bastard of a stepfather turned him almost completely around. As a teenager, he still wasn’t a lost cause, but I noticed that some of his mom’s boyfriends had an attitude that they were going to “fix” him. I don’t think someone should try to reform their SO’s kid; it’s insulting to him, and it didn’t work anyway. So. The last time I saw him was '96, in the town they lived in before Vegas, and he seemed a bit unfocused, but not anyone I’d be afraid to meet in a dark alley. Since then, he was arrested for breaking into a store after hours, and while paroled for that, was arrested for breaking into a house. His “friends” were with him both times. I don’t know who was the leader in these incidents, but I will say that this was kind of a blue-collar community, where they wouldn’t be the only teenagers using drugs and doing crimes. Not to excuse any of them, but my mom seems to still be hung up on the fact of his lawbreaking, rather than where he should go from here.
So. Cindy*, my sister, moved to Vegas while Brad was in prison, and when he got out, he first went to live with his dad and dad’s new family, but that didn’t last. I don’t actually know why. So Brad went back to Cindy, in Vegas, and my mom has been there for about two weeks.
Again I say, I’m not excusing Brad for his behavior. For instance, when my mom was visiting them in the time between the two arrests, she says Brad came close to hitting Cindy one day. That’s not good by anyone’s standards. But the two of them were blaming the wrong influences; like, Cindy told him he couldn’t play Doom anymore because she thought it was Satanic. I would have said, “No video games of any kind until you get a job,” but Cindy would rather blame society and Marilyn Manson and Sega Genesis, than take a look at the damage her ex-husband did, not to mention herself.
Let me give you an example. Once, she and I came home from clubbing, and as we were pulling up to the house at 2 a.m., she said, “I wonder if Brad’s home.” He was 13. Then she said, “Oh, there he is, across the street. He’s fine.” Can anyone who’s had that kind of carte blanche at 13 be expected to grow up with any sense of right or wrong?
So. Mr. Rilch and I were supposed to go out to Vegas this weekend and visit, but yesterday morning my mom called, in tears, and said, “I request that you not come.” I asked he what the problem with and all she would tell me was that Brad was “awful”. When I pressed her on it, she came up with an anecdote about Brad ordering a large pizza and not offering her any. Well, that is rude, on the face of it, but I can see it from another angle. Maybe that happened after a day and a half of her haranguing him about his job and future and so forth. I mean, I know how this woman sounds. You could work a jackhammer and find it peaceful after listening to her. So I can understand how Brad wouldn’t feel particularly generous. Plus which, he’s 20, as I mentioned, soon to be 21. I don’t think it’s up to anyone else to straighten him out; I think it’s up to him.
Mr. Rilch is offended, because last week, my mom practically ordered us to come out and visit, and now she’s forbidding us. He wants to go anyway, and just stay in a motel. I talked to my dad this morning, and he said that cousins of mine (who have often been shitty to me) are out there today, with mom and Cindy. As you can imagine, that makes me feel like a million bucks. So finally I called Cindy’s house. Brad answered and said mom and Cindy weren’t there. So I said, “Look, ah, Brad. I don’t know exactly what’s happening there, but I’m willing to believe that my mom isn’t being too fair to you. I know what she’s like, and I know how she tries to dominate everyone. All I can say is, don’t rise to her bait, and remember that she’s in your house, you’re not in hers.” He seemed agreeable to that. Then I told Mr. Rilch, and he said, “Why didn’t you ask to hear Brad’s side of it?” I had a number of reasons, but the main one was that I wanted to get that point across before anything else; that there’s at least one person who doesn’t think my mom’s a saint, or that he’s evil. When we get out there, I’ll get him away from those two so we can talk in depth.
Whew, that was long, and most of you probably stopped reading three paragraphs ago. I just wanted to get it off my mind.
Note to all parents out there: Again, I am not condoning violence, breaking and entering, crappy work habits, or any of the other behavior my mom’s complaining about. I’m just saying that whatever she’s doing isn’t helping.

Remember, I’m pulling for you; we’re all in this together.
—Red Green

My advice, that I oh-so-freely give to anyone anytime 24/7:

If you go, be prepared to stand and fight for your opinions and views.It sounds like you would not be joining your mother’s side in this family argument, yet putting down camp in your nephew’s side doesn’t sound wise either. No one likes a fence sitter and do you really want to travel out there just to be in the middle of a vicious verbal war?

Your Mother’s intervention will not help your nephew get over whatever inner demons he has to exercise right now. She is only complicating matters but will never see it that way.

You’ve already said your mother is a control freak and obviously nothing will change her mind. She sounds like a nightmare and I really feel sorry for you and your family.

I say don’t go.

People have this “She’s my mother, I’ve got to love her and be right there no matter what” attitude. Your mother is abusive and she needs therapy big time. Being around her will do nothing but make your life miserable.
She robbed you emotionally. What she took you can’t get back. You owe her nothing. Get away from this woman now.

As for Brad, you can’t save him. He’s chosen his path with much influence from his father.
Chances are, he’s not going to change.

My advice : Move far, far away from your family. Some therapy wouldn’t hurt either. Your mother beat you down, and now you need to be built back up again.

If you ever ask yourself “Should I get mixed up in this?”, DON’T. What you have here is a really bad situation (not of your making) and some adults who need to work out problems among themselves. Unfortunately Brad is in a bad situation now. I spent several years myself raising hell, getting in fights, drinking, drugs, sex- all to escape my shitty upbringing. If it’s any consolation, I got my shit together. I just stopped one day. Same for my husband. This is something that Brad needs to do himself.
If it were me, I would do the following:
Don’t go to Vegas while your Mom is there.
Possibly schedule a visit when she’s not there if you really want to talk to Brad.
Jot Brad a card promising him that if he wants to talk or get help, you’ll be there.

At the risk of sounding like I’m picking this apart, it sounds like terrible treatment from your mom is making you want to “save” Brad from a similar neglectful situation from both his and your mom (thereby saving yourself?) Don’t.
You’ll be better served to look up a good counseler and talk to them about your Mom. She and my mom should get together and quilt-
they sound like kindred souls.
Good luck with this painful situation. It sounds really tough.

A friend is someone who likes you even though you’re as ugly as a hat full of assholes.

You may be still angry at your mother for all of her failings, but remember she’s just human too, and all of those things are just proof of that. Regardless of how she treated you, you are responsible for your own actions. No matter how mean she was, YOU were the one who got caught shoplifting. Later, YOU were ultimately the one who grew up, left her, & saved yourself. Quit blaming her for your failures. You can take the credit and the blame now. That doesn’t mean you have to flog yourself, or even feel bad for past mistakes… It just means that your actions were not so controlled by your mommy that you have no responsibility for what you did.

Likewise, Brad and your sister are ultimately the ones to blame for their own actions. Brad’s 20 years old now—he’s not 10. Regardless of his terrible parenting, he chooses his own actions every minute of every day. He WAS the child of a bad parent, but he is now an ADULT.

Love him, be kind to him, but don’t think or tell him that he has little or no control over his actions & their consequences. He has all of the control. Believing otherwise would be condemning him to this life forever.

You went clubbing with your sister. As the loving aunt, didn’t you even THINK to ask what was happening with little boy?

The point is that there’s enough blame to go around. Don’t dump it all on your mom because she made mistakes. We all do. I’ll bet if she felt able to talk to you without fear, she would tell you she regrets a lot too.

I’ll bet she’d also say she loves you.


I agree with pretty much everything that the other posters have said so far, and I’d like to add one thing.

Make sure that Brad knows that he can talk to you about the situation with his mother and his grandmother, and that you’ll listen in a non-judgemental way. After all, you’ve known all these people your whole life, and you’ve been able to come up with coping strategies for dealing with your mother. Your experience may be able to help Brad with the family stuff.

I had a similar situation with my mother recently (a control freak also, in a class with yours) when I got married. It helped tremendously to be able to talk to my aunt, who was able to assure me that yes, she really can be difficult, and helped me deal with her.

If you can do this for Brad, it could make the situation a lot easier for him, without antagonizing everyone else.

Good luck.

Never attribute to malice anything that can be attributed to stupidity.
– Unknown

I think it probably would be counter-productive for you to be there right now. That would just put you into the middle of a fight. BUT…I do agree that anything you can do to let Brad know you understand the situation and support him (him, not necessarily the things he does) would likely go a long way toward helping sort things out for him. Yes, 20 is adult, but it is still awfully young to be totally alone in your decisions. Especially when your childhood has been such a mess. Just remember, you may be able to help him by listening and letting him know somebody thinks he’s worth the time, but it’s not yours to fix. If he decides to go the wrong way, it’s not your decision, it’s his, and it’s not your fault.

Mountain-to-Mohammed: If you care that much, why not invite “Brad” to come and stay with you for a little while, gauge his willingness to be a normal-ish citizen and assist him in getting a decent life going, away from the many negative influences he is sheathed in (and I don’t mean M. Manson and DOOM)?
& to hell with Mom, she doesn’t sound like any help to anyone or any situation. Some people are best avoided.

Zette wrote:

You stopped having sex with your husband?!

These are all good answers, and I thank you all for taking this seriously; some people I know IRL don’t see my mom as abusive, or think that Brad should be written off.

That would be his stepfather. His real dad, Hank*, is okay; last time I saw him, he was married again and seemed to be happy and productive. I think Hank sent Brad away because he didn’t have time or energy for someone who wasn’t on the straight and narrow. Or he may not have had time for him, period. As I say, I don’t know what happened, and I’m not going to form an opinion based on nothing.

Well, I do live far away from my parents (I’m in LA; they’re in Chattanooga. I am in therapy; I’ll be discussing this at my next session.

You’re probably right on the first count, and definitely right on the second.

I did say, “Do you really think it’s okay for him to be out at 2 am?” and she said, “I can’t keep him on a leash.” I was only 20 at the time. I’ve made more emphatic suggestions since then, but she tells me I’ve never raised a kid (true) and I don’t know what it’s like (mmmm…).
This is what Mr. Rilch and I have decided:

  1. Go to Vegas and stay in a motel. My mom was only saying that she didn’t think we should stay in that house. I’m surprised that she thought we wouldn’t stay in a motel; she knows Mr. Rilch is too large for us to share a bed, and that we both have workout routines that don’t allow us to be the perfect guests. Anyway, it may not be this weekend; it may be after my mom leaves.
  2. If my mom is still there, we will meet her at a restaurant and maybe hang out afterwards. We will not talk about Brad; we agreed to that on the phone today.
  3. We will meet Brad after he gets off shift, or on his day off, and let the conversation go where he wants it to go. (I know he’ll want to hear about Mr. Rilch’s work on the X-Files. If he wants to talk about my mom, that’s okay; “I’m listening”, as Frasier says. But regardless, I want to hook up with him. We’re a large extended family, but there are so many people in my mom’s and Cindy’s generations who aren’t talking to this one or that one. I don’t want to see the younger generations be similarly alienated. He and I have always gotten along; no reason for us not to continue to do so. And I do feel bad that I didn’t give him moral support when he was on parole the first time. Whether or not I should.
  4. We will do the stuff that we want to do anyway. Rum Jungle, Star Trek the Experience, Mandalay Bay, Suzie Creamcheese (if it’s still there), an Elvis impersonator, and best of all, smoking in public!!!
    I think I can do this without playing anyone against each other, or allowing myself to be played. I’m not going to chew out my mom, or lecture Brad, and the thing is, I don’t really have any proof that Brad is doing anything so terrible. Remember, my mom is the kind whose son/daughter could be the head of surgery at Cedars-Sinai, and she’d want to know why they weren’t doing medical research and curing AIDS. Two years ago, Cindy called her (or she volunteered) out west to “straighten Brad out”. She tried the same strategy on him that she did on me, and it didn’t work. And now that he’s done hard time, he’s a hundred times less likely to be cowed by her. I will say this; he hasn’t hit her.
    Again, thank you all for listening.

Remember, I’m pulling for you; we’re all in this together.
—Red Green